30 November 2010

the return of an old obsession

It is rare that I follow along with the trends in popular culture, mostly because I don't pay attention to them. I did read the Twilight books out of curiousity. But now I'm going with a book trend that was popular several years ago (yes, it's still popular, there's just not a waiting list that numbers into the hundreds for the library now). Yep. I'm reading Harry Potter.

I did read the first three books some years ago. I think I read the first one shortly after the third came out, and then read the second and third ones. I really enjoyed them and my parents were happy to let me read them, although my mum didn't think much of them. The third one definitely gave me nightmares (and I suppose reading it in one fell swoop didn't help that), but I waited eagerly for the fourth book to come out and got it at the library as soon as I could.

I started reading. I zoomed through the Quidditch match and the return to Hogwarts and then came up against the chapter where the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher shows them some particularly nasty curses, maybe one-quarter of the way into the book. He demonstrates the killing curse that was used on Harry's parents. Only a spider dies, but I didn't care. I slammed the book shut, horrified by the scene. I took the book back to the library, and didn't finish it. I didn't read the next three books. The only movies I watched were the first two. I ended up selling my copy of the first book, and giving my copy of the third book to my cousin, desperate to get the creepiness of the Dementors out of my room. My imagination has always been apt at creating scenarios for my mind to go over, both while I am awake, and while I am asleep, and I couldn't stop thinking about the scarier aspects of the stories.

That was quite a while ago. I am still careful about what I read and watch, but I am less fearful than I was then. I can handle more things. There are episodes of Fringe which I never finished watching because the violence in them was too disturbing, and there's an episode of Buffy which I haven't re-watched. But I can see the line between fantasy and reality more clearly now.

A friend whose field is literary criticism loves the Harry Potter books. She's writing her thesis on them. She's so enthusiastic about the stories that I decided to give them another chance. I put a hold on the fourth book, it came in more quickly than I expected, and I read it Friday night (and yes, I probably should have been sleeping or working on a paper, but these things happen). I'd forgotten that the books were funny. I'd forgotten that I liked the characters.

Now, since, for some reason, the waiting list for the fifth book is longer than it is for the others, I'm wondering if the thrift store or the used bookstore would have a copy of it. The urge to track down a copy of book five is pretty strong. I'd forgotten that the books had this sort of pull to them. The Twilight books were similar, in that I wanted to read to the end very quickly (I suppose my tendency to wait until the entire series is out before I read the really popular books is helpful that way), but it's a very different feel. I can poke a few holes in Harry Potter here and there (I still don't get why they don't integrate their world into the Muggle world more), but the writing's much more solid and there's almost something addicting about it.

Some things haven't changed. I still think that parents should be careful about letting their kids read these books. My parents trusted me to know when I needed to stop, which I was pretty good at, but I know not every kid is good at that. And after the first two or three in the series, I really feel that these aren't for children. I think I'm actually enjoying the series more this time around, as an adult, than I did when I was in my early teens and reading them for the first time. Now, if I finish my paper, I can go out and see if book five is at one of the local used bookstores.

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