Is it just me

…or does today feel like the first chapter of the first Harry Potter book?  I feel like setting off fireworks and sending owls to people.  I want to hug conservatives and say “Even Republicans like yourself should be celebrating on this happy, happy day!”

Enjoy history while it’s happening, everyone!

Update

Henry VI, Part II, is so much better than Henry VI, Part I.  I just wanted to mention that.  I’m not done with it yet but it’s way, way, way better than the first part.  I’m not saying it’s the best play I’ve ever read, but I’m enjoying it, and I can envision a future in which I might read it again just for fun sometime.  There’s so much political intrigue!  Plus, shades of future plays – particularly Macbeth.  Gloucester’s wife is extremely ambitious, and there are prophecies that are rather cryptic.  One contains the line “Let him shun castles”, which for some reason I really like.  Let him shun castles.

But soon I will review the whole thing.  Also the sixth Harry Potter book.  I’m just at the bit where Scrimgeour comes to visit, and Harry’s all, “If you’re smart, you won’t mess with Dumbledore” and Scrimgeour’s all “I see you’re Dumbledore’s man through and through” and Harry’s all “Yes.  That is right.”  Oh.  This makes Dumbledore teary, and me, too.

Henry VI, Part I, William Shakespeare

So I took a break from Harry Potter last night – just cause that I was getting really emotional – and went ahead and read Henry VI, Part I. It begins at the funeral of Henry V. Everyone is very worried because there’s still wars going on with the French, and they don’t know how they’re going to do without stalwart Henry V there to guide them. They have lots of fights with the French. They kick off the Wars of the Roses and argue over who should be King, and Joan of Arc is a total witchy bitch. And yeah, that’s pretty much everything that happens in Henry VI, Part I.

This play’s definitely not as smooth as the later ones, particularly when they were getting exposition out of the way, which was relatively often, cause, hey, it’s a history play! Not to mention there was a definite bias in terms of English v. French, which was only to be expected, I suppose. I like it when the Dauphin challenges Joan of Arc to a duel to see whether she’s good enough to lead their armies. She wins, of course, and then he’s all, “Wanna have sex?” and she’s all, “Maybe later.” The French are just totally ridiculous – Joan less than the rest of them, I thought at first, but that was before I got to the bit where she summoned her familiars to help her in battle. Plus there’s not a ton of plot, just a lot of avenging and battles and alarums, but it’s not terribly cohesive, with all the people just rushing about willy-nilly, and the character development leaves something – well, everything – to be desired. I had an incredibly hard time keeping all the characters straight, also, but that could just have to do with my poor knowledge of early English history. Also, and I know this is because there is a sequel in the works, the end comes very abruptly and leaves some things unresolved, like the Wars of the Roses business, and the issue of Suffolk’s wanting to control the king.

But still, in spite of its faults, this play does very little to hinder my fan-girl love for Shakespeare – and the whole point of this project, really, was to make myself aware enough of Shakespeare’s oeuvre that when I get to heaven I can talk to Shakespeare relatively knowledgeably about it so he will think I am cool and not sneer at me. I mean, we’ll be in heaven, so presumably Shakespeare wouldn’t sneer at me anyway, but I don’t want him to just talk to me out of pity! I want us to be cloud-sitting buddies! Because Shakespeare kicks so much ass, and he was just some nobody nothing from Stratford and he is the GREATEST WRITER OF ALL TIME EVER. The man’s practically on par with the Bible. Damn, the man could toss out some one-liners.

We mourn in black: why mourn we not in blood?

And when Salisbury gets his eye put out and dies, I love what his companion says, maybe because I wish someone had said something similarly comforting to Xander when he had his little run-in with Evil Mal:

Yet livest thou, Salisbury? Though thy speech doth fail,
One eye thou hast, to look to heaven for grace;
The sun with one eye vieweth all the world.
Heaven, be thou gracious to none alive,
If Salisbury wants mercy at thy hands!
Bear hence his body; I will help to bury it.

And as for insults:

No, prelate; such is thy audacious wickedness,
Thy lewd, pestiferous and dissentious pranks,
As very infants prattle of thy pride.
Thou art a most pernicious usurer,
Forward by nature, enemy to peace;
Lascivious, wanton, more than well beseems
A man of thy profession and degree.

Do not irritate Shakespeare. He knows a whole bunch of words to call you bad names with, and will use them. On the other hand, of course, you have this:

O, were mine eyeballs into bullets turn’d,
That I in rage might shoot them at your faces!

Oh my God, every time I read that it makes me laugh until my eyes tear up. It reminds me of that scene in Empire Records where Joe asks Warren how old he is, and Warren says “Old enough to kick your butt through your skull and spatter your brains on the wall,” and Joe says, “Yeah, he’s a juvenile.” Shakespeare is Warren. When I got to this bit I was unable to continue because I kept wanting to read that line again. Is he sure that’s what he wants? I mean is Joan of Arc really so much of a wicked strumpet witch that he wants to SHOOT HIS EYEBALLS AT HER FACE?

Thanks a lot, Henry VI, Part I. Now when I get to heaven and I want to make friends with Shakespeare, I won’t be able to think of anything but that time he had one of his characters express a wish to shoot bullets out of his skull. And he’ll be all, I was in my twenties, okay? And I’ll be all, Sure, dude. And then we’ll be off on the wrong foot.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling

I saw this graph one time on something connected with the Lemony Snicket books, and it showed how as time went on, the number of fortunate events decreased. And that is what I always think of when I read the fifth Harry Potter book. It contains so many depressing things – dementors, Umbridge, writing lines in blood, everyone thinking Harry is crazy, an acknowledgement of Harry’s psychological issues, Cho Chang – and the end makes me feel so very, very sad, for Harry and for Dumbledore. I stayed up until midnight for this book when it came out, at the Bongs & Noodles near my place, which was fun because of the big party they were having. I kept running into people from my high school who tried to pretend they weren’t there for the Harry Potter book but I KNEW BETTER. And the cover was so cool and mysterious! And then once we got our books, me and my big sister and our friend Jane went back to Jane’s house to read it, and they both got cross at me if I made a single noise when I was reading. And Jane’s dogs got really tired because we never turned the lights off, and they kept falling over when they tried to walk. It was good times.

I mean, sort of. If you ignore how sad this book is. In this one, Voldemort’s back, and nobody believes it. Harry and Dumbledore are totally discredited in the wizarding world, and everyone is constantly telling lies, repressing stories about dreadful things happening, and punishing Harry when he tries to tell the truth about Voldemort. There is a new awful Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher called Dolores Awful Umbridge, who spends her time turning Hogwarts into a Fascist state. Snape continues being horrible to Harry, and we sort of find out why. Harry’s psychic connection with Voldemort deepens (ugh), and Hagrid makes Harry’s life harder (again) (but I still love him). A few cheerful things happen, but they are few and far between, and they are quickly cancelled out by all the awful things that follow in their wake.

The adverbs in this book hurt me. I tried not to notice them but it was difficult when they were clawing free of the page and burrowing into my eyeballs. My recollection is that the sixth book isn’t as bad about this, but we’ll see. I feel like the adverbs in this book are worse than they’ve been.

My mother doesn’t like it when Harry yells at everybody all through this book. I kind of do. I mean, not the all-caps business, which just shouldn’t be allowed, but I feel that at this point, he’s entitled to a little anger. You know, the kid loses his parents, gets raised by assholes in total ignorance of his heritage, and when he does go off to wizard school and escape from the jerks that didn’t parent him properly, the adults in his life continue to not parent him, not even managing to protect him from Dark wizards trying to kill him (I feel guilty even writing this because I was so sniffly when I was reading the bit about how guilty Dumbledore feels about Harry at the end of this book), and then, when the person who killed his parents returns to start killing more people, everyone he knows quits talking to him for half the summer. Oh, and the wizarding world staunchly denies that his very traumatic experience of watching Voldemort return ever happened. So hey. I’d be mad too.

(Apparently growing up with these books has made me very protective of Harry.)

Now I will have spoilers.

On rereading, I find myself much fonder of Luna Lovegood, who grew on me in the sixth book after I originally completely loathed her (how did I ever loathe her? I’m so weird). I find Umbridge and Snape’s nastiness with Harry actually more upsetting now than I did originally, because I know that Umbridge is never getting her comeuppance, and because I feel like Snape could really have made more of an effort to be nice to Lily’s kid, especially when the kid in question is going through a very hard time with hostility on all sides. That jerk of a Snape. Lily’s looking down from heaven and saying You asshole. I found it incredibly woeful when Lupin told Mrs. Weasley that of course Ron and Ginny would be taken care of if something happened to the Weasley parents. In light of what I know is going to happen to Lupin, that is rather depressing.

On the positive side, I love their top-secret underground Defense Against the Dark Arts Group. I love it when Fred and George take off for good, and everyone in the school works to sabotage Umbridge and her reign of terror (that writing lines in your own blood thing is damn creepy, I must say). I am pleased each time I read the scene where Dumbledore fights off all the Aurors and goes on the run. As much as it pains me, I am interested in the scene from Snape’s memory with James and Sirius – because, I hate him, but it’s about time we found out some extenuating circumstances about Snape. And I am glad about how Hermione confronts Harry about his “saving-people thing”. She’s so clever and perceptive, and if Harry had just damn well listened to her, Sirius wouldn’t have died. So it was nice to have that out there.

I have not yet reconciled myself to the fact that Sirius dies. I cry every time I read that scene. My own father’s so lovely! Imagine having no father and then when you finally acquire a father figure who, okay, has some issues to work out, but nevertheless is devoted to you, HE DIES. It’s so unfair. Poor Sirius. Poor Harry. Actually, the sequence in the Department of Mysteries is a tense and upsetting sequence. Everyone is so brave, and particularly darling Neville is so brave! Oh, when he says that Harry’s not alone, he’s got Neville, and when, oh, Neville, when he tells him not to give them the prophecy, and…

Suffice it to say that – this always happens – I started crying when Neville starts being so brave and wonderful, and I carried right on crying through Sirius’s death, Dumbledore’s fight with Voldemort, and especially all through the part where Dumbledore is explaining everything to Harry. Just don’t even talk about how many tissues had piled up next to me by the time he told him why he didn’t make him a prefect. Oh, right, and at the exact second when I managed to begin drying my eyes, I got to the bit where Harry finds the mirror, and then just when I was feeling proud that I didn’t cry when Harry talks to Nearly Headless Nick, I got to the part where he talks to Luna, and that destroyed me all over again.

…I have a lot of feelings.  The more of these books I read the more emotional I get.  I’m going to have a thing or two to say about Rufus Scrimgeour after I read the sixth book.

The next reading project

I had this idea because of a weird dream I had.  This project is for after I finish reading the Harry Potter books – which I’m taking longer to do than I anticipated, because I’m enjoying it so much and I want to make it last.

My next reading project – which will run parallel to my rereading The Good Fairies of New York and Lonely Werewolf Girl before finally reading Suzy, Led Zeppelin, and Me – will be to read all of Shakespeare’s plays, in chronological order.  There’s at least twenty of Shakespeare’s plays I’ve not read, and you know, I really like William Shakespeare.  He’s one of those people that I like so much that it will change my opinion of – hm.  This sentence isn’t working out. What I mean is, when people dislike Shakespeare, they go down in my estimation (like Bernard Shaw), but when people really, really, really like Shakespeare, I feel fonder of them (like Samuel Johnson).  I have this same thing about the Brownings and Oscar Wilde.  If somebody says something unpleasant about them, it’s like they’ve insulted my family.  I feel very angry and I want to track down the offending parties and be like HEY YOU.  BACK OFF.  I even went through a phase of being angry at Alexander Pope, with whom – ordinarily – I think I would have gotten on beautifully.  But I was mad at him for making changes to Shakespeare’s verses.  I’m sorry to say that I called him “Alexander Poop” for two months my senior year of high school before finally deciding to forgive him.

Anyway, watch out for my views on Henry VI.  Coming relatively soonishly.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling

Holy God, this book is scary. I had completely forgotten how terrifying the scene in the graveyard is. Damn.

Goblet of Fire isn’t as unfavoritey to me as I remembered it being. I don’t know why I was so cranky about it. I mean, apart from the Blast-Ended Skrewts, which were a much less important part of the book than I was remembering, and the fact that this book is hard on poor Harry, Goblet of Fire isn’t half bad. I was expecting that I would reread it and decide after all that I liked it even less than Chamber of Secrets, but that hasn’t happened at all. On the contrary, I have felt very fond of it, even though this is the book in which things take a turn for the Very Dark. Goblet of Fire was the first of the books that I actually waited for. It came out when my family was on vacation in Maine, and we went to this lovely little bookshop in a loft in Kennebunkport (the vacation spot also of the senior Bushes, but don’t get me started on the awful stories I’ve heard about that) called Kennebunk Book Port. I miss that bookshop. Anyway, we got there way too late, because they are a small bookshop, and they only had two left to reserve, so my mother and my big sister each reserved a copy. On the day, they brought them back to the house, and we all had to wait and wait and wait and wait to read them until Mum and Anna had finished. There was much staying up late and swiping books from people. Good times.

In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Hogwarts had joined up with two other schools of magic (Bulgaria’s Durmstrang and France’s Beauxbatons) to hold the Triwizard Tournament, in which one student from each school gets to compete in scary tasks and win a shiny cup. Inexplicably, the supposedly impartial Goblet of Fire spits out two names for Hogwarts, and one of them is Harry’s. As he deals with this, there are rumors and whispers about Voldemort, with mysterious Voldemort-related things happening all over the place – disappearances and scary KKK-like Muggle torture.

On reflection, Goblet of Fire is not at all a bad book. Not a bit bad. Reading it again has reminded me of a number of things, like how fond of Mr. Weasley I used to be, back in the day when he still had time to be fascinated by Muggle things. It’s so cute when he comes to the Dursley’s house and says that the fireplace runs off of eckeltricity and that he collects batteries. I would have been sad if J.K. Rowling had gone with her first instinct and killed Mr. Weasley, but on the other hand I think it would have been preferable to the nineteen people she ended up killing to make up for Mr. Weasley. (I’m counting four people, right now, that probably would have survived if she had killed Mr. Weasley, and three of them were on the list I made before the seventh book came out of people who Absolutely Must Not Die. And the other one would have been on that list if it weren’t for the fact that I didn’t have the sense to make a list before JK Rowling killed him off.

I can’t decide how I feel about Hermione’s house-elf mania in this book. On one hand, it’s fun, it’s a very Hermione thing to do, and it sets up house-elves as a major point, which is important for the fifth and seventh books. On the other hand, that’s pretty well set up without Hermione getting all crazy about it, so I’m torn. I do enjoy that the three main characters are starting to grow up – though, hey, Krum’s kind of a perv, asking a fourteen-year-old girl to come visit him in his country – and it’s nice to see Harry really coming into his own as far as Defense Against the Dark Arts are concerned.

I’m reluctant to read the fifth book. I like it a lot, but it’s so sad. I don’t know if I want to read all that sadness.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling

Mm, this is the one I’ve been waiting for. My original plan was just to read Prisoner of Azkaban, my most favorite of all the Harry Potter books, but then I decided to read them all, since I knew that would take longer and afford me more lasting satisfaction. In Azkaban, a supporter of Voldemort (and, it more or less goes without saying, murderer) breaks out of the wizard prison Azkaban and is out on the lam, desperate – say the prison guards – to get to Harry and kill him dead. Meanwhile the soul-sucking dementors that generally spend all their time guarding Azkaban are out in force at Hogwarts in case Sirius Black (the aforementioned stone-cold killer) shows up there, and the dementors are so awful that poor Harry has a ‘sode every time they come around. A really unpleasant one in which he hears his parents’ last moments on earth. In other news, Hagrid has become a teacher, the kids have a new and wonderful Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, and we find out a number of things we didn’t know before about Harry’s father. Plus, Hermione gets a cat, and Harry learns a cool new spell, which is probably the most useful spell he ever learns.

There’s just nothing about this book that I dislike. I think the reason I like it so much is that all the elements are interesting and cool and handled well; and at the end, they all pull together beautifully: Hermione and her many classes, the hippogriff on trial, Harry’s spell to ward off dementors, his acquisition of the Marauder’s Map, the business with Sirius Black, the back-story on James Potter’s school life, the ongoing quarrel between Hermione’s cat and Ron’s rat. Everything. It’s synergistic. It’s satisfying. Not to mention that this is the book in which we first meet funny Professor Trelawney, whom I love, and Professor Lupin, whom I love even more (until the seventh book, at which point I kinda fell out of love with him because he was being a jerk, which is too bad since I spent books four, five, and six complaining loudly about how totally not enough Lupin there was). The end sequence in the Shrieking Shack is one of my top five favorite scenes in the entire series. (I’ve just pulled the number five out of nowhere. I don’t actually have a list of the five best Harry Potter scenes – though now I want to make one, to see how the Shrieking Shack scene measures up.)

I will say, because I don’t want this to be a total panegyric to the third book even though it’s the best, that-

Yeah, no. Nope. I can’t think of anything bad to say about Prisoner of Azkaban. Every time I read it, I have one of those reading experiences where everything else falls away. It’s always like reading it for the first time. Whenever I (spoilers ahead) get to the bit in the Hogsmeade pub where they’re talking about Sirius Black, and Madam Rosmerta says “Quite the double act, Sirius Black and James Potter!”, I always feel startled, it always makes me gasp (Social Sister will tell you that this was very irritating the first time I read it, lying on my bed in the room we shared and refusing to tell her why I was gasping), and I always worry about Harry, poor dear, with his many psychological issues. I continue to get riled up every time Snape acts like a jerk to Harry about his father, or to Lupin about his werewolfiness – Snape’s such a bully! I’m sorry, I don’t care how tortured and miserable he is, he’s got no call to be such a bullying meanie to a bunch of fourteen-year-old kids. Mean old Snape. The list of things for which I can never forgive him, oh, it is a long list.

As far as post-Deathly Hallows rereading goes – I think the only major change is that I find the scenes where Lupin remembers Harry’s father to be much more upsetting than I did when I was first reading these books. I mean, knowing Lupin’s whole story, how he was so lonely and sad and friendless as a kid, and then he finally made some amazing friends who did amazing things for him, and then they all died or turned out to be evil, and he went right back to being lonely and sad and friendless all through his adult life. Ouch. That hurts my heart. I also feel rather affectionate about Ron and Hermione’s quarrel over Crookshanks and Scabbers. It’s the first of many quarrels they will have on their bumpy road to happy togetherness. Oh, and how good was it when harry got to stay by himself in Diagon Alley before the year began? Staying at the pub and having nice meals and wandering all around by himself? That must have been fun. Since he will never have fun again, ever, I’m glad he got to have that experience.

Of course

Of course my camera isn’t working.  I mean, that makes total sense.  Of course right this very day on which I got my cool new commonplace book from Ella at Box of Books, of course that would be the day my camera would choose to not work.  It won’t save any pictures I take!  So you’ll just have to take my word for it that the new commonplace book I got in the mail today is incredibly cool and pretty.

I wish I were crafty.  I can’t make anything.  I’m terrible at drawing and I’m worse at crafts.  The only slightly crafty thing I can do is cross-stitch.  Otherwise, I am totally useless at crafts.  This one time, my big sister and I were both taking physics in high school (we were in different classes, but it was the same teacher), and the teacher assigned a bonus project of making mobiles, and it was really tricky and you had to dangle everything in just the right spot to make it balance.  And I did all my measurements and spent hours and hours on it, and the damn thing didn’t work, and the glue stuck to things and everything got tangled and finally I burst into tears (this was my junior year, a stressful year for me) and threw it away.  And I swear to God, my big sister was like “Huh”, and did hers in like TEN MINUTES.

But my commonplace book is really beautiful.  I’m so excited about having a new commonplace book.  I haven’t totally used up my old one, my old trusty commonplace book I’ve had (and loved) since ninth grade, but still I want to abandon it and go straight to using my brand new pretty one.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling

You know, if nostalgia was going to cloud my judgment, you’d think I’d like Chamber of Secrets better than I do. It was the first of the Harry Potter books that I bought myself. I remember it really vividly – the Books-a-Million was still open then, and I was young enough that it was a bit of an adventure to buy an expensive hardback all by myself (sheesh, I was a weird fourteen-year-old), and I showed it off to everyone once I got it home, though since none of them had read Harry Potter yet, nobody cared. Except my mother, because she had been pushing for us to read these books for ages and we all said no because we didn’t like the covers, so she felt smug. This was also the only one of the Harry Potter books that I read out loud to my little sister. I used to read out loud to her all the time, and there was a bit of unpleasantness about the first Harry Potter book, which she bought and finished reading herself when I was still in the middle of reading it to her, and I was like OMG YOU HAVE BETRAYED ME….but we enjoyed reading the second one together. It’s her favorite of the books. The little freak.

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry gets a warning from a wee house-elf (Dobby, I grew to love you, and your heroism caused me to cry many tears later on, but you did not grow endearing until the fifth book or so) that he mustn’t go back to Hogwarts this year because terrible things are going to happen. Darling naïve Harry, little do you realize that any year you spend at Hogwarts is a year in which terrible things are going to happen. Bless your heart. Anyway, being Harry, he disregards this and goes off to school anyway – home is pretty terrible – and as predicted, terrible things do happen, to the tune of nearly-fatal attacks on students who are not of pure blood. There’s some kind of terrifying monster loose in the school! It’s killing Muggle-borns! It’s very terrifying! (Though these are still the innocent days before J.K. Rowling started in with the blood bath, so none of the good guys actually die.) It’s all mysterious and has something to do with a set of similar events that went down at Hogwarts fifty years ago, almost causing the school to close.

I love the expansion of the pure-blood half-blood theme that you see in this book. It’s something that runs throughout the entire series and peaks in the seventh book, and I think Rowling handles it quite well. “Blood traitors” hasn’t been introduced as a phrase yet, but I keep thinking of it, and I find it a pleasing epithet to look forward to. You see an unpleasant side to the Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge, another of those things that will come into play in subsequent books. Quidditch is always fun, and Harry, the poor little sausage, has his first major incident of everybody at school really loathing and fearing him. He’s more victim-kid about it at this point, than furious-adolescent-on-the-angry-rampage like he is in the fifth book, but we all know what’s coming. I love the anagram with Tom Marvolo Riddle (yay for anagrams!), and the climactic confrontation in the Chamber is my favorite of Harry’s first three encounters with Voldemort.

Yet in spite of all these positive points, in spite of my extreme nostalgic fondness for the experience of this book, it remains my least favorite of all seven books, and I’m pretty sure the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher is to blame. Wretched, wretched Gilderoy Lockhart! I’m willing to entertain the notion that this reaction is attributable to my tremendous love for Lockhart’s successor, Remus Lupin, next to whom everybody suffers by comparison. Just – just – Gilderoy Lockhart just ruins everything for me! I am never fond of him, he is always irritating, it is completely his fault that Ron and Harry have an awkward moment that embarrasses poor dear Neville in the fifth book, he’s aggravating and he never gets better and I just hate him! Even when they made this book into a movie, and it was Kenneth Branagh and he was hilarious, I was still way more annoyed than amused. Ugh. I’d almost rather have Umbridge.

(I almost published this post before realizing I couldn’t leave this alone. I wouldn’t really rather have Umbridge. Ever. She’s awful, and she’s mean to Lupin. Of course I do not prefer her to Lockhart. Just wanted to clear that up.)

I remember before the sixth book came out, J.K. Rowling kept doing interviews and saying that the second book was going to be very important to the plot of the sixth book, and I was expecting there to be some devilish twist on the events of the second book that would cause me to regard it in a whole new light. That so didn’t happen. The second book is important to the sixth, but not in a cool way. I also remember being very annoyed, upon finishing the second book, at the notion that Harry and Ginny were being set up to be together. After reading the sixth book, I revised my opinion on this, but now that I’m back to Chamber of Secrets, I can really see Past Jenny’s point. Dobby and Ginny: Acquired Tastes.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling

I decided to read these books all over again. The length of my workdays, and the fact that today I was working at one place or another from six-forty in the morning until nine at night, has put the kibosh on any adventurous reading I might feel like doing. I returned all my library books to the library with the intention of reading my books that I already own (but not yet Suzy, Led Zeppelin, and Me, for which I’m still delaying gratification); and I came up with the bright idea of reading the entire Harry Potter series over from the beginning. My little sister and I have been having a big moan about how much we miss the prospect of new Harry Potter books now that the phenomenon is all, all over.

Also, I decline to call it Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. What is a sorcerer’s stone? The thing is called the philosopher’s stone! It has basis in alchemic legend! Why assume Americans are too stupid for this? Hmph.

In case you’ve been living under a rock: little Harry is a wee lad of eleven, and lives with his awful aunt and uncle and cousin, where nobody likes him and his glasses are broken and he gets in enormous trouble every time something strange happens around him (which isn’t un-often). And then, and then, and then – and then it proves that he’s a wizard, a really famous one because he somehow defeated the darkest dark wizard of all time when he was just a tiny baby, and he goes off to the wizard school Hogwarts, where he has all kinds of exciting adventures and meets loads of new people and flies brilliantly all around on his broomstick. And confronts the aforementioned dark wizard, all over again.

All the problems I remember with JK Rowling’s writing – crazy long sentences which bugs me as someone who likes to read aloud, and also a plethora of unnecessary verbs where “said” should be, and of course the ubiquitous adverbs – are still there. (I realize that last sentence was on the long side, but this is the same blog where I just used the word “unreviewy”, so the standards aren’t quite the same.) I’ve heard people say that JK Rowling is unoriginal, and Harry’s a cliche, and wizard school is a cliche. However, kids who have been mistreated and then find out they’re special are one of those plots that continues to be enjoyable for ages and ages – just like kids who go off to their relative’s strange old house for the summer and discover it is all full of magic. So I am not bothered by this, and since JK Rowling has created an unbelievably thorough and interesting world for her wizards, I can’t support charges of unoriginality.

I have to say, these are charming, charming books. She’s populated her world with good, bright, vivid characters, and she’s made up or borrowed from myth a ton of interesting places and things for Harry (and me!) to be introduced to. I like these books because every one of them introduces new places, new people, new stuff. And as well, I kind of enjoy this one because it’s lighter in tone than the later ones. I want to give Harry a hug and tell him to run away because I KNOW WHAT IS COMING. (JK Rowling was always saying that in interviews – that if she could talk to Harry, she’d tell him she was sorry; if she could spend a day as Harry, she’d run and hide, because she knows what’s in store for him, and I can totally see her point now.) As someone who held out reading them for a while out of a suspicion that they weren’t as good as everyone was saying, let me just say: They’re as good as everyone is saying.

Rereading this, I’m having flashbacks to eighth grade, which is when I first read this book. My friend Rachel lent it to me, and I read it on the bus so I wouldn’t have to talk to the irritating girl who sat with me. Her name was Terri, and she had a high-pitched voice and an annoying little sister who also rode our bus, and she couldn’t understand why it would bother me to have somebody poking their fingers at my face. I finished it, urged my sisters to read it, and ran straight out to the Books-a-Million to buy Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. And then, oh my God, I think I maybe got the third book at the school book fair! I miss the school book fairs!

I’m also finding that I react to every character differently now, because I know the entire arc of their story. (If you haven’t had the joyous experience of reading the Harry Potter books, don’t read this paragraph. I mean it. Even I, queen of reading the end, did not want to know the endings of these books.) So when people show up who are going to die later, I feel urgently that everybody else should enjoy their presence while they can. When people show up who are going to be heroic later, I can only think of their future heroic deeds. I’m having surprisingly (or not so surprisingly, when you think about how tired I am) emotional reactions to everything. When Neville comes into the compartment looking for his toad, I could only think about how he slays Nagini later, oh, how Harry’s going off and he tells Neville, just if he gets the chance, “Kill the snake?” “Kill the snake.” Darling Neville! I wish I could tell him how brave he will be! And when Dumbledore’s giving his speech at the school banquet, I was filled with visceral rage about the nasty things Rita Skeeter was going to say about him later. Oh how I hate her, with her vile insinuations about his very touching paternal relationship with Harry. VILE VILE VILE WOMAN.