A Lament for the End of an Era: Potter Is Concluded

I just started the new Harry Potter about 100 minutes ago. I’m 134 pages in and the second act has just started with a bang.

It is safe to say I will be buried in my book for the remainder of my Saturday. I took my nephew and brother to the midnight release party with some 4,000 or so Pottermaniacs at Vancouver’s Van Dusen Gardens last night. It was nice to mark the beginning of the end with a ceremony of likeminded freaks.

The kid and kin only took their leave shortly afore 1 this afternoon, so I’m a little late delving into the deeds of Potter and his “lot”. I’m on it like Oprah on a ham, though.

In 1998 I was a bookseller who read an advance reader’s copy of the little book called Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone about two weeks before the book arrived to our shelves. Without being able to explain it, I fell in love with the little wizard boy. I was sad that it’d be a half decade before my nephew would appreciate the story, as I knew we’d enjoy living the adventures of the boy wizard, and I tried to convince my friends it was a book they’d all be smitten with. To no avail, of course.

Finally, after two more books were released, I’d convinced all my friends that my taste, as always, was superb. Even my nephew required convincing, though. At 10 years old, just over a year ago, he dismissed the books by saying the movies had to be better. I used the “but there’s more in the books” argument, which didn’t hold water.

As stubborn as I am, though, I didn’t relent. I sat by the obnoxious kid’s side and read the first Potter book aloud to him while he played World of Warcraft on the computer. I am, I assure you, a highly dramatic reader when it comes to just such a book.

A couple hours later and I hit page 110, and as the pages and moments passed, I noticed the game volume had gradually been lowered and lowered until it was turned completely off. His gameplaying slowed to a crawl, with “pause” repeatedly being put into use. It seems I had finally convinced him that the books could hold their own. He was rapt.

Three weeks later, a message on my answering machine. “Wow, auntie. Book four is so cool! I’m going to finish it tomorrow! When can I borrow book five?”

My nephew, faced with rain and a dreary night after a long day, tried to beg off the book release party last night at about 8:30. “We can get it tomorrow,” he said.

I argued the only argument I really believe applied — that Harry Potter hype, while apparently over some seemingly insignificant little wizard boy in a cutesy make-belief world existing within our own, wasn’t just about that. He, or rather the franchise, is something that, for this short month filled with a movie release and now the last book — the single most anticipated novel of all time — inexplicably bonds a majority of people together. For once in a very long while, a good many of us have this in common. It’s a moment of commonality, community, and shared excitement in a world that is becoming increasingly less communal, thanks to the invention of personal stereos, cellphones, laptops, and millions of other gadgets that are designed to distract us from ourselves and ultimately from communing with others. With the arrival of things like Facebook we have the illusion of being connected to others, but therein lies the illusion. We’re still seated on our ownsome in front of a screen.

But, today, a good many of us are one thing — Potter fans. Readers hoping for the ultimate triumph of good over evil.

It’s too bad it’s the end of an era. It was great while it lasted. And, ironically, we all finally enjoy the Potter series finale’s phenomena all on our ownsome. Funny how it all works.

It’s 3:00. I can justify a glass of wine in my bath with my book!

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