Sunday, July 08, 2007

Harry Potter Comes of Age

One of my favorite writers beat me to the punch. Stephen King, writing in the July 13 issue of Entertainment Weekly, took on the subject of Harry Potter.

J. K. Rowling is about to conclude her series of books featuring the boy with the lightning strike scar. In case you’ve been in the wilds of Mongolia for the last 10 years, I’ll give you the lowdown. Harry Potter and his creator can claim credit for turning on a whole generation of young people, particularly boys, to reading for pleasure. Millennials (that’s what you call the generation after GenX) like son Scott grew up with Harry. Along the way, the books stirred the censorship pot of many a right-wing religious fundamentalist afraid that by reading the books her child would suddenly become a devotee and practitioner of witchcraft. I've worried a lot about my son but never about him becoming a witch.

In Goodbye, Harry, Mr. King writes:
“When it comes to Harry, part of me—a fairly large part, actually—can hardly bear to say goodbye . . . And I’m a damn Muggle! Think how it must be for all the kids who were 8 when Harry debuted in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone . . . Those kids are now 18, and when they close the final book, they will be in some measure closing the book on their own childhoods—magic summers spent in the porch swing, or reading under the covers at camp with flashlights in hand, or listening to Jim Dale’s recordings on long drives to see Grandma in Cincinnati or Uncle Bob in Wichita.”

Long ago, I started reading the first Harry Potter to Scott. I suppose we were maybe a quarter of the way through when the elementary schooler, not an early wonder-kid reader by any means, took over for himself. Nearly every night for the next 10 years there’d be a Harry Potter book in his bed—not always the latest since he took to rereading the books. And in the mornings when I’d wake him for school, there it’d be next to him when he awoke. While his interests in literature expanded, the one constant was the love he had for Harry Potter.

We both read the EW article and I asked Scott, “How many times DID you read Harry Potter?” “To be honest, I read the first book at least 20 times and the others 10 times each,” he answered with a laugh.

Mr. King thinks “Rowling will almost certainly go on to other works, and they may be terrific, but it won’t be quite the same, and I’m sure she knows that.”

I don’t know, Stephen. Back many years ago, that little lady in Alabama wrote just one book, and you know, it was one damn, fine one. For years people wondered when Harper Lee was going to publish another one. To this day she’s seen no need to bother. I have to think J. K. Rowling did just fine with Harry Potter, just as Ms. Lee did with To Kill a Mockingbird.


Marsha said...

The Harry Potter story at our house is similar to yours, my daughter is 16, but we read the first HP book when she was 8. She was having the hardest time learning to read, but J.K. fixed that with the book that is so intoxicating one simply must read. I read aloud to her until she couldn't bear it and picked up the book and read it for herself. I am both excited and grieving at the thought of the last book and the ending of my daughter's childhood.

Sheila said...

Marsha, I think there are many more older teens out there who unabashedly admit to loving Harry Potter books. My son even said there were HP fans when he went on his college visit last spring. At any rate, he's taking the books with him. I hope they will provide solace when he needs an old friend to comfort him this fall as he marches off on this great adventure we call life.

I find myself starting to get all weepy at thoughts of this transition. Get a grip!

Scribbit said...

It would be interesting to see if she ever writes anything else, she wouldn't need to for the money or fame or anything but it would be interesting to see what kind of writing she felt compelled to produce.

I love her plots. Not so much her writing but her stories are great.

Rebecca said...

Great post...and thanks for stopping by my blog. I, too love Harry Potter.

Marion said...

I love Harry Potter, too. My daughters were far too old for reading the story to them, so I read to my granddaughter. There was nothing as wonderful as reading those books at bedtime...over and over.

Naomi said...

I love Harry Potter and will miss him dearly as will millions of children and adults the world over. Unfortunately we'll have to console ourselves with a visit to the Harry Potter Theme Park when it opens. Harry Potter has been so phenomenally successful, whatever JK writes next will have to be something very special. Harry is a hard act to follow!

Sheila said...

AH, a granddaughter. How very special to tuck her into bed with a good read, Marion. That time is so special and parents (and grands) are really missing out if they aren't winding down the day this way.

Oh my, Naomi. Where's the Harry Potter Theme Park going to be? Sounds delightful for British kids. I am thank to Rowling for helping turn my son onto reading. He is a hard act to follow.