Monday, July 17, 2017

Voldemort Defeats Me Too

I've been paying a smidge of attention to who is watching Game of Thrones and who is not.  I am not.  By the time someone told me I should tune in, there were 40 hours of show to watch.  I had already made the decision not to read the books, with their thousands of pages accumulated.  The sheer volume of it all was overwhelming.

The truth is that there's never been so much quality stuff to watch, and it should be easier than ever.  But I find myself appreciating old fashioned TV, where I can watch an episode here or there, and if I don't tune in for 6 months, I can easily drop back in.  And if I don't, that's fine too.

When Harry Potter was big, I was the only one in my circle who hadn't read the books.  Even my friends without children read the books.  I did see the first several movies, but I stopped somewhere along movie 5, where the movie was literally too dark to see on my TV screen.  Life is too short to squint for 3+ hours.

But a few months ago, I read Timothy Snyder's On Tyranny:  Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century.  In chapter 9, "Be Kind to Our Language," he says, "One novel known by millions of young Americans that offers an account of tyranny and resistance is J.K. Rowling's, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  If you or your friends or your children did not read it that way the first time, then it bears reading again" (pp. 62-63).

I decided it was time to try to enter Harry Potter's world again.  I had hopes that my familiarity with the movies might help me understand the plot and the characters.

But I just can't keep going:  130 pages, and I'm confused and frustrated and wondering when the action will happen.
I'm throwing in the towel.  Life is short, and there's so much to read.
I am happy to have retrieved a memory.  When I read Voldemort's name, I was reminded of a president at my old school who was stymied and when he wasn't stymied, he made progress at what appeared to be an attempt to destroy what we had all built.  It became clear that we should be careful when we talked about him, even if we thought no one could hear.  And so, we named him Voldemort.
It probably fooled no one.  In retrospect, those of us talking probably were beneath his notice.  But the memory of us adopting that name for the one who seemed to be an arch villain made me smile--while also making me wince.
Would that be a useful nugget for the collection of short stories I'm writing?  One hundred years from now, will the reference to Voldemort be understood?
How much a part of popular culture will these books remain?  I suspect that they have serious staying power.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

I had wondered what it would be like going in at book 7. I have to admit, I am kind of sorry it didn't work. I firmly believe there are so many good books in the world that one can choose not to read one--even if other people adore it--if it doesn't work for them. On the other hand, I love the Harry Potter books and think that if you ever did want to read them, you might like them.