Saturday, July 21, 2007

Going Off The Grid

The new Harry Potter book is out, so excuse me while I check out of society until I finish reading the book. There is just too big a chance to accidentally hear details about the plot, and I don't want anything to ruin the final book for me.

Let me start by waxing rhapsodic about the phenomenon that is Harry Potter. I love books, and have since the early days of my youth, when I misread the "otter" sentence in The Bath Book to read "Elders don't take baths in water, they just play and swim there." I guess I had seen too many stinky, sweaty missionaries by the age of 4. Childhood foibles aside, books have always been a central part of my life, and I tend to get absorbed in whatever I'm reading. There's a line in a song that says, "All I can do is read a book to stay awake - it rips my life away but it's a great escape." That is so true I'm thinking of cross-stitching it into a wall hanging. Books are a great escape.

Harry Potter is one of the best escapes I've read. World-class literature? I'm no English major, but probably not. It is, however, a fantastic world to delve into, filled with people you know (the shy girl who has a crush on her brother's best friend), people you want to know (Fred and George, anyone?), people you love (everyone's favorite, Dumbledore) and people you love to hate (oh, that detestable Snape!!) We get an underdog to root for, and a classic good vs. evil story, laced with humor and experiences that make me grateful that I never have to be a teenager again.

Harry's character is so authentic that I relive my awkward first dates, my anger at the world, my petty squabbles with friends, my idolization of teachers. His world seems so familiar that I feel like I could run into Harry, Ron, and Hermione at the local pub ... if I lived somewhere other than Orem, where we have no pubs. I support the cause of the Order of the Phoenix and am eagerly awaiting the downfall of He Who Must Not Be Named, since I have perfect faith that good will triumph in the end.

So it is with great anticipation that I start the final installment, which I purchased this morning in hardback and on CD, a splurge of about $60 for the two. I'm excited to get the answers to my questions, to see if my predictions are right. My guess is that Snape really is evil, Voldemort is going to die, Neville will sacrifice himself for the cause, and Harry will become the permanent Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Will Harry and Ginny get married? How about Ron and Hermione? Will Dudley ever lose weight? Will Draco get what's coming to him?

But with our latest delve into the world of wizards, I live in mortal fear - not of You Know Who, but of having the ending ruined for me. The danger lurks from every corner, and my closest friends might be the ones to betray me in the end. When Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix came out, several children in the neighborhood ruined the ending for some of the adults who hadn't finished the book yet. My own children told their grandmother the ending, and while she claimed not to be upset by the spoiler, deep down I know it must have hurt.

I know this is a danger, because I am four or five chapters into the book, and I'm already hunting for someone to talk to about what is happening! Fortunately, my brother Tim hasn't read book 6 yet and doesn't mind if I ruin book 7 for him, but I can definitely see the temptation to either cheer or commiserate with someone, anyone, who is going to be sad along with me, stranger or friend.

And that is the reason I am going off the grid. I am no longer frequenting my favorite websites for fear someone will spill the beans. I am changing my home page from Google News to my bank's login page. I will have any email with the words "Harry" or "Potter" in it automatically sent to my junk folder. (Sorry 'bout that, Pottery Barn.) When I answer the phone, I will preface any conversation with the disclaimer, "I have not yet finished Harry Potter so please don't discuss it with me!" I will sit by myself in church and cough loudly, to discourage people from making polite conversation that might tread into dangerous territory. In public places, I will cover my ears or hum loudly to drown out overheard conversations. I can't even look at the pictures on the cover of the audiobook, because they've already spoiled a suspenseful moment for me - now I will change CD's with my eyes closed.

But what I won't do is speed through the book just to get to the end. Like a rich piece of chocolate, I want to savor this book, enjoying it bite by bite, letting the flavor and scent wash over me so I can close my eyes and revel in the experience. Good luck, Harry, I hope you end up successful and happy, and most of all, thanks for letting me share your world. Now excuse me, I've got a book to read!

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