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Thoughts on Harry Potter and Twilight

Regency Cat Bookmark in a Harry Potter book

The first month of the new year is typically about setting goals and making personal commitments. But as I reach the end of January, looking back I realize I’ve already broken two vows that I made to myself.

I have committed grievous errors in judgement… allowing myself to be blinded by prejudice against someone whose opinion deserved to be heard… and also for allowing myself to succumb to social pressure, to entertain the company of one who offered very little substance.

“I, who have prided myself on my discernment! — I, who have valued myself on my abilities! — How humiliating is this discovery! — Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind. But vanity, not love, has been my folly. — Till this moment, I never knew myself.”
~ Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice

I’m referring to two authors, both writers of fantasy fiction, whose novels I have ignorantly snubbed for years without giving either of them a fighting chance.

This year, however, my determination wavered and I found myself picking up the first books of both popular series.

Many years ago I swore to the Universe, and everyone within earshot, that I would never read a Harry Potter book. Yes, you read that sentence correctly.

For the last 13 years, I’ve been blissfully free from such burning questions as “Is Harry going to die?” and “Did Snape betray Dumbledore?”

And the most important question of all: Does Hermione really love Ron… or Harry?

Bedtime reading Harry Potter with toddler

Like many voracious readers, I began reading “adult novels” at an early age.
I was 10-years-old when I fell in love with Tad Williams, and while many of the themes were too mature for my understanding, it didn’t dissuade me from following my grandfather into the adult section of the library and/or bookstore at every opportunity, to discover other promising authors.

In the beginning, the librarians gave slight disapproving looks, as if to silently accuse me of trespassing into “the restricted section”…. but eventually they grew to recognize me and would stamp my books without a word, except to say when they were due.

By the time I was 12 years old, I had already abandoned young adult literature altogether. I’d discovered Terry Brooks, Robert Jordan, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Leo Tolstoy.

I developed a strong inclination towards certain styles of writing… the turn of phrase, witty observations, dry humor, and lush descriptions that defined the Voices of particular authors.

I preferred Austen’s warmth over the Brontes’ dark Gothic tales.
And I’m embarrassed to say that, although a rapid reader of fantasy, I struggled through Tolkien’s writing the first time around.

Nonetheless….

When J.K.Rowling’s first novel was published in the U.S. I was nearly 18-years-old, and had been on a strict diet of adult literature for many years. I wasn’t the slightest bit tempted to pick up a copy of Sorcerer’s Stone, with its cartoonish cover and its poor-orphan-boy-living-with-nasty-relatives-is-revealed-to-be-a-wizard summary.

Harry Potter was so far off my radar, that when I crossed paths with one of my former teachers, a couple of years after graduation, and he strongly suggested that I consider writing as a career ~ “You could become the next J.K.Rowling.” ~

I replied with, “Who is that?”

And then I felt insulted… seriously, disgusted.

That Harry Potter author?! Do you think that I’ll never amount to anything more substantial than children’s fiction? If I’m going to write a novel… it will be a real novel. An adult novel. Not a bedtime chapter story about kids playing with magic, riding broomsticks, and chasing winged tennis balls.

Ramona with a wand?! Hmmmpf. I don’t think so.

*hanging her head with shame*

I had no idea that his remark was a sincere and flattering compliment.
If only I could take back these last 10 years, and begin working on my own masterpiece of youth fantasy fiction; we might be worth $15 billion by now, and Joe wouldn’t need to worry about finding employment. I could quit decorating cakes with polka-dots and Super Bowl cupcake platters.
Who would think the Super Bowl would be a big feasting holiday, where people consume millions of cupcakes….?

Is there a spell to conjure up fully decorated cupcakes by the dozen?

Let me consult with Hermione… as we’re the best of friends now. ;)

Originally purchased for my oldest daughter, who, just like her mother, tends to form strong opinions about things she knows nothing about…. I had hoped she might give these Harry books a chance.

You know what they say about actions vs. words, right? I had to set the example by reading a few chapters myself. A few pages one night, a few more the next, and before the weekend was over I’d finished the first book.

I ravaged the others even more quickly ~ The Prisoner of Azkaban was finished in under 7 hours of straight reading.

And while I’m by no means a fanatic of Harry Potter now, I have a much deeper appreciation for Rowling’s imagination and the world she created. In fact, I got a bit giddy when I saw this video of kids playing Quidditch for real!

Okay, so I laughed at how ridiculous they looked, running back and forth across the field, holding broomsticks between their legs…. but it was the laughter of one who understands their intent.
If I had been present, I might’ve grabbed a broom myself.

Instead, I sketched this:

Harry Potter Cat on Broomstick and Chasing Flying Ball of Yarn

Harry Potter Cat and the Golden Yarn Ball

While under the influence of Potter’s spell, I felt magnanimous towards other authors I’d spurned.
It was during this afterglow period, when a friend encouraged me to read Twilight… swearing the novel was much better than the god-awful movie. I can only call the first 10 minutes “god-awful”, because I shut the darned thing off after Bella and Edward exchanged their initial stare in class…. so I technically haven’t watched the film.

Thinking perhaps I’d been too harsh on the poor supernatural love-story, too blinded by prejudice and quick to jump on the sparkling-vampire-bashing-bandwagon, I picked up a copy of Twilight.

Within the first chapter, I realized that Ms. Meyer’s particular style would be an obstacle… the writing lacked depth… but I forced myself to continue reading until Bella declared that Jane Austen was her favorite author.
Oh God, here we go.

Pride and Prejudice was her favorite book; she’d read it 5 times already… but she liked Sense and Sensibility, too. Until she realized that the hero’s name was Edward. *gasp*
Oh no! Well, there was always Mansfield Park… but wait, the hero in that novel was Edmund… which closely resembles Edward.

And thus Bella laments over the lack of creativity in male names during the 19th century.

*sigh*

It was at this point where I closed the book…. and it will remain closed, for I have no desire to find out what happens next.

What impressed me most about Harry Potter, and disappointed me with Twilight, was how both authors chose to interpret an overworked plotline.

The first, a story of a boy (usually an orphan) who grows up in a “non-magical” environment, believing he is completely normal, until one day discovering his hidden powers and Destiny to do great things (like save the world).

How many fantasy heroes can answer to that description, eh?

Yet Rowling’s tale of wizarding schools, and Death Eaters, Azkaban, and Quidditch tournaments felt entirely fresh and new, not a rehashed Tolkien.

She carved out this entire infrastructure of magical creatures hiding in plain sight, living side-by-side with us Muggles… with such depth of imagination, that I felt like each book merely scratched the surface of their world.

Twilight’s main plot (eh, what was the plot again?) ….
Oh yes – mortal girl falls in love with a supernatural being, i.e. a vampire and/or a werewolf, who is trying to hide in plain sight by pretending to be human. She must decide whether to sacrifice her mortality to be with her true love forever. *yawn*

There are some authors who do well with crafting mortal/supernatural love triangles, and this story might have been salvageable in the right hands. (Not Meyer’s hands).

I will not look back in 10 years and wonder, “Will Bella choose Edward or Jacob?”
“Will she become a vampire and live – or exist as an undead creature – happily ever after?”
I won’t ask myself whether or not I should give Twilight another chance.

But where Harry is concerned, I’ve found myself frequently asking “What the heck took me so long?!”

That’s 150 points for Gryffindor. And Edward-Edmund-what-ever-your-name-is….
Bite me.
No, not really.

Keep your sparkling fangs to yourself.

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