Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hermione, All Grown Up

Until a few weeks ago, I could have made this claim:  "I am the last woman in the English speaking world to have not read any of the Harry Potter books."

I meant to read them.  I mean to read a lot of things.  I saw a few of the movies, and until the 5th one, I enjoyed them all.  I thought I'd like the books too.

I remember the summer of 2001, the last summer when children's books and grown up books shared The New York Times Bestseller list.  I was teaching the first half of the British Literature survey course, the one that starts with Beowulf and ends somewhere in the 18th century, if the class stays on track.  That summer, the Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf and one of the Harry Potter books were both on the list.  I called my class' attention to this fact, and we had a great discussion about it.  The works have a lot in common, after all.

I've been thinking about Grendel's mom, about writing a poem about a modern-day diagnosis of Grendel.  Maybe he'd have Oppositional Defiance Disorder.  Maybe he'd have Autism.

But back to Harry Potter.  My book club chose it because one of our members was tired of not getting her students' references to the work.  I had wanted to read the book.  So we chose the first volume, which I still had on my shelf, surprisingly enough, yellowing away, waiting for me.

I read it on a rainy Saturday, and for the first half of the book, I was surprised with how delighted I was.  I loved Rowling's depiction of Harry's family.  I loved her use of names.

The second half of the book didn't feel as luxuriously paced to me.  It seemed like Rowling was in a hurry to wrap it all up.  And oddly, though I had seen the movie, the ending of the book still surprised me.

I suppose I'm not surprised by my surprise.  It's been a long time since I saw the movie, after all.  How many years?  Ten?

Will I read the rest of the series?  Maybe.  I find the sheer size of the series daunting.  Life grows ever shorter and my list of what I want to read ever longer.  Ah, the eternal sadness.

Will I reread the book?  Doubtful.  It was a nice treat for a rainy Saturday, and it reminded me of the kind of book I loved as a kid, so it had an odd nostalgic value, even though it wasn't a book from my childhood.  I envy my friends who have read the series several times now, who still wax rhapsodic over the books.  I just don't feel that way.

But I'm happy the books exist.  I'm happy that children and adults love them so much.  I'm grateful because I suspect Rowling has single-handedly staved off the collapse of publishing for awhile longer yet.

One of the best compliments I ever got:  back in 2002, one of my friends said that she and her daughter (who was about 8 at the time) had decided that I'm Hermione all grown up.  Some people wouldn't see that as a compliment, but I was touched, both because I love Hermione (even without having read the series!), but because it made me feel like my friend and her daughter really know me.

Yup, I'm Hermione, and my opinion didn't change after reading the book.  I recognize her good girl tendency, her worry about getting in trouble, her wanting to do the right thing, her overanalysis, her overachieving even when overachieving isn't necessary and for what end?

Could I write a poem about Hermione all grown up even if I haven't read the whole series or seen all the movies?  Hmmm.  What kind of children would Hermione have?  How would they rebel?  How would she handle it?

Yes, I might have fun with this!

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