A Confession and Apology: My Terrible Misjudgement of the Harry Potter series

harry potter

I have a confession to make…

I never read the Harry Potter series. Well, that’s not entirely true – I did encounter the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, when I was 13 in Year 8 English. And I wasn’t a fan. I wrote the series off as kiddy material and never fully understood what all the hype was about. I mean, I was already reading Stephen King and Cliver Barker by then. I had only started reading Goosebumps books at age 7 before graduating onto S.K.’s The Stand and IT at age 9-10 respectively, much to my mother’s chagrin. A boy already reading macabre adult stuff was far too mature for the likes of Harry Potter.

Then, when the films came along, I wasn’t interested enough to watch a single whole movie, until The Half Blood Prince came out, in all its alluring darkness. But obviously it makes no sense to watch the 6th film in the series and make a judgement on all the rest.

I wrote Harry Potter off and vowed never to read or watch them, which I did… until two weeks ago. And I am simultaneously unashamed and ashamed to admit how wrong I was. I missed out on something wonderful and whimsical, basically because a stupid 13-year-old wannabe edge-lord decided he wanted to be edgy and go against the grain.

All those people who castigated me for not giving the series a chance were right to do so. I was a right git. I was the one missing out.

20 years after rebuking it, I am an avowed Harry Potter fan.

I originally bought the first Harry Potter book a fortnight ago for an astonishingly small $10; I’ve been trying to move my 8-year-old son onto the next level of reading – fully word books, away from the likes of the partially illustrated The Bad Guys and WeirDO books. I read the first two chapters of The Philosopher’s Stone to him, but could tell he wasn’t interested. He confirmed as much after I asked him. I suspect this is, in part, my son playing his own edge-lord role, but it probably doesn’t help that he is on the autism spectrum – it can be difficult for children with ASD to grasp the abstract and imagine something from less concrete source material, like forming mental pictures from pages and pages of words alone. He confirmed he couldn’t really visualise it. Harry Potter seemed a lost cause for him, at least for now – but me, I was hooked.

I subsequently took the book for myself and began furiously reading. Before I reached the halfway point I went and bought the rest of the series. I finished The Philosopher’s Stone in a day and a half, then The Chamber of Secrets in another three. I am now halfway through the Prisoner of Azkaban and am excited to move on.

What I like about the series as an adult is J.K. Rowling’s writing style and her characters. The characters are quirky, entertaining and distinct; you feel invested in their conflicts and their typically teenage misfortunes and woes. I find myself rooting for them to succeed in a way I don’t often find myself with other books. The narrative style is simple and clear but beautifully executed (though Rowling uses a lot more adverbs in very close succession than I would be comfortable using in my own work, but it’s a small gripe). She is the Goldilocks zone of what narrative should be – the middle ground between demeaningly simple writing for dummies and florid, obstinate, poetic, hifalutin prose (which I admit, I often fall by accident into the latter category, at least in my first drafts). Her invented words, concepts and features for her world are enchanting, not obfuscating in the way it can be in some fantasy stories.

I wanted to apologise to all those HP fans I scoffed at when they suggested I give it a chance; J.K. Rowling for ignorantly doubting her prowess as a storyteller; and Harry Potter the character/series for ever writing it off as “kiddy stuff”. The point people have tried to sell me on in the past (appealing to my dark little heart) was the fact that the books do indeed become darker as the series wears on – I can already see it starting . But what has commanded my attention is the whimsy and wonder of the magical world Potter and friends (and enemies) inhabit – a far cry from the bleak, nihilistic, grim type of material I most often favour.

Rest assure, I haven’t lost my taste for these things, but it’s nice to have a break.

I was wrong. I am not sorry or ashamed to admit that; but I am ashamed that my own naive edginess denied me such reading pleasure.

I was an idiot, but now I’m one of you. I’m a HP convert. I have yet to do my Potterverse quiz, but my bet (against all bets that I’m a Slytherin) is that I fall into Ravenclaw. 😉 I’ll let you know once I’ve taken the test.

What do you think? What house do you belong to? Whem did you get into Harry Potter? Let me know in the comments section and let’s keep the discussion going.

-Marcus

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