Harry Potter and the end of magic
Forget my age. Really, forget it. I was as avid a fan of the early Harry Potter books as any of my kids. Showed up at the midnight releases. Bought two copies of each, for a while, so no one in the house had to wait too long to get his or her hands on the latest version. We still had to steal them from each other.
It can be easy to forget what an extraordinary feat those early books were. Amid all the the stir about Emma Watson's pixie haircut and rather strange dress for the premiere, Daniel Radcliffe's Broadway stardom, the gratitude of the actor who plays Draco Malfoy for his years with that character, and the same for the actor who plays his evil dad, I felt compelled to sneak into the room of my youngest and retrieve her copy of the first book in the series. (Purchase No. 3; the earlier copies wore out with repeated use.)
The book casts a seamless spell. You can almost feel a giant door opening as you're introduced, through Harry's eyes, to Diagon Alley, the South Coast Plaza of the wizarding world, along with photos whose subjects move about and ... well, no one needs a retelling more than a decade later. Rowling's prose is so clear and well-rendered that it does its own disappearing act; there's nothing between the reader and the story. The fourth novel made Rowling into a revered figure, She-Who-Got-Young-Children-To-Happily-Read-A-Book-Of-More-Than-700-Pages.
After that, I'm afraid -- and please hold your avada kedavra curses here -- the whole enterprise started heading downhill for me. The books became more tedious and less narrative. I'm all for the dark side, but the experience was rather dreary. The movies were ... fine for the most part. Did this have anything to do with the Harry Potter toys, games and beach towels that suddenly flooded the market?
And I'll always choose to ignore Rowling's post-publication pronouncements of her characters' careers and Albus Dumbledore's supposed homosexuality. These might have been what Rowling intended for her characters, but in literature, it's what's in the book that counts; what readers can see in and between the lines. Not for Rowling to steal our imaginations away.
As kids gear up for the midnight release of the movie Thursday -- just as they used to attend the midnight releases of the book in stores -- early reviews are glowing about the end to the cinematic series. I'll be there too, if I can stay up that late at this stage in my life. But as it all ends, I'll be glad that my kids were reading one of the best series in kid-lit when it was all simply a great and deservedly successful endeavor of storytelling. For now, I'll wait for the next clever writer who is struck by a wholly imaginative new idea -- and perhaps pick up the tale of the sorcerer's stone one more time.
Photo: Hermione Graner (Emma Watson), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) battle their way through "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2." Credit: Warner Bros.