The 15th anniversary has come and gone, and I myself haven’t read a word of Harry Potter since I finished The Deathly Hallows in 2007. The teens in Iowa City’s Home School Assistance Program have a monthly book club in the library, and we’ve been discussing Harry Potter books every other month. A lot of small things have accreted to plant the seed. Last weekend I got a cold and I decided it was finally time to reread Harry Potter.
We have all the books (and Ebooks!) here at ICPL, so after work on Friday I grabbed the first two. I’m on book three, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s great how little time it’s taken me to get this far – the books are an effortless read, and hours zip by as chapters unfold. Admittedly, the books are about to get long, so I’m savoring these fast reads while I can.
Part of what makes them an easy read for me is the ways they are so familiar.I came to Harry Potter a little late, starting in 2003, and was too old to have grown up with them. I was an adult living in Scotland, and after some P.G. Wodehouse and Stephen Fry it felt like a logical leap. Winter in Glasgow was really the perfect moment for the story to take root in me, but it’s been awhile since I started and finished the series. So I was less surprised at how many details and plot points I’ve forgotten. Things as major as who opened the Chamber of Secrets or as small as the name of the Weasleys’ perpetually exhausted owl were all new to me this time through. I can’t wait to see what surprises await me as I continue reading!
It’s funny, too, how many conversations I’ve had in the last week about my re-read, entirely with people in their 20’s, who grew up with the books. One friend is rereading them for the first time too, and loving it. Another friend had been pondering a reread and posed an interesting question: “how do you think HP’s gonna age?” Not the character, but the series. How will it weather in the cannon?Will it be for kids in the next few generations and beyond like The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia were for me? Will children get excited when they are finally tall enough to reach the shelf where the books live on their parents’ shelves? Will people read them to their young ones as they fall asleep, maybe skipping over the real nightmare material? Or will they fade away, another momentous but momentary cultural phenomenon, something that people who were kids at a certain time remember so well, and everyone else just doesn’t get -what’s all this fuss about Quidditch and Wingardium Leviosa?
I gave my copies away the last time I moved – they were just so much book to haul around from apartment to apartment – so I won’t be loaning them off my shelves. And I wonder too how appealing the series would be to a hesitant young reader when they can clearly see just how long the last four books really are. Maybe only the most dedicated will undertake the quest. On the other hand, they are still so ubiquitous, and so much has been made of Harry Potter’s role in introducing reading to so many kids of a certain generation. And the series still circulates in all the libraries I’ve visited. These marks are indelible for now, and I do wonder, how indeed will HP age?