Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: "Finally, the truth."

Those are the first words spoken after the big "plot reveal" in one of the final chapters of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I only just finished reading my copy, and I won't give anything away here, but suffice it to say that JK Rowling has rewarded the patience of Potter followers everywhere. My gosh, what a ripping good tale. I sat up at night with my feet on the sofa, turning pages, unable to stop, swinging between astonishment, disbelief, and "ah, of course." With this book, Rowling has taken Harry on the ultimate Hero's Journey, and given us a fitting ending to an epic tale that children and adults will talk about--and perhaps debate--for years to come. Along the way, she dealt with nearly every character introduced throughout the series--some, tragically, some happily, some dropping in just to say hello.

What a ride it has been! I started reading the series a few years ago when one of my children expressed an interest in reading the first book. I didn't know much about the book at the time, but I thought it prudent to read through it a bit before I let my kid do so. Imagine my surprise when I found I couldn't put it down. In fact, I avidly sought out the other books in the series, and broke my rule of buying hardback for the last two books because I couldn't wait to read them. (I have nothing against authors who sell in hardback--I just don't have the greenbacks to afford it, so I generally wait until they come out in...paperback.)

Isn't it the dream of every author to craft an enduring tale that captivates audiences everywhere? To be the one to write the story other people will write books about for years? While I was in the bookstore the other day, browsing the children's aisles for good research books (great place to get books that explain difficult concepts easily), I saw an entire rack of books about the Potter phenomena--books devoted to guesses about what Rowling will write, how Potter's story will end, and not to mention the puzzles, word games, role plays, computer games, etc....

I often wonder, though, the pressure that this sort of attention puts on the author who has written a story others take ownership of. We, the public, are highly invested in what happens to Harry, and woe to she who does not comply with our expectations. I think I admire Rowling not just for her ability to write such fantastical stories into which we all can disappear, emerging hours later scattered with dragon dust and dreaming of wizards, but to keep writing those stories, despite the pressure to produce more, and faster, and better, and different, all the while keeping it the same. Hats off to Harry, ladies and gentlemen, and hats off to JK Rowling.

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