It's 1999. I'm in 6th grade. My Reading/English class is split into two back-to-back courses, comprising my 2nd and 3rd morning periods. I was always a decent student, but I really enjoyed writing intensive courses, even at age 11. At that point in time, the only thing that really blew my childhood mind away was Star Wars. The Phantom Menace had been released earlier in the year and I had already seen it three times. That movie was absolutely my jam. Nothing else mattered. I had my Star Wars and my Star Wars Legos. The Lord of the Rings movies didn't exist yet. I didn't own a Gamecube. And I certainly didn't care about a scrawny black-haired kid with glasses.
I can vividly recall my first encounter with Harry Potter as it occurred one morning in Reading/English. The bell had rung, signalling the seven minute break between classes. Of course, since my second and third periods were in the same room, I usually just stayed in my desk (I was about as sociable at age 11 as I am now). This girl Jessica, whom I definitely had a crush on at some point in time, was reading a book while her friend was trying to talk to her. Eventually her friend gave up because Jessica wouldn't stop reading whatever book she had on her desk. I remember her saying "I'm sorry, I can't stop reading this. It's just so good!" I was able to catch a glimpse of the title - some book called Harry Potter - before I went back to ignoring them.
This was a critical point in time, a point that millions of readers most likely encountered at a young age. If Star Wars hadn't happened, I probably would have jumped on the train to Hogwarts right then and there. Maybe if I was braver I would have asked Jessica about the book. But I didn't, and all the fond memories and adventures that came with a childhood built upon reading Harry Potter died right there in 6th grade. Of course, it was 1999 - The Prisoner of Azkaban had literally just been released - so it's not like I was missing the beginning of the journey. The journey had already started two years prior in 1997 with the first novel. I was in 4th grade in 1997, all I cared about then was Pokemon. Honestly, if you would have told me that Harry Potter was about a kid who went to a school to learn magic and ride broomsticks, I would have laughed at you. Why should I care about that? Star Wars had space battles and pod racing and lightsaber duels.
Well, I didn't care. And so the whole Hogwarts experience completely passed me by. Sure, I watched some of the movies and I thought the Lego sets were cool, but I never actually picked up one of the books, unless it was to move it off of the Nintendo system so I could play Rogue Squadron. My sister owned pretty much all of the books, and the series had had the opposite effect on her - she loved it. But before going on, I simply can't stress the following enough: as I grew up, the continued choice to not read Harry Potter didn't stem from some inner desire to shun something universally praised, as a lot of blowhards are wont to do these days. I also wasn't partaking in intentional ignorance - pretending to not know that the books existed, thus acquitting me of any blame for not having read them. Nope, I just cared about other things. By the time The Deathly Hallows was released in 2007, I had started watching the NFL religiously after joining my first fantasy league. It was all downhill from there. Simply put, the whole thing just moved on without me. Harry Potter merely existed as a global phenomenon that I had missed, and that was the truth of it.
So here I am at age 27, having just finished Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Why now?
When I met my future wife, I was just about to begin reading Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen, a massive fantasy series. I already said everything I had to say about that series here, so I won't go on about it. Basically, I had decided to read nothing else until I finished all ten Malazan books, all while promising my wife to finally read Harry Potter when I was done. Well, I finished the series and made good on my promise.
So how did I like the first book?
I'm trying to get through this post quickly, but true to my normal tendencies, I've written a wall of text without getting to anything resembling a point. I want to finish this post quickly, because it absolves me of all obligation to the first book and will allow me to move on to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I made a promise to myself that I'd try to share my thoughts about each book in the form of blog posts. Essentially, as soon as I wrap this up I'm going to go sit and bed and read the second book. That's my life at 27.
My sister has been waiting even longer than my wife for me to read these books. Seriously, what did we even talk about all those years? When she asked me what I thought about the first book, I believe I described it as a "fond experience." That was Wednesday. Four days ago. FOUR DAYS WITHOUT READING MORE HARRY POTTER.
Yep, I'm all in. I registered for an account at pottermore.com that very evening. I bought an owl, a wand, and accessed my vault at Gringotts. I was placed in House Gryffindor (BORING). I spent too much time looking at old Harry Potter Lego sets on the internet. Holy crap, those things are EXPENSIVE.
As for the book itself, it was fantastic. I hate the Dursleys. Professor McGonagall is intense. I would have kicked Filch's cat so hard. Malfoy is a jerk, and the centaurs are awesome - if not a little cryptic and strange. I can hear the Sorting Hat's song in my head and I can see the stars in the roof of the Great Hall. Every time I sit by the fire in my apartment, I'm imagining I'm in the lounge of the Gryffindor dormitory. I want to wander the ever-changing halls of the castle. It seems like a wondrous, dangerous, and whimsical place to live. Quidditch is SO COOL. Owning a dragon seems like a huge inconvenience. At this point, I'm surprised Harry hasn't been expelled yet - he's done some astonishingly dumb stuff. And I was right about who gave Harry the Invisibility Cloak - not that it was hard to guess.
That's the abbreviated version of my thoughts. Disclaimer: I have seen all of the movies, barring the last one - so I'm not exactly starting tabula rasa. However, I've only seen most of the movies once. There's the one with the Big Snake, the one with Alan Rickman, the one with Edward Cullen, the one with the Evil Pink Lady, and the last two. I literally don't recall a single detail about The Half-Blood Prince. So while I am aware of some pretty major plot points, it still doesn't take away from my reading experience too much. For example, I was completely surprised by Snape and his protecting of Harry. I didn't remember that from the films, and it was a nice twist, if you can call it that.
I could say more, but I have to go read the second book now. I promise my post about the next book will be more reflective of my thoughts of the story itself. This post mostly served as an explanation as to why a 27 year old would suddenly decided to read the books. It's because I love my wife. Also I'm a nerd.
I may or may not be listening to the soundtrack to the first movie right now. Go away.
PS this post is dedicated to my sister. After 27 years, we finally have something to talk about! Happy birthday Sis :)