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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Getting reacquainted with ‘Harry Potter’

Published: October 28, 2011
Section: Arts, Etc.

It is bizarre to think that “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” was released in the United States in 1997. I remember first picking it up and being bewildered at why so many people were interested in reading these books. Pretty soon, though, I had breezed right through it, along with “The Chamber of Secrets” and “The Prisoner of Azkaban,” and was eagerly awaiting the fourth installment. From then on, every time a new book came out, partially due to my faulty memory and partially because I loved it, I reread each book so that I could enjoy the newest one all in a sequence. This may not sound like a feat, but when the books started averaging to be around 600 to 800 pages each, it took a while to get through the words I had read so many times before.

I stopped this when “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” came out, however, and decided to read it straight off the bat. That proved to be difficult. Having read “The Sorcerer’s Stone” so many times, I forgot key details, whether it be who had died in the last novel or who was secretly evil or secretly a good guy or anything of that sort. By the time I had caught up and understood what was going on, the book was half over and I couldn’t help but feel like I was forcing myself to read it; something you should never feel when reading.

Because of this, by the time the last installment “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” had been released in 2007, I had no reason to read it. By that time I was a sophomore in high school—surely too busy to be reading kids’ books. As my other friends read it and freaked out like everyone else about the epilogue and about spoilers yelled outside a local Borders, I went back to studying chemistry. Surely they were just messing around, right?

There are only a handful of regrets I have in life and, believe it or not, more than one is “Harry Potter” related: not camping out along with other fans outside Barnes and Noble waiting for the next book to be released, not seeing the films at midnight decked out in Gryffindor robes, noticing that Daniel Radcliffe had blue eyes instead of green and not complaining about it.

I remember the day I turned 11 and, just like everyone else, did not get a letter to Hogwarts. Maybe that’s when I didn’t want to be as into the books as much as other kids were; I don’t deal too well with rejection. To compensate for my lack of “Harry Potter” fandom in my youth, I’ve decided to start anew. I went home, picked up my battered copies of the books I owned (one through three) and headed back to Brandeis with a game plan. I would reread novels one through six, all in order and in an acceptable amount of time, then I would finally read “The Deathly Hallows.” This way, I’ll be able to go through some sort of generation-specific rite of passage, reading the epilogue in the context of the rest of the story. I’ll get to remember who died, why they died, and feel just as hurt as the first time around. Maybe, if feeling particularly brave after reading it, I’ll go through the movies. I think I’ve seen maybe the first two movies, but not enough to feel like I’ve really watched them.

Be that as it may, I’ve just finished the first book and I still feel the effects of the movies being around. When reading the first pages, I couldn’t grasp onto the Harry Potter that had acted out the book in my head when I was a kid. Instead, I saw Daniel Radcliffe in all his prepubescent glory with faint hints of what I remembered from my youth, like his green eyes. This happened with Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as well, though my ideas of them were even fuzzier than what I believed they looked like when I was younger. Even my previous perception of Snape couldn’t be brought back to memory—all I saw was Snape a la “Potter Puppet Pals.”

Like it or not, “Harry Potter” is a big part of the world we live in today. Everyone knows to laugh at a Hufflepuff and, even if we pretend it’s lame, the fact Brandeis has a quidditch team is pretty cool. Not only has it been translated into 67 languages, making Rowling one of the most translated authors in history, but “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” has also been translated into Ancient Greek, making it the longest published work in Ancient Greek since the novels of Heliodorus of Emesa in the third century CE. As much as I wish I had experienced all this when I was younger, it’s interesting to see how I am perceiving all this in a culture saturated by Harry Potter’s universe.