“My test of a good novel is dreading to begin the last chapter.” –Thomas Helm
Tonight, I went and saw Horrible Bosses for only six dollars–a steal! On my way into the theater at 5:15, there was already a long line of fans waiting for the midnight opening of the final Harry Potter film. I sit on my couch very jealous and slightly bitter that I am not at a midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I get so excited every time I see the commercials and am bursting to see the movie. By and large, I love the movies–not quite as much as the books–and love going to see them. I have special memories of each film (Azkaban through Hallows, that is, but I’ll save those for tomorrow) and the people who love this world with me. My biggest complaint about the movies tends to be that they are not long enough, leave out too much of the minutia that makes the books that I love. I was deeply disappointed when I saw the runtime of this movie was just barely more than 2 hours.
Part of my sadness is that the movie has a lot to cover in very few minutes. More than that, my disappointment is that it is all ending. Harry has a very special place in my movie and book collections, and in my life. I was late to the bandwagon, hopping on after film two and before book five. I devoured the books, after being bullied into reading them, the summer before I started college. In two weeks, between shifts at summer camp, I was finished and hooked. There is such a rich world in the books, so much imagination that I deeply envy. I am in awe of Rowling’s ability to create such vivid places and people effortlessly, with minimal words. I have tried, and cannot pinpoint how she does it, but she does. As a person who likes to write, and would love to be thought of as a writer, I am humbled.
More than enjoying the craft of the books, they were an escape for me. When I was in college, I read the books all the way through twice a year: Christmas break and summer vacation. The hours at home were long and contact with my college friends was limited. I was busy with school and new people and lost touch with many of my high school friends. Thus, when I came home, I was alone. To stave off the isolation, I would stay up late at night, huddled in my mom’s rocking chair, letting myself drift off into Hogwarts. I would let my magical friends embrace me when my real ones seemed to forget me. It was an escape from my loneliness, a retreat. I read all night, stopping only as dawn neared and I knew my parents would be waking. I don’t know if I would have made it through those breaks alone without my Hogwarts crew.
Part of the solace that I found was in the fact that Harry and his friends were not popular, that they too knew isolation and awkwardness. The summer after I graduated, I read the whole series one last time, ending with the final book. That long, unemployed summer was the hardest yet. I lived alone, did nothing, and left for one last trip to Hogwarts. Since then, in four years, I haven’t read all of the books again. That does not mean that I never will, because I still love them deeply and fall into a spectacular magic stupor when I dive in. Something in me, something even in my loneliness, has not needed them. Perhaps when temperatures drop and days shorten I will feel more drawn to that world, but I am finding it hard to believe it has been four years since I have embarked on that journey.
The unopened books do not mean that Harry, Ron and Hermione have not been with me these past years. I have seen them on the silver screen, and thought of them. I have talked about them and bonded with people over them. I felt a deep bond with Harry (which I realize is odd, because he is not real) as I settled into my job. I lived two lives: one, the before, where I was important, impressive. The other, the now, in which I am insignificant and disrespected. I had a Hogwarts, I was known and praised. And then I fell into a world where the cupboard was too good for me, where dignity had no place. I clung to the fact that someone else knew this pain, lived two lives unrecognizable to the other.
There is a poignant sadness in closing this chapter. After the books were finished, no matter how satisfied or not I was, there was always a film to look forward to, something to keep the world alive. Now, with the stroke of midnight, that world closes. Yes, I will reread and rewatch, but there is no mystery, no anticipation–all secrets and surprises are revealed. I love how the books feel familiar in my hands and words settle into their places in my memory. I have read this before, this is mine, I know this. I like comfort and familiar, but there is that small, daring part of me that wants to have an adventure, to sneak a peek into the unknown. That little adventurer inside cannot wait to see the movie this weekend, and simultaneously wants to put it off forever. If only I had a time-turner…
“Lord! when you sell a man a book you don’t sell just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue – you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night – there’s all heaven and earth in a book, a real book.” —Christopher Morley