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I need to vent something

I need to vent something, folks. Indulge me.

Okay, here it is: I’m not a Harry Potter fan. In fact, I don’t really like Harry Potter very much. I’ve read some of the books; I’ve seen the movies. I’m familiar with the fandom, and I understand it, understanding fandom at large. Indeed, in my life, I’ve had my own experiences of fandom. No, really, I have. If the absolute, unvarnished truth must be told, there was a time in the 1980s when I wouldn’t leave the house if I wasn’t going to be able to be home between 7:30 pm and 8 pm and able to watch PBS channel 44 out of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, I had a pen shaped like a sonic screwdriver, and I did, in fact, knit fandom scarves (which were, I’ll add, the last thing I knit before I swore off knitting for 20 years or so). Yes folks, it’s true; in my adolescent and teenage years, I was without a doubt a hard core Doctor Who fan. Not to mention a comics collector. So there’s no high ground for me here in this vent. I by no means think anybody isn’t entitled to their fandom, of whatever variety.

But, like I say, I’m not a fan of Harry Potter. I have found the books to be juvenile and somewhat remedial from a fantasy reader’s perspective — which is of course fine, since they’re children’s books. I think I’d have loved them when I was a kid, and been thrilled not to be the only weird kid reading fantasy and science fiction. But all in all, I find the books to be a little bit trite, high school social melodrama couched in a mildly fantastic setting with a liberal dash of a thematic element which never fails to please the teenage, being a misfit with super powers who must save the day against the wishes of both The Man and The Bullies.

As far as young adult fantasy is concerned, I don’t feel Harry Potter has the oomph of a number of other books I read between ages, oh, 8-14. A partial list would include The Chronicles of Prydain, Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series, Narnia, A Wrinkle in Time, Earthsea, Pern, Aahz and Skeeve, or slews and slews of Alan Dean Foster books. And that’s not even getting into the science fiction side of things!

Some of the books on that short list are dark, brooding; some are thoroughly light-hearted. Personally, I’m especially fond of the ones steeped in things Arthurian, in part because there’s absolutely no end to the Arthurian reading one can do, and there are centuries worth of stories and versions of those stories, none of which were pushed past focus groups and carefully marketed to sell quick and formulaic spin-off products. And, were my son to presently be obsessed with all things Arthurian, or with the Mabinogion, I suspect I’d be far less burnt out on it than I am on the way all our household conversations lately seem to go like this:

“Hey, do you have any suggestions for dinner?”

“Yes mom, and did you know that Professor Umbridge really, really has it in for Harry, and this is partly because she is evil, and that’s why she’s seizing control from Dumbledore?”

“You don’t say. Nope, I didn’t know that. So what did you want for dinner?”

“Also, the Petronas charm is really powerful, and when dementors are after you…”


Now, I’ll be honest. We’ve faced this with other childhood obsessions. And like I say, I’ve had my own. My mother (and I think my niece) reads this blog, and I know for a fact she’d never let me get away with pretending I didn’t ever walk around explaining how Davros was the progenitor of the Dalek race, who came from Skaro and fought the time war against the Time Lords of Gallifrey. Like I say, I admit it. And even if my mother didn’t call me on it, there are other folks reading this who also could (hello, Ayse!).

Yes, we have faced Spongebob obsession, for example. And Spider-Man. And Pokemon. But these have all paled in comparison to the Pottermania, and there’s one major reason why: none of those things have also been an obsession for vast numbers of adults in the world as well, at the same time.

At no point, for instance, has the town I lived in made a concerted effort to turn itself into Bikini Bottom. But starting Friday night and going through the weekend, the little train line in town, which is a tourist draw, will be remaking itself as the Hogwart’s Express, with packages including a “start-of-term welcoming feast” to take place at local landmark The Golden Lamb. And I’m not kidding about town on the whole:

Diagon Alley: Historic downtown Lebanon will transform itself into Diagon Alley. A program of participating merchants will be provided to direct you to the Harry Potter Activities.

There’ll be no getting through town. I mean, I thought it was bad when they did Thomas the Tank Engine, but the whole downtown area didn’t turn into the Isle of Sodor (yes, we had the Thomas obsession back a few years ago too).

And it’s not just town. I can’t argue with any of the businesses doing a Potter-themed shtick; if I had a yarn shop by the train station, I’m sure I’d be selling Weasley sweater kits and materials for Slytherin scarves. I fault no one for the mania. But man, I can’t escape it, you know? It’s all over everybody’s blogs, all the mailing lists, every imaginable business is having a Deathly Hallows sale of some kind or another, the counselors at my son’s camp are talking about it, it’s all over the TV, the radio, the newspaper… augh!

You know what it reminds me of? One time, some years ago, I was watching the NBA finals, suddenly, things cut to a shot of a white SUV being followed slowly by some cop cars. I couldn’t believe it. O.J. Simpson? So what? Tell us later, there’s a serious game going on here, folks! And then it just kept going; every water cooler, every barroom conversation, every random person on the bus, every cashier and clerk and stranger and relative and just… everybody, all the time, nonstop talking about the stupid Simpson trial. You couldn’t get away from it. It was like the rest of the world had decided for me that I MUST CARE ABOUT THIS.

But you know what? I didn’t; I really didn’t. Yes, I’d have read the news about it. But I didn’t care about it to the point that I wanted to talk about it with every single person ever, hear about it nonstop, be unable to engage in my normal day to day life without “Have you heard the latest OJ news?”

Similarly, I just plain don’t care about Harry Potter. I don’t care if this is the last book. I don’t care who dies. I don’t care if Snape really is evil or not. I don’t care if someone spoilers it for me. I wouldn’t even be buying the book… except for one thing. One. Thing.

Isn’t that a good kid? Look at him go.

I started madly, compulsively buying books for him about a week after finding out I was pregnant with him. I’ve been taking him to the bookstore for mother-and-son fun for his whole life. We work hard at keeping him in reading material. He can’t sleep without reading first. Everybody knows he loves to read. He’s proud of how much he loves to read. And right now, he’s obsessed with this whole Harry Potter thing about which I simply do not care.

Except for the fact that he does. Except for the fact that I’ve spent his entire life acting as a reading enabler to a degree that arguably surpasses even the fibery enabling I do for a living.

So, tomorrow night, instead of staying home and enjoying a quiet Friday in my recliner, knitting or spinning, ask me what I’ll be doing. Go ahead. Ask. Okay, don’t ask; I’ll just tell you. First, I’ve already reserved his copy of that book. Second, I have to go at 5pm to a bookstore on the other side of the worst rush hour traffic in the area, and get a ticket that assigns me my turn to be in line to pay for the book. Then at sometime-after-9pm, during what should be his extended-late-night-summer-reading-on-the-way-to-sleep time, pile him into the car, head back to that same bookstore, let him party party party with whoever else is there for this obsessive fandom scene, wait our post-midnight turn, acquire the book, and come home well after my bedtime.

Oh, the misgivings and anguish! Why couldn’t he want to go to, I dunno, a Star Trek con? Maybe anime would be easier. I might rather camp out for Grateful Dead tickets. But I’ve told him we’re doing this, and we’re doing it. And Saturday, from the moment he wakes up until he’s finished that book, well, I guess I can sleep in, and build up my mental strength for hearing all about it.

There is obviously no force on earth stronger than a mother’s love. I’d have thought there was no force powerful enough to make me go to a midnight book release thing of ANY type, let alone for a book in a series I’m thoroughly burnt out on hearing about. I should probably call up my mother and thank her for a few things. In fact, we probably all should; there’s doubtless a long list of things just like this that our mothers did for us and we never thanked ’em.

I’m telling myself over and over that it’ll be fun. Or I’ll get lots of knitting or spinning done while waiting in line. Or something. Keep me in your thoughts. And I’ll take any survival tips anybody has.

43 thoughts on “I need to vent something

  1. Heh. At least great masses of kids are reading something, anything. Personally I can’t imagine growing up without books. Or living without books now, for that matter, no matter how many other information conduits are available.

    Another kids’ fantasy series I highly recommend: Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain. The names are from the Mabinogion, the plot not so much. You have no idea how disappointed I was when I read the real thing and found that I recognized all the names but they were doing something completely different!

    Hm… looks like you meant to mention this series, and got your link tags out of whack! Given the rest, I was surprised you missed this one, and of course you didn’t. πŸ™‚

  2. Take sock yarn and needles. Don’t even have them cast on, but start once you’re there. Use a basic pattern you have memorized. Then you can show us exactly how much time you spent there by how much sock there is. Or socks. πŸ˜‰

    I ordered my book online, and it shipped today and should be here Sat. Good enough, and I don’t have to fight the crowds.

  3. Ok, wanna know the truth? I haven’t read a single book in the series. My partner and daughter have been reading the books out loud to each other since about the second one (the kid is almost 20 now), and the two of them have collaborated on the mania together. Which is fine with me. (Sick? They can’t even share a copy anymore, so we have 2 of each of the last two books.) So, if they do the midnight thing, which may very well happen, they’ll do it together.

    And on the subject of motherhood … I could go on forever, but I’ll just say I totally agree. I don’t think it’s possible to actually understand the things people do for their children until you find yourself doing them for your own.

  4. We stopped reading the last book less than halfway through. Drew lost interest and that was fine with me, as long as he kept reading SOMETHING. We did go see the movie and I have to admit that when I saw bloggers who were analyzing the knits in the movies to reconstruct…yeah, that’s a bit over the top for me!

    Drew loves the Series of Unfortunate Events series and I like them too. Scary but not too scary, and a sense of humor to boot. Good luck in line! Bring plenty of bottled water! Oh wait, then you’ll have to leave the line. Nevermind.

  5. Yes, but at least he loves reading. And he IS in the target-age audience…
    You do know about the Potter knitting craze? (And that there is a liberal sprinkling of knitting characters in the books?) So I’d say you definitely wouldn’t be wrong to take a project to knit in line at the “party…”
    And if all else fails, well, this is the last book in the series πŸ™‚

  6. Oh, Abby, stop mincing words. How do you really feel?

    Me, lifelong reader of sf and fantasy and a Potter fan. No, it’s not the greatest, but it’s good storytelling, and it’s exposing a whole generation of kids to the genre and being hyped on books. And I like that.

    BTW, I’m off right now to go see the new HP movie. πŸ˜€

  7. I personally am thrilled about the books. Mostly because they make me FEEL like I am 10 or 11 again, playing spies with my cousins and building forts. (And Snape must be good because I LOVE me some Alan Rickman, and for no other reason.)
    Sorry, dude, I am adding to the annoyance for you. Please don’t ban me from buying your fiber… πŸ˜‰

  8. You’re Right! The books are fun, but really NOT literature. Literature critics for the most part agree that these books, while “trendy” are NOT by any means EPIC or even that good. What the books/movies and hype have done is get children AND families reading again; for that they are commendable.

    I think they are fun (if ‘fluffy’), but I think JK’s influence on literature as a whole will be the trend toward “reading as cool” rather than as one of the GREAT NOVELISTS of the 21st century – BAH!

    She’s laughing all the way to the bank!

  9. You are such a good Mom! I remember reading like your son when I was a kid – I would sneak a flashlight under the covers and devour my Dad’s science fiction and fantasy books by the armload.

    I’ve just been astounded by the amount of hype that has built up around the release of these books. There was even a segment on NPR yesterday interviewing someone who works for who couldn’t say where the warehouse was (somewhere in Nevada was a specific as he could get), and went on to detail tighter security requirements then are at all reasonable for a book. And horrors! 1000 copies had been shipped out before the release date. I just don’t get it…

    I’m glad you mentioned Susan Cooper – absolutely one of my favorite series of all time, which I still reread and enjoy. Good luck getting through the evening!

  10. What’s that sound? *cups hand behind ear*

    Isn’t that your mother laughing? I’m sure she’s vastly amused by the view from your little hillock.


    As I’ve said in the past, I think it’s great that Edward has turned into the bookworm we were as kids. That’s so much better than what most kids get into these days. More power to him. How many times has he gone through the library summer reading program so far?

    This too shall pass, and things will return to normal. In the meantime yoga breathing might help. Or take up Pilates or something.

    I hereby promise not to ask you any HP related questions πŸ˜‰ I do, however, have some interesting fiber questions we can chat about.

    Hang tough. You are the best Mom evar. Have another cup of coffee.

    -the redhead-

  11. I have to admit, I just bought a voucher for a second copy for our household so I won’t have to wait for my son (23) to finish his copy! Mine will then be passed on to my stepson and his wife.

    And we’re going to go and pick our books up Friday at midnight–not so we can party with the fans, but so I can take my copy to work with me Saturday morning, so I can read it on my commute and breaks and if I have any downtime.

    I’m planning to keep my radio off so I don’t hear any spoilers.

    What can I say. But I relate–my son (mild Aspergers) has any number of obsessions he has to tell me about in excruciating detail.

  12. It’s not all over *my* blog . . . and yesterday’s post was mostly about books. My daughter works in an independent bookstore that’s doing two parties tomorrow night and she’s not currently involved with either (by choice). We’ll both probably/possibly read the book(s) some day. I read one of them while waiting for a standby flight. It was perfect for that. (Read a few chapters while listening for announcements. Change gates. Repeat all day until a seat opens on the last possible flight.) I don’t remember right now if I’m up-to-date; I think I missed one, but I don’t know which. And yes, Lloyd Alexander is wonderful.

  13. I hear ya re Harry Potter. Not really my thing either. But I understand the obsession too. Mine were Star Trek: TOS (Mr. Spock and I were MEANT to be together!) and Dr. Who also. I’ve read Star Trek novels (some good, some bad) and Dr. Who novels (mostly bad, but you gotta feed the addiction any way you can.)

    I seem to remember reading that the Harry Potter reading isn’t really translating into kids reading other things so much? Or did I dream that? Anyway, just hang on. It’ll pass, and then he’ll be spending time with girls. That’s another whole ball of wax to deal with, I guess. πŸ™‚

  14. Too. Much. Hype. That’s the reason I put off reading the HP books until last summer. The other reason is that I’m a hardcore Lord of the Rings fan, and I didn’t want to read anything else in the fantasy genre.

    I am interested in how Rowling will end the series. For now, though, I’m mildly entertained by the antics of the mob.

  15. If you’re going to be waiting for a long time, pack a few snacks and water. Kids (and adults) get cranky when hungry and tired. Bring more than 1 thing to do, too.

    I read a bit of fantasy/scifi as a young reader, and I remember the Chronicles of Prydain very well. Or at least I think I do. HP doesn’t seem to be any better written than other “striking” books of our generation (those by L’Engle, McKinely, etc), so I admit to being puzzled about the raving fandom. I suspect it has something to do with VERY CLEVER marketing. And I still appreciate anything that gets more kids to libraries and bookstores.

    I think the main street of my town also is becoming Diagon Alley for the night. Luckily, I don’t need to be around any of that. I stopped reading HP after Goblet of Fire; I read bits and bops about JKR’s personality, and she came across as a greedy and unpleasant person (jmho). After that, I just didn’t want to give her my money. That said, I did see the movie last week. (I had some difficulty following the plot because I couldn’t remember who anyone was.)

  16. Thank. You.
    It’s good to know that I’m not the only one who is burnt out on Harry Potter. I don’t even have kids. I’m a college-age woman who lives alone, doesn’t watch TV other than food network and discovery, with a boyfriend who is the same way…and I’m STILL sick of hearing about Harry f-ing Potter.

  17. You. Are. A. Very. Good. Mommy.

    Also, someday you will get to remind him about his obsessions, when he is older and can be teased. We still get a lot of mileage out of one of my son’s “things” around grade 7 that involved wearing a set of stacking “cups” hooked on his belt with which one played some strange game. We have photos too, so cool did he deem himself! πŸ˜‰

  18. Bring portable beach chairs if available. Concrete… not so much fun after the first hour or so.

  19. Thank you for mentioning the Susan Cooper and Chronicles of Prydain. I loved both those series, and re-read the Dark is Rising series at least once a year, and it still gives me the chills. I read the Potter books, but as has been said before, they are pretty much fluff, and I can’t remember what I read more than a day or so later. They desperately need to be edited by someone other than JKR. But, as has been said (again), at least kids are reading, and maybe someone can steer them to the good stuff afterwards.

  20. I totally agree with you – it is a little excessive. But you are a totally cool mom to do all that for your son. I don’t think I would have the patience nor the fortitude to stand in line that long, nor be around so many people that late at night. Happy thoughts coming your way! πŸ™‚ But you and the other commenters are right – at least kids are reading, and they are a clean fun series.

    You know – if the “Dragonriders of Pern” movie does come out next year, its going to be a whole new level of fandom – opening up a brand new world of fantasy for these kids!

  21. You’re awesome Abby! It’s just one stepping stone in his reading life, but one that he’ll remember with love … like Narnia for some of us!

  22. You’re such an awesome mom! I have to admit that the only reason I went to the latest movie was for the food (movie + dinner kind of place) and to look at the knitwear.

    DH is still stuck in complete and utter Star Wars fandom. Our bedroom, covered with original theatre posters.

    I’m going to start threatening to make big prints of my handspun pictures and wallpaper the bathrooms with them.

  23. Hear hear! I am sick to death of Harry Potter. I read the first four or so books, thought the one after that was cruddy, never bothered to read the rest. I read them during a time in my life when I needed something light and fun, and that is exactly what they are. Very creative, and it’s great that kids read them–but oh my LORD, when I see the kinds of fits that GROWN-UPS are throwing over this book I can’t help but laugh. I know a lot of people get enjoyment out of them, but I honestly have seen so much craziness on the internet over the past month related to adults who are apparently rabid over the series that it’s really soured me on the whole thing. Ugh! Someone wake me up when it’s over!

  24. Maybe you can reconcile yourself with the fact that they have started making new episodes of Doctor Who.

  25. At least you’ll have a quiet day on Saturday, while he holes up with his book. That is, if he hadn’t finished it by morning.

  26. I agree with you. I think I read one of the first books, but the hype is just as silly here in the UK and I’ve not been tempted again. Terry Pratchett though, there’s an author I’d recommend when he’s on form.

  27. ROFLMAO!!!! Amen! sister! My mom and my youngest are into HP. I read ’em once and that was enough. At least they’re reading SOMETHING with a plot and a beginning, middle and end.

  28. Perhaps you could solve your problem by reversing the polarity of the neutron flow? πŸ˜‰

    Pern! Narnia! And Madeleine L’Engle! – I always wanted to sit in the kitchen and sip cocoa with Charles Wallace. *sigh*

  29. You know what, I still love you. I am one of THOSE!!! And you are a GREAT MOM!!!

  30. Give this a read:

    “The Science of Harry Potter”

    By Roger Highfield

    You think you are having interesting discussions with your son now? Just wait πŸ˜‰

  31. I am thinking that on Saturday you are going to need to sleep in, have a leisurely breakfast,then spin and knit until it is the appropriate hour in which you can indulge in a beer:)

    After the Friday you will have you deserve it:)

  32. Good Mommy.. you get a cookie!

    Personally.. I’m a *mumble*mumble*thirtysomething**mumble* year old who will be at the bookstore come midnight. I’ll be dressed as Molly Weasley, and knitting a pair of socks while I wait for my book. I read like your son did as a kid.. nonstop and every single night.. so I say good for you for encouraging that in him!

  33. Abby, Abby,

    Come on! At least you will be with your son. I am taking my granddaughter. But we are going to a party at the local bookstore. Owned by a high school friend of my oldest son. In 2000 I took him, 2 of my sons and 10 other teenagers on a 2 month teaching (religious) and dance theater trip through the south and mid-west. My sons had their copies of the HP books that were out and we bought the book that came out in 2000 (third I think) All the kids on the trip read the books. And at least one grew up to open a bookstore, and they are serving butterbeer, and chocolate frogs, and my granddaughter will have a blast. And since it is my fault (credit) that started the bookstore owner down this slippery slope I feel obligated to attend. I will also be reading the book So I will be back to e-mail and Blogs when I finish the book.

  34. I hear ya, Abby. Except mine is the love of a 35-year-old man I call my husband. He asked last night if we were going to the bookstore I preordered the darned thing at midnight. My response, “You’ve keys and the ability to drive. Knock yourself out.” Reality bites sometimes.

    BTW, you’ve got to check out the new Dr. Who if you are a Whovian. Daleks, Cybermen, a very hot Dr. Who. I can’t ask for better.

  35. AMEN. I blogged about this earlier and come to find out you have written something similar. My husband and I never cared but as a nanny of a little boy who LOVED the books, I read some of book one simply because he asked me to and gave me that look like “I like you and I want to talk to you about this.” I had the book overnight and he asked for it back because he couldn’t live without it.

    The hot new item to be obsessed about when I was a kid – American Girls

    At least the books are 30 dollars (?), and don’t involve a 100.00 doll to go with it! Don’t forget the clothes, brushes, accessories, the new characters that come out each year, etc. You get the idea. Good luck on the wait.

  36. I am thoroughly thankful that my child doesn’t like Harry Potter. And I’m amazed at all the Pottery fanfare. While my Mom will probably buy us the book in case the kids eventually do want to read it, I lucked it out in not having to stay up late to get a book the second it was released.

    I hope you have a restful Saturday while the young man of the house reads all 700 something something pages.

  37. I love Harry, but I also love Dr Who! In fact, in the new Dr who series that my Husband and I watch on BBC, I was so disturbed about Rose leaving that it was all I could talk about fora couple days. I’ll miss her.

  38. hmmmm….that’s interesting. I totally ignored the OJ stuff, and I ignore the Harry Potter stuff too. I just don’t care, and I don’t care much if people think that I am weird that I don’t care either. πŸ™‚ Not much, anyway.

  39. Ok, I’ve been reading here a while and seeing you about the internet, yes, I’m a quiet stalker. 😎 But a nice one. I just had to pause here and give an AMEN SISTER to EVERYTHING you said. Really. amen. I can’t say anything with out repeating what you said. (Dr. Who rules, and I adore Earthsea- ask me how much!) So I will just say AMEN!!

  40. Good Lord people. Find your inner child and just enjoy. Over analyzing the literary merit is a fun sucking tactic. How glorious that kids and adults are enjoying reading together, as families.

  41. The good thing about living in Belgium as that the hype isn’t that huge. We did have some midnight things going on, but I was on holiday and didn’t care.

    I am a Potter fan though. I think it’s mostly the escape into another world for me, which is mostly why I read books in the first place. I always backed away from any hype/fan stuff. It doesn’t interest me. It took me some time to go and watch the movie, but I did and I’m happy now though I’m still sceptical.

    Again, thanks to not much mania I can still enjoy the books, knowing these are childrens books. Plus I read them in English which is a bit of extra for me (I would NEVER read them in Dutch ’cause the translations suck!).

    But I understand your point. Oh, and I am a reader-addict, and I plan to raise my kids like you raised your son!

  42. I have a stepson that doesn’t like Harry Potter at all, and he doesn’t like to read. He will play video games for days and watch the television. I would give anything if he was into Pottermania. If he would just read something. I am not raising him though and its not my call, though I do try. Its hard for me to understand preferring video games over any book.

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