Thursday, July 30, 2015

Harry, A History

Melissa Anelli, webmistress of Harry Potter fan site the Leaky Cauldron, wrote a book about the Harry Potter phenomenon and fandom. Part memoir, part social history, I couldn't not read it once I heard about it, and picked it up from the library before the summer was done so that I could pass it along to husband when I finished and before he moves away for his PhD.

Harry, A History is not a perfect book, and a lot of that has to do with its pacing. She rockets back and forth between memoir and social history, and the two are so different in tone that I don't imagine many readers love both equally. For me, the memoir portions didn't interest me much. On the plus side, reading about someone else's first read of one of the new HP books brought back such fond memories of my own first times. On the other hand, I was made deeply uncomfortable by Anelli's gloating stories of lying to her boss in order to skip work for her Harry Potter hobby. The social history sections were really informative and also spanned a huge range of topics: the ins and outs of the publishing industry, the importance of the internet in creating the huge fandom, legal battles, legal battles, spoilers, Christian fundamentalists' attempts to ban the books, and even wizard rock. Not everyone would be as into the facts and figures, but I loved the data and the way that Anelli used it to tell this story about a book series that impacted so many lives. Like so many others, I literally grew up with the Harry Potter books - the last one came out just after my high school graduation, and I read it while in the throes of worries about moving away to college and starting my adult life.

So I'm left yet again lamenting the fact that there are no more Harry Potter books to be had. And interestingly, I'm also sad about the fact that the Harry Potter books were the only novels I ever looked forward to with so much eagerness and burning desire to uncover their secrets. I don't read a lot of contemporary fiction, and I don't ever get to count down the days until a book is released anymore. I suppose I did so with the third season of Sherlock (but then, I was ultimately disappointed). I miss Harry Potter, I miss the first experience of reading each book, but I also miss that anticipation for a book, any book.

At least I can always go back and re-read this beloved series!

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