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Athens, Ohio, United States
"Art and love are the same thing. It's the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Goodnight, Sweet Half-Blood Prince

I'd like to share a quote with you. It's from Stephen King, one of the very few literary (if you are scoffing at the words "Stephen King" and "literary" appearing in the same sentence then you may not be the target audience for this post) icons bigger than the subject of this post. It's from his novella The Body, which was later adapted into Rob Reiner's Stand By Me.

"The most important things are the hardest to say because words diminish them."

It's always been one of my favorite quotes but I'm not entirely sure it should be. I've always considered myself a writer (and if you're scoffing at the concepts of "Alec Bojalad" and "writer," then you are definitely not the target audience for this post) and have subsequently felt a certain amount of guilt for holding that quote so highly.

Words shouldn't diminish the most important things. All I have ever wanted to do with my career and my life is to capture what's important with words, to explain it and to catalogue it. But more often than I'd like, I cannot. This is one of those moments.

In The Body, King's character is trying to explain why seeing a doe amongst the rising sun and dew of a new morning was important. I suppose this is a very difficult thing to communicate to someone - why an early morning encounter with nature can be the very moment that your whole life hinges on.

In my case, however, communicating why Harry Potter is important to me feels like it should be so much easier.

Harry Potter may very well be the biggest cultural "thing" ever. In a time where books should be huge, Harry Potter was. Hell, in a time of constantly fracturing cultural interests, nothing should be this huge, but this was.

The Harry Potter brand is worth $15 billion worldwide. That's means everybody on the planet could have conceivably paid more than $2 on some sort of Harry Potter product. J.K Rowling makes $1 million a week from Harry Potter. Harry Potter has invaded every aspect of culture. Almost everybody in English-speaking societies has a basic concept of who "Harry Potter" is.

So yes, Harry Potter is clearly important...far more important that a damn doe standing alert in the rising sun. Still, my words can only continue to fail me.

Every morning I take the subway into work. And every morning I will inevitably glimpse an ad with Harry, Ron and Hermione standing in front of a pile of rubble that was once Hogwarts with the words below them declaring "It All Ends - July 15." And I can't quite communicate what that feels like. It's like Warner Brothers bought an ad to remind me every morning that a close friend of mine will be dying in mid-July. I have an almost scandalized reaction. It seems reckless on Warner Brother's part and just downright mean.

Obviously, Harry Potter won't be dying then. But the era of my life in which there was always another outing with Potter and Company will be ceasing.

I'm not the first to say that July 15 marks the end of my childhood. I'm almost wary to use that phrase because it lends credence to the prevailing notion that Harry Potter is a children's franchise (at the very latest, it stopped being that when an evil sorcerer was brought back from ghost-like state in a ritual bordering on satanic but not before murdering a teenager). Harry Potter became an adult series, but I remained a child throughout.

When I read the first book, I was 9 years old and Harry was 11. When I saw the first movie, we were both 11. When I read the final book, we were both 17. And now Harry has stayed 17 for nearly four years as I've advanced to the uncomfortably ancient age of 21.

From age 9 to age 21, I, and my generation, had the world's most real imaginary friend to grow brave the awkwardness of puberty with, to learn about the inherent injustices of the world with and to figure out just how we would ever reconcile the inconsistencies of what our parents and teachers taught us.

Now, I see "It all ends," and I'm faced with a horrifying notion. It's not horrifying that Harry Potter is ending, it's horrifying that I'm not. The students of the Hogwarts class of '98 are crystalized in a perpetual moment of triumph, defeat over evil and, in Harry's case, defeat over death. They all froze at the same moment and I found that I could still move my limbs. They won their war and then I realized that someone had to clear all of the bodies out of the Great Hall.

I suppose this realization should have hit me in 2007, when the series actually, you know, ended. There was a tremendous feeling of emotional catharsis when I closed the Deathly Hallows, but part of me was aware that I was still living in the era of "Active Potter." Somewhere in Scotland the wheels were still turning on the franchise, and it's a credit to the team behind the films that I considered the series to not quite be finished yet. But now as Warner Brothers continues to remind me, it really, really is ending.

I'm not going to the midnight release. The logistics of it finding which theater to go to while in a foreign land (the locals call it "New Jurrzee," I believe) were difficult. For something so monumental I know I could have figured it out. I've not missed a midnight release of a movie since Goblet of Fire and I haven't missed a midnight release of a book since Order of the Phoenix but I'm going to be missing this one.

I wanted to make it a special experience but nothing felt grand enough. A midnight release was fine for a middle chapter but for the end...? The only way to pay the series its due in symbolic fashion would be to fly to Scotland, identify the exact spot Hogwarts would sit on if it did exist, and set up a projection to watch the movie with everybody who's ever been important to me, living and dead.

That didn't work out.

So sometime this weekend or early next week I will sneak into a screening by myself. I'll marvel at the Dark Knight Rises trailer, finish 3/4 of my popcorn before the movie starts and have a religious experience. Once the movie is over, I will exit the theater. I might keep walking to my car, or I might take a moment to lean up against a wall.

Undoubtedly something important will have just happened and I will put it into words. And those words will diminish more than half a lifetime spent at Hogwarts.

1 comment:

---Yours Truly said...

I'm sad Potter is leaving us behind in the non-fictional world. Though I am seeing it on Friday, wish you could swing by. Alas, NJ and OH are not in swinging distance.