Saturday, 13 September 2014

Confessions of a Grown-Up Potterhead

So I'm a pretty big Hank Green fan and I have recently put him back on my “Day to Day” Spotify playlist. However, I can't help but feel a little guilty when I listen to his Harry Potter songs. OK not guilty but at least sad that I'm not that big of a Harry Potter fan. It's something that has always made me feel a little awkward and constantly has me considering handing back my geek ID card. It's not even like I hate the books: I'm just kind of ambivalent towards them. So whenever a song like 'Book Eight' comes on I can't fully appreciate how downright awesome the song actually is because I don't fully understand the sentiment.


Now my relationship with the Chosen One starts out in very familiar territory. I received my first copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone randomly from my father. I don't remember what led him to it but I quickly fell in love with JK Rowling's wizarding world. I was 9 years old when the first book came out and I, along with basically every other child in the world, eagerly awaited the next chapter. To be fair, this wasn't a great surprise: there were witches and wizards, centaurs, unicorns, a magical school, ghosts and plenty of other features to get an excitable and imaginative schoolgirl going.

Although, to be quite honest, it's not until the later books that I actually remember the act of reading them. I do recall having the first book in class and my teaching making a comment about how much of a cliché I was (I grant you this may not have been her exact wording but 17 years and an increased vocabulary can do wonders for your memory). I remember loving the Prisoner of Azkaban because, duh, there's a werewolf! I know I cried at the end of Goblet of Fire when Harry's parents turned up to motivate him. However, other than that it's all very vague.

Of course this could be the expected onset of old age but I like to have more faith in my memory than that. I know for a fact that Harry Potter meant everything to me when I was growing up. I remember writing letters to a pen-friend where we exchanged our theories about certain characters and storylines. I remember constantly having to try and convince one of my oldest friends that Snape was obviously going to turn out to be a good guy. I adored the films, bought the PlayStation games and stayed up to the early hours to finish before my friends could spoil it for me the next day.

So yes, Harry Potter was a huge part of my childhood but I can't say that it's remained a huge part of my life. I still find some enjoyment in the films but I suspect that may have more to do with the fantastic British cast. Frankly, as the years go by I find both Harry Potter and Daniel Radcliffe to be increasingly annoying characters. (Although, in Radcliffe's defence, I give him big props for openly admitting to how shit he was. As a result I'm genuinely looking forward to Horns.) Harry Potter just feels incredibly childish these days and, as a potential example of my inner child dying, I can't help but focus on the fact that Hogwarts should have been shut down years ago. Far from being a hero, Dumbledore is nothing more than the shittest headteacher imaginable. Plus Snape's all-encompassing and supposedly beautiful love for Lilly is actually creepy and worrying. I mean, dude she married someone else and died years ago. It was definitely time to move on.


Whilst I understand there is a lot to respect about her as person and there are aspects of her writing style to celebrate, JK Rowling just isn't a good enough writer to keep me entertained any more. She's supposedly one of the greatest British authors of all time but I don't get it. Are people just confusing feelings of nostalgia with a respect for her prose? She came up with a great idea, I certainly can't deny that, but it's an idea that deserved a better writer. Someone who didn't get bogged down in literary references and rushed to meet deadlines. I mean it gets super annoying that a lot of potentially exciting storylines are just tainted by her never-ending need for sentimentality.


I know big fans of the novels have probably read them countless times but I, honestly, haven't been able to manage it and doubt I ever will. I tried so hard to read the first book again after my postgraduate degree but it just felt so cringey. Unlike my ex-colleague, I can't remember the names of random bit characters or stupid little details. I'm not going to go so far as to say that children’s books shouldn't be enjoyed but adults because it's just not true. I just think Harry Potter has an age-limit. Whenever I see people nearing their twenties and upwards talking about how obsessed they still are I just don't get it. I'm all for reliving my childhood but there's an abundance of greater literature out there to constantly talk about instead.

Harry Potter will always have a place in my heart and it has undoubtedly helped shape my life and approach to literature. But, as Woody Allen was telling is in Midnight in Paris, nostalgia is a dangerous game. As I've grown up so too have my reading tastes. Harry Potter is the perfect series for young readers but there has to come a time when we all just calm down about it. So I'll leave Harry Potter in my past and pray to god that JK Rowling does the same.

Of course, she's proving to be a proper little George Lucas these days and I fear Book Eight really is just around the corner. Apologies, Hank, but this is one Potterhead who isn't excitedly waiting for an additional instalment. Honestly, I can't believe that anyone who read the fucking epilogue can still be hoping that she writes another. I don't need to hear more about Albus Severus and his irritating father.

So I'm sorry internet, but I'll have to approach my feelings for Harry Potter in the same way that an alcoholic deals with alcohol. I'll always consider myself to be an addict but I'll stay away from the thing at the heart of my obsession.

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