Nothing But Memory
Post in Category Books

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.

Harry Potter and the Ultimate Reread: Update

It seems quite a few people are planning to join in the Harry Potter reread I proposed on this blog a couple of weeks ago. I had 226 new emails informing me of new followers on the @HPreread Twitter account today. (And since I’ve been typing this post, I’ve received five more. Wow!) I’m not completely sure how word is getting around, but I think it’s mostly through Tumblr. One rereader and Tumblr-er, Alijandra, even created a fantastic poster featuring the reread schedule.

This amount of participation is awesome! I hope everyone will have fun doing the reread, and I hope we’ll generate lots of discussion and Potter-related activity. I’ve had a couple of people ask me if I intend to set up any kind of HP reread forum or chat. The answer to that is: no, not really! I view this entire project as something readers can participate in however they choose. My role will be mostly to share information, which means tweeting the chapter title for each day and also providing links to any other content that shows up — that would include message board threads, open chats, blog and Tumblr posts, tweets … anything you want to do and share with others. I also encourage anyone with something to share to post to Twitter with the hashtag #hpreread so we can all follow along with the whole group.

I hope that all sounds good! Less than a week to go before we start reading. Personally, I can’t wait to get back to Hogwarts. 🙂

Harry Potter and the Ultimate Reread

I started this blog up months ago and never posted anything. Maybe I’ve been busy; maybe I’ve had nothing to say. Maybe it’s a combination of those two things. Whatever the reason, it’s about to change.

A week and a half or so ago I went with my sister to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1. I thought the movie was very well-done, and it reminded me of an important fact: I love Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling and her incredible series of books have given me more hours of enjoyment than I can count as I’ve read and reread the books, watched the movies, and discussed the series with friends, family members, and colleagues. The books have inspired me with lots of ideas over the years. I presented a paper on the series at a conference once, and when I did my Master’s degree in English my final research paper was a comparison of Harry Potter and my other favourite series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Before the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (book version) in 2007, I felt I needed to reread the entire series to prepare myself for what was certain to be an epic final chapter (and luckily it did turn out to be that). In order to keep myself on track, I decided to read one chapter per day. I counted the number of chapters in each book and figured out what date I would need to start reading in order to finish Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince the day before Deathly Hallows’ release. This worked really well for me: I stuck to the schedule and finished on time.

When Deathly Hallows the book came out, it was the end of the Harry Potter series — but it wasn’t technically the end; after all, there were still a few movies to go at that point and those would keep us Potter-fiends Potter-satisfied to a certain extent for a while (although obviously nothing tops a completely new book). Well, when part 2 of Deathly Hallows the movie comes out on July 15, 2011 … that’s it. No more new Harry Potter.

In honour of The Actual End, I’ve decided to redo my reread, one chapter per day again. All seven books, plus The Tales of Beedle the Bard. This time, I’ll also try to re-watch all the movies, probably viewing each one as I finish the related book. I mentioned this to some friends a little while ago, and enough people expressed interest in reading along with me that it seemed like a good idea to share my reading schedule with everyone and try to make a sort of Virtual Harry Potter Book Club. Interested in participating? Here are the start and end dates for each book:

December 24, 2010 – January 9, 2011: Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone
January 10 – January 27, 2011: Chamber of Secrets
January 28 – February 18, 2011: Prisoner of Azkaban
February 19 – March 27, 2011: Goblet of Fire
March 28 – May 4, 2011: Order of the Phoenix
May 5 – June 3, 2011: Half-Blood Prince
June 4 – July 9, 2011: Deathly Hallows (not including the epilogue — we’re saving that for last!)
July 10 – July 14, 2011: Beedle the Bard
July 15, 2011: Deathly Hallows, Part 2 in theatres. Reread the Deathly Hallows epilogue today.

I intend to blog about the reread occasionally as I think of things to say, and I hope others will do the same if they feel like it. You can follow my posts here, if you’re interested. I’ve also started a Twitter account (HPreread) where I’ll tweet the title of each day’s chapter. I hope we’ll be able to use hashtags to share our reading experience, similarly to the way One Book, One Twitter participants did as they read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (another excellent book by an author I highly recommend).

I’m really looking forward to sharing the Harry Potter reading experience with this virtual community of friends and readers. If this sounds like something you’d enjoy too, I hope you’ll join in. The more the merrier!