Nothing But Memory

Until the Very End

With the final Harry Potter movie being released this week, there’s been lots of looking back on the series and trying to express what it has meant: to the publishing and film industries (cash money), to the actors (so tiny when we first met them!), and to the fans.

I’m over 30, so I can’t say I grew up with Harry Potter like some people who read the first book as children can, but it suddenly came over me today just how significant a role the series has played in my life. I became a fan in 2000, when I signed up for an undergraduate course at Carleton on Harry Potter in the context of other children’s fantasy novels. We read the first four Potter books (the only ones that existed at the time) as well as The Hobbit, the Chronicles of Narnia, the Earthsea books, and The Dark Is Rising series. I enjoyed that class immensely. In particular, I loved the Harry Potter books. When the professor selected three students to present their papers at the Children’s Literature Association Conference that year, my friend Helen and I were two of them. It was the first academic conference I ever went to: a pretty major experience. Plus, free trip to Buffalo! (Yay?)

Somehow, Helen and I became very slightly famous for all this. I think it was the combination of undergraduate students presenting at a conference and the novelty of a university course about Harry Potter. Our picture was in the Ottawa Citizen. We even got interviewed by CBC Radio! We had gone to Montreal to see U2 on the Elevation Tour, and we were staying with our friend (and fellow Potter fan) Caitlin. The CBC called us at Caitlin’s place to do the interview. We were both on the phone in Caitlin’s room, and she sat eating a snack, listening while we talked to the radio guy. Maybe you had to be there, but it seemed hilarious at the time. Also: the U2 concerts (I went to both shows) were great.

That summer, I graduated from Carleton. For my graduation gift, my grandparents gave me a lamp shaped like a Golden Snitch. My current apartment is decorated with a few choice pieces of Potter memorabilia: the lamp, a Quidditch mobile, a small statue of Dumbledore, and a framed poster advertising the first film, which shows an owl delivering a letter to Mr. H. Potter, The Cupboard Under the Stairs, 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey.

The next year, I went back to Carleton to start my Master’s. Barbara Garner, the professor who taught the Harry Potter course, became my advisor. When the Citizen called Prof. Garner soliciting a few articles about the series, I submitted a short piece which was published. That remains the only time anyone has ever paid for anything I’ve written. What did I write my final paper on? Harry Potter — obviously! I compared the books to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, noting all the similarities between Buffy and Harry as heroes. I loved spending all that time thinking about two of my very favourite things, and I think my paper has held up pretty well: nothing that happened in the books that were published later contradicted any of my ideas, at least.

Since then, I haven’t done any academic work on Harry Potter, but I’ve kept reading and loving the books. I ordered Order of the Phoenix from Amazon and sat outside all release day waiting for the mailman. When he finally drove up, he saw me sitting there, smiled, and said “Are you waiting for me?” I remember he told me it was the same all over the neighbourhood; he seemed not-at-all annoyed at having been asked to work on Saturday that week. For books six and seven, my sister and I went to midnight release parties at Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s. We collected our pre-ordered books and ran back to the car, rushing to get home and start reading.

I wanted to reread the first six books before the seventh came out, but I’d intended to do a reread before book six, too, and completely failed. So, I decided to count the number of chapters in the books, and start my reread that exact number of days before book seven’s release. I figured if I assigned myself a chapter each day, I would probably make it. I did! And then I read book seven the day it came out, and then I read it again starting the next day, one chapter per day. That was the summer of 2007, the year I moved to Vancouver, and I had my copy of Deathly Hallows with me as I drove across Canada.

From that rereading success came the idea for Harry Potter and the Ultimate Reread, which has been a wonderful experience. We’re just finishing up now with The Tales of Beedle the Bard. The tales and the commentary by “Dumbledore” have only increased my admiration for J.K. Rowling. She is, quite simply, a genius, and her storytelling ability is astounding. Her work has given me not only countless hours of pleasure, but also some truly great memories.

So, on Friday, I will wear my Gryffindor House Quidditch Team shirt in tribute to the Boy Who Lived and his creator, and I will think about all these things and remember.

Thanks for everything, J.K.R.

1 Comment

  1. Morgan said

    Oh, that was lovely.

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