Smile Politely


PotterFor me, this has been the Summer of Potter. Harry Potter, that is. (That bit of clarification was probably unnecessary–these days I don’t think anyone associates “Potter” with a person who puts plants in a container.)

Harry Potter’s reach has been vast for over ten years now, but until recently it has failed to extend to me. There are a few good reasons for this, or so I thought. The first is that I am decidedly an adult (this was also the summer of the 13th anniversary of my 21st birthday), and the second is that I don’t really go in for the fantasy genre. I’m more of a humor/mystery buff. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. My first choice of reading material is a cookbook, followed by internet postings, with humor and mystery being what I would grab if I was trapped in the Bookmobile.

Anyway, I’ll demonstrate why my reasons to avoid the Harry Potter books were bunk. First of all, as my friends who are elementary school teachers like to point out, children’s literature is awesome. I think I’ve always agreed with that, but have been unwilling to embrace the fact that I’d just as soon skip 99% of books geared toward adults. I mean, for Heaven’s sakes, I have a degree in English. Doesn’t that mean I should spend my spare time reading Sir Gawain and The Green Knight or something by Toni Morrison? No, no, it doesn’t. Because those books just aren’t my cup of tea.

As a person who tutors children in reading, I’ve learned that the best books are the ones you enjoy. I’ve long since stopped wondering what I lack that prevents me from liking more “grown-up” reading material. That’s truly one of the benefits of being this far into adulthood–you know what you like, and you make no apologies for it.

The second reason I was avoiding the Harry Potter books was because of the theme of magic, which really didn’t rouse my interest. Nevertheless, earlier this summer I picked up the first two books of the series at a garage sale figuring that I would read them at some point (probably when the kids begin to show an interest). However, having gotten over my first hurdle of reluctance, I decided to put the cookbooks down and give the first book a try. I devoured it.

I’m currently up to book five, and I love the magical content. J.K. Rowling has a marvelous way of drawing the reader into the action. Besides that, the stories really are mysteries, and Rowling does what most of my favorite fiction authors do–she makes the reader hungry. Not hungry for more reading necessarily (although that is certainly true in my case), but hungry period. The characters are constantly feasting, drinking plenty of tea and munching sweets. I guess the lesson there is that you never really know what you’re going to like until you try it.

But besides that, there is a lot for my Bachelor of Arts brain to chew on in the Potter books. They are steeped in literary tradition and are full of the great subtleties an avowed nerd such as myself loves to analyze.

So, I’m on the Potter bandwagon, although in many respects it has been back in the garage for quite a while now. I may never get to stand in line at 12:00 a.m. waiting for the next book in the series (I probably wouldn’t have done that anyway), but at least they’re brand new to me.

What can I say–I feel like a kid again.

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