Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Last One on the Bandwagon

I've never been attracted to science fiction or fantasy. I was the only one of my grade school pals that didn't read The Chronicles of Narnia. I've never read J.R.R. Tolkien, nor to this day seen any of the "Lord of The Rings" movies. Dungeons and Dragons? Fuggedaboudit. Yes, I saw and liked the original three "Star Wars" Movies, but I have only a mild and passing appreciation of "Star Trek." I seem to be one of the only people on earth who gets more excited about a new Christopher Guest movie than a new "Spiderman." (One "Spiderman" grosses more in one weekend than Guest has netted cumulatively... I'm not kidding.)

Knowing this--and knowing that Anne is the same way--I gave her copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone as one of her birthday presents back in December. It was a perfectly passive aggressive way to attack what I had decided was close-mindedness on my part. I could no longer ignore the fact that everyone I knew--from casual readers to literary snobs--loved these stories. And how could I criticize the woman in my MFA program who flatly told me "I don't read men" while I claimed "I don't read fantasy" without ever having picked up a Potter book?

Anne reluctantly completed the journey. Her verdict: interested, but ultimately unmoved. It was well done, but she didn't have that eagerness to resume reading each night after The King was put to bed. I took the book on the plane during our April trip to Mexico and felt the same way after the first 20 pages. I didn't get back to it until maybe a month later, and then a strange thing happened: I really started to like it.

Once the action moved to Hogwarts, I really did feel as though a new world opened up. Sure, the book recycles worn cliches about witches, wizards, trolls, dragons and broomsticks. But these elements are just the cost of doing business. Everything else Rowling creates struck me as quite original. And the way in which she makes Harry a truly sympathetic character--not just when he's the "oppressed stepchild," but even as he realizes who he is--is quite brilliant. The ending was a little Dan Brown, but that's forgiveable--this is actually a cross-genre mystery, after all.

So maybe there is something to this series. I'm thinking of renting the movie. Then, depending on how I feel, I might just get the next book. If I like that, the next movie, and then. Oh God, I'm hooked...

6 comments:

Stephen Dashboard said...

Nope, I think I'M the last one on the bandwagon.

I had a similar experience to yours--I started reading the first book and crapped out BEFORE page 20. Maybe I need to try again and push on to Hogwarts.

The third film is amazing (Azkaban)--doesn't hurt I'm nuts about Alfonso Cuazon.

Maybe we should form a "Harry Potter Newbies Book Club"?

The Wordman said...

count me in as another one not impressed with the Harry Potter industry -- I've seen 1 1/2 movies (the first one and half of the most recent one) -- never picked up one of the books, and I don't care to.

however, in contradistinction to our man Bellamy's background, I *was* hooked on sci-fi and fantasy for most of my childhood and teen years -- Tolkien and Dr. Who were two pillars upon which my young imagination was built. I wonder what it would be like to pick up a fantasy/sci-fi novel for me now, if I didn't have any background in the genres?

I shouldn't be such a hard-ass about new stuff like this, but I feel like my capacity for enchantment is now closed for business -- the Potter movies I've seen seemed drenched in cloying tweeness, and this coupled with the cartoonish villains and pseudo-messianic treatment of Potter just drove me up the freakin' wall.

( these days, my tastes run to Ursula K. LeGuin (Wizard of Earthsea) or Guy Gavriel Kay (Tigana) for "adult" fantasy; Dan Simmons (Hyperion), Frank Herbert (Dune), or Larry Niven (Ringworld) for science fiction. )

Mr. Dashboard's point about the HP movies being only as good as the director is a good one... also, it helps (at least if you're a stodgy old cuss with a dried-up sense of wonder) to recognize that all the best SFF is really written as an allegory for real-world issues.

namariƫ,

tl

Anonymous said...

I was briefly hooked on the series. But I also had a dyslexic son who would not spend minute one with any book unless Mom or Dad were reading HP to him.

Vegas Gopher said...

Man, I'm in the same boat re: fantasy. Loved the original Star Wars trilogy, but that's it. (Although I am a sucker for superhero films -- love the Batman/Spiderman/Superman stuff.)

I haven't touched the Potter books, even though my wife, a confirmed bibliophile, loved them. Miss Fiona picked up the first book last September and had polished off the whole series by Christmas. Now she'll be one of the kids camping out at Barnes & Noble the night before the release of the last installment in the series.

Perhaps even her old man will get in the game one of these days.

Kevin Sawyer said...

I caught the one where Harry blinds the horses. Really weird and not appropriate for kids, I thought.

aunt christy said...

I read the first one when I was laid up in my 5th floor walk-up with a bad back. I bought it when I was all fuzzy on vicodin. LOVED IT. I've read all of them. I can't explain why these books appeal to me, but I'm not the best book critic. I ignored the praise of this series from friends of mine for years. I'm not crazy about the movies because, with any book I've read that becomes a movie, I have my own ideas about how things should look.

I guess I admire the sheer imagination of the woman, coupled with the adult characteristics she gives the kids.

Seriously, I love these books. It's not even a guilty pleasure any more. I openly engage in discussions about my favorite parts.

Weird.