Monday, August 11, 2008

Baby's First Guest Post

Wow! I'm really excited about the first guest post on my blog. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Or maybe that's an arctic gnome having a camp-out in my gall bladder (see also this.) In any case, I'm excited to host Boyfriend's piece on why you, yes you, should read Harry Potter. He wrote this years ago as a Myspace blog but has since revised it to include the last few books of the series. Points to note:
  1. There are no spoilers here. Read freely.
  2. If you're not used to the cocky tone of Boyfriend's, Dr. Pfil's, and Dr. Pfil's brother's arguments, then here is the perfect introduction. Don't you dare be offended. It's a sparring gesture, the first step in the dance of debate where they invite you to tango. Getting offended merely clouds your judgment and makes it harder for you to make an intelligent, logical reply - which is entirely the point and purpose.
  3. This particular piece does not touch on religious reasons to engage in or abstain from Potter, although that's a separate argument that I'd actually like to have. Boyfriend and I are both Christians, and we both argue for the books. In his post, Boyfriend touches on postmodern morality, but neither Boyfriend nor I would call ourselves postmodern. As Gen Y-ers, we can't pretend we aren't affected by postmodern thought - we've been culturally steeped in it since birth - but we believe in definite truth and we downright scoff at, "Well that's what you believe and that's great for you but I believe this and it's true for me and let's all pick flowers and draw puppies and eat rainbows." What I'm trying to say is this: speak freely on this topic. We'd love to debate it.
  4. To make my one argument for why you should read Potter, I say only this: Linda Pickerill LOVES them. Hear that, Mom?
  5. Warning: this post is looooooonnnngggggg, but fun.

Why You, Yes You, Should Read Harry Potter

This is not a book review of Harry Potter, nor will I discuss in any details any plot points or facts about the stories. This is an argumentative piece on why you...yes, you, should read Harry Potter, the best-selling book series by J.K. Rowling. (Though I may mention the movies at some time in this article, this piece is about the books and the books alone.)

Let me start out by telling you how I see Harry Potter. The Potter series has been a shockingly profound and insightful view of the pressures and pains of coming of age. It has been an emotional roller coaster dealing with morality, spirituality, philosophy, physicality, and anything else you can stick a "y" on the end of. It has been an intricate story of a wide cast of characters, meticulously thought out from the profoundest event from one's past to the slight twitch of anticipation a character may give away during a critical scene. In Harry Potter, the lines between good and evil have been laid bare, blurred, erased, and laid bare again. (Ever heard the phrase: “You think you know, but you have no idea?”) And even when you do know, Rowling’s sense of morality, though hyperbolic at points, does not patronize and is refreshingly left up to you, oh future reader. (Some will call this “post-modern,” but the self-aware and non-self-righteous will call it “real.”) But mostly and above all, Harry Potter is an outright thrilling (and let me repeat, thrilling), suspenseful, funny, endearing, and enjoyable adventure, covering almost any and every reason anyone would ever pick up a book.

I myself was skeptical before starting. Having finished the first book, The Sorcerer's Stone, I was pleased though not blown away. Do not misunderstand me, this is a very well-written, enjoyable book, but do not judge the series by it alone. What is in store in the coming books is more than a little bigger and better than this modest, concise initial offering. Upon completion I was eager to read the second book, The Chamber of Secrets. By the time I had read two chapters of this I was hooked and bought the third book, The Prisoner of Azkaban, the very night I had finished. I have spoken with others who, while thoroughly enjoying the first two installments, did not fall head over heels for these books until the third. Like I said, I was hooked early into the second book, but I can at least understand where they are coming from. However, one thing is certain: once you move into the third book and beyond into The Goblet of Fire, The Order of the Phoenix, The Half Blood Prince, and finally into The Deathly Hallows, a tale so immersive and well thought out is being so woven, literally, woven together, that you will understand why Rowling has boxes and boxes of background stories for each character written, most of which will never even make it into the books. Not only do the books take a darker, more mature tone with each installment, but the smallest details that you thought inconsequential from past books begin to resurface and reveal themselves to have been clues and foreshadowing in hiding all along. Potter may or may not be a children’s story once it is all said and done (that is your opinion), but it is surely more than just a children’s story; it is an epic. The character development in these books is literally second to none that I have ever come across. I am not claiming to be an intensely well-read man, but having read classics like the Lord of the Rings (my favorite book of all time) and The Chronicles of Narnia, along with a lot of other genres spanning from recent times to poems of Dante and Homer, I can still say this with confidence: if there is one thing Rowling does better than or as well as anyone, it is character development. You will become attached to these characters. You will love some, you will hate some, and surely, you will always want to read on to the next chapter to see what happens to them. Get used to this sentence, because history will come to embrace it: “Oh you know, you’ve got Holden Caulfield, Tom Joad, Samwise Gamgee, Odysseus, and Harry Potter.”

Now, I address those of you who think (incorrectly) that Harry Potter is not for you. You may think that you are above Harry Potter and your reading tastes are too good for something so childish and terribly "popular." It’s true, Potter does not possess the prose of a Steinbeck novel, but please hear me, prose is but one, less important factor in great writing. Do not get me wrong, healthy and intellectual prose should not be overlooked; it should be praised and enjoyed as it is another avenue toward enlightenment. But there are other ways of telling a story, and believe me, Rowling’s prose is nothing to be scoffed at. The simpler style she pursues is not just passable because her story is so good; it works better for this kind of writing. To call her less-complex writing style a sacrifice would be a grievous error and would prove that the criticizer had wholly missed the point.

For those of you who feel that you are above the Harry Potter phenomenon because it is so popular and common, if you would get off of your high horse for a moment, you will see that, just because something is popular that does not necessarily mean it is watered down, easily accessible, mindless tripe. Admittedly, often that does turn out to be the case with popular art, but please realize that art sucking is what makes it suck. Being popular is an effect, not a cause. But those of you who are too self-important to see that the Beatles, The Lord of the Rings, Nirvana, Casablanca, and The Divine Comedy (to name a few) are some of the most popular works of art or artists of all time, must be so caught up in your quest not to be trendy that you don't see how trendy your very attitude is. The real thinkers will always be those who decide for themselves what is great and what is not.

Now for those of you who say, "Well I'm just not a reader," to you I say, "Well now you are." These books have somehow found a way to be completely accessible (see the discussion on prose above) and enjoyable, while remaining well-written and extremely thoughtful. Forget how you feel about reading. If you like stories, if you like fun, if you like sunny days, warm breezes, puppies, or ice-cream, then so help me you are human and will be compelled and entertained by the Potter epic. I almost guarantee that you will thank me if you finally decide to crack these books open.

To further my point to all parties, here are some of the people that I know personally who, like myself, love the Harry Potter series: an engineer, a psychology major, another engineer pursuing a Ph.D., a degree holder in philosophy and Ph.D. holder in interplay between theology and the arts, a philosophy professor at Kings College in PA, an English major, a foreign policy major, a singer/songwriter pursuing an M.D., an office manager, a legal secretary, a communications expert, a half-Asian, a firefighter, a preacher, a future supreme dictator of the world, and of course, me. These are only a few of the people I know personally who love these books. Believe me when I say that some of these people are very, very intelligent, well-read, and cultured to what I'm sure would meet even the highest of an elitist's standards. And I have never, ever met anyone who read these books and did not love them. I'm sure these people exist…I guess. I think one guy once said they weren't good in some stupid book review, but let me assure you, this man is an imbecile and an ass.

J.K Rowling has sold millions upon millions of books, and millions upon millions of people can't be wrong, am I right? No, I am not. Millions of people can be wrong; just look at the Left Behind series or Nickelback. But I'll tell you this, the millions upon millions of Potter readers are not wrong. If you haven't seen the movies, consider yourself lucky. (They're not bad, actually. Three and four are really good and are worth watching AFTER reading the books.) But you still have the opportunity to take Harry Potter as a completely new experience; this is truly a great thing - take advantage of it. For those of you who have seen the movies and enjoyed them, READ THEM ANYWAY. The movies don't even begin to cover as much as the books, meaning there is an astounding level, not only of detail, but also of main story that you had no idea even exists. To those of you who saw one or more of the movies and didn't like them, READ THEM ANYWAY. I didn't care much for the first two films, but really liked the third, fourth and fifth. However, to put it simply, the books put the movies to absolute shame.

Some things are not for everybody. Pulp Fiction, for example, is brilliant, devious, disgusting, and beautiful, though some will flat out hate it for its over-the-top crudeness and vibrantly unique (and therefore hard to get used to) style. Coldplay, while catchy, and generally well thought out in their progressions and compositions, may be too soft or easy to swallow for the tastes of some looking for more groundbreaking or edgy themes. The Harry Potter series, however, is funny, heartbreaking, intense, exciting, lighthearted, extremely dark, profound, fun, heavy, light, and everything in between. And somehow, it does them all right - very, very right. If you do the right thing and take my advice, you won’t just read about Hogwarts, you will go to Hogwarts. You will spend time in its massive, enchanted walls. You will spend time with its students and teachers. The idea that something beyond our day-to-day reality could exist will not be a fantasy; it will be true. If you haven't read the Potter series, do yourself a favor. Go, read them...Now.


audra.marie said...

i had always kind of pondered whether or not i was considered the "half asian" :) i'll take it, if that's the case. of course if it is, then i would have assumed that he would have put in "lioness" instead.

Woo said...

No no no. He's talking about your brother.

Anonymous said...

Whoever wrote this is a freakin' genius.