Revgeorge over at The Hogs Head posted a few discussion questions concerning the fifth anniversary of the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows earlier this month. A sort-of “Where were you when…” type deal. In celebration of this and Mr. Potter’s birthday tomorrow, I submit for your consideration my answers, and invite you to leave yours in the comments below or over at The Hogs Head. [Insert obligatory spoiler warning here.]
First, what were you doing on July 21, 2007? Were you eagerly awaiting the book? Did you go to a bookstore at midnight? Did you attend a release party? Dress up for it? What were your first thoughts on receiving the book? Excitement, anticipation, sorrow, dread? Did you spend all day reading through the book once you got it, or did you wait several days or longer to read the book? And did you try to get any sneak peeks at the book before it was officially released?
I was working at a Borders Bookstore that summer. I was between my sophomore and junior years in college, and this was my summer job. Though relatively late to the game, I am thankful that I read the books in time to attend the final midnight book release. In fact, I got to work the event. As they had lots of staff on hand to help when the flurry of midnight was upon us, there was actually too much staff for the majority of the night. It involved a lot of standing around, goofing off, and quizzing each other with HP trivia. There were contests, costumes, and failed attempts to magically fix broken registers with wands. (“Reparo registratum!”) My co-worker Fran, who had worked at the store the longest, got dibs on selling the first copy, but after that I was next in line and sold #2. I didn’t get any sneak peaks into the book, and luckily there were no spoiler-trolls lurking in the store that night. I don’t believe I started reading the book that night, but plowed through it over the next two days (desperate to finish before I had to return to work and risk being spoiled by some careless or callous patron).
How involved were you in the HP fandom before the book’s release? Listen to podcasts, follow blogs and websites, read books on Potter and speculation about it? Any that stand out for you in particular?
I first read the books in the spring of 2005 after viewing the amazing Prisoner of Azkaban movie. I read all of the available books and watched all the movies in prepration for the release of Half-Blood Prince that summer. Though immediately hooked in a private and personal way, I don’t believe I got too involved in the public fandom until after the release of Deathly Hallows. From then on I started to follow the bloggers, read the books by said bloggers, and listen to podcasts. As for speculation, I believe I was firmly in the “Snape is good” camp, and would have bet a small amount that Harry would survive. I don’t remember if I’d heard any “Harry is a horcrux” speculation or not, but I’m sure I would have hitched my wagon to that star.
What were your first impressions of the book upon reading it? Exceeded your expectations, fell short, was fantastic, was satisfying, not satisfying? Were any of the big reveals shocking to you? Did you cry at certain deaths? Anticipate who would die and who wouldn’t? What did you think of the Epilogue and especially of the final words, “All was well?”
The book was (and is) pretty incredible, and it was emotionally draining in that wonderful way that last books in a series should be. I was sad for Dobby (though having first met him in the CoS movie has forever dampened his character for me, I’m sorry to say). Fred’s death was by far the most shocking and devastating, though it was the image of Lupin and Tonks so close behind that sent me over the edge. I remember having to stop reading for a few minutes after that. “The Forest Again” remains my favorite chapter in the entire series, and I think I read it through a teary haze (Bear in mind that I can probably count the amount of times I’ve cried to books or movies on my fingers. It’s not that I don’t care – quite the contrary – I’m just not a big crier). My views on the epilogue change frequently, but at the time I thought it a little weak in execution, if not concept. I appreciated what Rowling was trying to do, but it seemed to me the work of a much less experienced writer – she said it was largely written early on in the process, and it showed. My main thought was that it showed, in contrast with the rest of Book 7, how far she’d come.
Did you immediately read the book again after the first time or did you go back and start the whole series over? In essence, what did you do after that first read through of Deathly Hallows?
I tend to pick up and read beloved chapters and passages of my favorite books almost constantly, so I’m sure I re-read bits and pieces of it over the next few months.
Now, thinking about the 5 years since the release of Deathly Hallows, do you still read the Potter books? How often? Do you still find new things in them or do certain things stand out more for you now in the books than previously?
I don’t really like to read the HP books in isolation, so when I’m in the mood I almost always start from the beginning and read them all again in sequence. I probably did this about a year after the release of DH, and have averaged about once every year or so since. I’m always finding new things and new pleasures, and my appreciation of Rowling’s talent continues to grow.
Since the release of Deathly Hallows, what is your relationship with Harry Potter and the fandom? Is it still important to you or have you moved on from Potter? Are you still active in the fandom? If so, how much and in what ways?
As I said above, I didn’t really get involved in the fandom until the release of DH, so that for me was the true beginning. As a student of literature, fandom (for me) manifests itself in critical discussion of the books as stories and pieces of writing. I visit The Hogs Head and Hogwarts Professor often, as well as listen to the podcasts and read the books associated with those sights. Harry Potter and a few other fandoms of choice (Tolkien and LOST, especially) have introduced me to the fantastic world of podcasts. I hope to continue to explore Potter and Rowling through interaction with these great bloggers, writers, and fans.
Finally, how has Harry Potter affected your life? If at all, that is. Has it affected your reading habits? If so, how? Where has Harry Potter taken you in literature? In music or art or movies? Has it affected the course of your life? Have you met different sorts of people because of it or gone to different places because of involvement in the fandom? Has it affected your spirituality or politics or philosophy?
Potter has definitely had a profound and positive impact for me. It has further cemented my already growing love for fantasy, fairy-tale, and imaginative storytelling. Discussions of the books’ ancestors have led me to lots of other great books and genres. I’m starting to get to know the people in the fan community, and I’d love to visit more conferences and lectures, and perhaps even add my voice to the discussion. In particular, John Granger’s discussion of The Deathly Hallows helped me sort through a tough period of disillusionment towards the end of college (check out How Harry Cast His Spell and The Deathly Hallows Lectures). Thinking about the books, and why they work so well, has really given me tremendous insight into how storytelling works and why it is important to me and the world.
Here’s to five great years of discussion, and many more to come!