Thursday, August 17, 2006

How I became a Harry Potter fan

Many years before I read the first book I remember reading newspaper articles about eager fans queuing in front of bookshops in the evening already so that by midnight they might have a fresh copy of the newest volume of Harry in their hands. I imagined what a rush of excitement it must be - how eager they would be to get home as soon as possible and start reading. I imagined they would read in the car already and on their way up the stairs.

And I smiled wanly; thinking myself so superior for not following a trend.

Later that year I went to Amsterdam and while there I saw the first two Harry Potter books in a display window. They were English paperback editions and they were cheap books. For the majority of the travelling I read - but they were other books, which I brought from home. I never opened Harry. Even when I arrived home I put the book neatly on the shelf and left it at that. And so years passed and there were more news about eager fans lining in front of bookshops late at night and again I smiled at their loyalty, hardly ever remembering that I had two volumes of the world phenomenon on my bookshelf.

Some more years passed and the pages had started to turn yellow, when finally I decided to read the books and then pass them on a younger person. It never entered my mind that Harry was a book for children or that it might be inappropriate for my age - I knew it was a fairytale, but I thought I'd read it anyway. Now I'm smarter - I know Harry isn't just a book for children.

It took almost a week to get past the first 100 pages, because I was busy working at my summer job. But even at that slow pace I found the book witty, the story inventive and Rowling's imagination boundless. Her persuasive, realistic, open tone could make you believe that wizards really do exist. There's nothing artificial or forced about her story. She writes it as though she knows it is true.

I couldn't stop reading. I would read for hours on end, breezing through chapters and racking my brains for the information Harry needed. This was a wizarding detective strory - so much suspense, so much action, such nerve-wrecking scenes... Whoever thought this was a children's book?

Having finished the first book, I began reading the second volume in the same day. I finished the second book on Saturday and I couldn't wait for more. I was so desperate for more of Harry that late on Saturday boyfriend took me to CityPark to look for the third book. Sadly, they were sold out. Having to wait a whole day seemed impossible - how I was to endure a whole day without Harry was beyond me. First thing Monday morning I went to Konzorcij bookshop (I don't think I ever woke up so early during the holidays...) and bought the third and fourth volume. Right thereafter I went to a remote library to borrow the fifth book.

I read all three remaining books in a week. I got hooked.

A while after having finished the fifth book something about the plot bothered me. I went online and posted my question in an HP fan forum. They directed me to an editorial on Mugglenet and I dutifully read that. And all the 40 others. Then I began reading other columnists, I began reading fan-written editorials, thinking about theories for book 6.

I found out the day of the release of book 6 just a few hours after it was announced on Rowling's website. Three days later I went to a bookshop to ask when book 6 reservations will be available. The sales lady said they found out earlier that day and that they have no clue as of yet. I was perplexed - I exclaimed I found about the release ages ago and how they could not have known, oh my!, that were the biggest news that week. The sales lady gave me a weird look and instantly I knew that in her book I am an obsessed HP fan. And why would I even pretend not to be one? Long before that day I had made a daily habit of checking Mugglenet for news, reading an editorial here and there and re-reading the books, searching for new clues.

I booked my copy of volume 6 in March and the book was released in July. I downloaded a countdown counter from Mugglenet and counted the days until the release. On release day I came from holidays and three times on the way home I wanted to ask boyfriend to stop in Rijeka as I saw they were putting copies of Harry on the shelves in various shops. Somehow I managed to restrain myself until I got home. I opened the front door and without a hello I asked mother whether she went to the bookshop to get my copy. She replied in negative and I felt my eyes wet.

However, it was only a rude joke she played on me. She had the book and by evening, I already read a third of it. Because of Harry I kept reading all through the night and went to sleep at 7 am.

Yes, I'm in my twenties and am a Harry Potter fan. And now that boyfriend likes the series, too I can only wonder how we'll manage to read book 7 simultaneously when it comes out. Any suggestions appreciated. (We're buying a single book.)

Harry is a legend. With over 300 million books sold, the story being translated into more languages every day, I consider it a part of my world-wise education to know what Quidditch is and why Petter Pettigrew is a rat. Do you need any more persuading?


posted by Nadezhda | 10:58


Blogger Simon said...

Great post!

My story is similar, although not as 'emotional'... I got the first book as a New Year's present from someone who knew I rejected HP books for being too popular, too childish and "I don't believe in such things anyway".
I read it, then bought the second, third and the fourth book myself, borrowed the fifth and sixth. I read them over the period of half a year, and the last two books (the thickest two) I read in two weeks. Both of them.

Which is why I agree with all of what you said. Let's not be ashamed of worshipping 'children's' books!

Blogger Teja said...

"And I smiled wanly; thinking myself so superior for not following a trend."

:) That's me at this point. But after reading this post and the way you describe your experience so lively ... well, let's just say you got me hooked. By the way, was your boyfriend a HP fan before you two met? :)

And a suggestion: read it together in a way that one is listening and the other reading .. than change sides.

Blogger Nadezhda said...

Simon - Rowling (in my opinion) rejuvenated fantasy in children's books and after her writers have begun to realize that there's no point in writing sweet little fairy tales with happy endings that undermine chilren's intelligence and level of emotional maturity (in terms of what they can handle in a book). I'm planning on reading Phillip Pullman who is supposedly a superb author - and I'm doing it for the reason you mentioned - I stopped underrestimating books "for children".

Teja - oh, start, start already. I think you'll like the books once you finish the first one! At least if you don't you'll know what it's about. I describe my story that way because I never thought I'd get hooked on Harry - never ever. But I did get hooked and it's a wonderful, inventive, intriguing story told with vivid imagination.

No, my boyfriend only read the books after I begged him to read them. I brought him the books, black-mailed him, threatened him, sweet-talked him and so on and nothing seemed to help. He disliked the beginning of the first book and had seen the first four films because I was eager to see them, so he knew the story. He also absolutely refused to accept that the Dursleys (Harry's relatives) were so mean to him as Rowling described. He struggled through the first book, but then became engrossed in the story and he finished the series in one go. And he liked it!

I think we'll just try to read together, but I'm not sure yet. There is still time until book 7, although I hope it is released in a year. :)

Blogger Belgothiel said...

I read Harry Potter when I was in 5th grade in primary school. It was Holidays and I had nothing to do, so I read all days long. So, having finished almost all of the books from I'd brought from the library, I saw the second part of HP on my book-shelf. My sister told me that some people found it really intriguing and worth its fame. I raised my eyebrow and said: "Ok, so let's see it."

And as soon as I'd started with it, I finished. And I became very nervous. And I needed to see what happened before and after! For I read the second part first :)
And so I got hooked. Gorgeous work! I shall never forget the day I read the 6th part: I was crying all day long. It was as if... I felt empty! It was really touching.

At first my boyfriend didn't like it either. But he do like it now, yaaay :))

For me, HP is undescribably good book and I wish it to be a never-ending-story.

Blogger Lilit said...

Yes, this is very common.
"What's this fuss about HP, people are going crazy, but I shall not succumb, nossir."
One book later I was also hooked.

To me it was like the Famous 5, do you remember that series? When I was 10/11 all I did was rereading those books and dreaming day and night of living adventures like that. Of course I named my dog Timmy :)
And reading HP at 19 made me feel just like that...

Philip Pullman disappointed me a little. His dark materials are pretty good, definitely not just for children, but I felt the story towards the end going really weak, like he needed to end it very quickly but couldn't figure out the best way to conclude it so he just wrapped it up "samo da je".
But maybe it was just me.

Ever tried Terry Pratchett?

Blogger Belgothiel said...

I heard of him but I haven't read any of his books yet. A friend of mine says The colour of magic is just great and I remember her mentioning The light fantastic and Pyramides. They're all on my list. How do you find them?

Blogger Nadezhda said...

Lilit - yes, I did find the books a little like the Famous 5, but better. The early books (1&2) are very like F5, but later HP grows in several dimensions. Nevertheless, the story is very captivating and in that respect it is like the F5. And yes, I do remember the series and I read them and re-read them frequently when I was younger.

As far as Pullman is concerned my brother and boyfriend both liked his books, although they never said anything about the ending, so I'm not sure what their opinion on that was. Maybe I'll read him and see for myself. :)

I never read Pratchett, although several people have tried to convert me to "pratchettism". For now, I'm standing strong, but I might succumb one day, just like with Harry.

Belgothiel - I wasn't so very sad at the end of the 6th book (am not going to say what it was so as not to spoil it for Teja and Jin - if they're reading this) - mainly because I expected it to happen and because I really want Harry to finally start doing things ALL by himself, not relying on any sort of help from anybody. Sure, he'll have to be resourceful and inventive, but I want to see his own talent at last.

I'm very glad you managed to convince you boyfriend to read the series! And just between us: we always knew he'll like the books when he reads them. ;)

I don't want Harry to be never-ending - I think it is good that she's not diluting the story just so she can sell more books, although it will be a little difficult to realize that there will be no more after 7. So I'm just hoping she does the story justice and ends it with a finale to remember. I hope book 7 will be her best book, actually. :)

Just out of curiosity - do you read originals or Slovenian translations? What do you think of translations?

Anonymous lilit said...

@belgothiel: Pratchett is brilliant. The stories take place on Discworld, which is flat, on top of four elephants that stand on the shell of a giant turtle swimming through space. That should tell you all, really :) His humor is great (like, for example, the church believes that Discworld is round and those who say it's flat get burned, etc.).

I read all books in English first, then in Slovene, too, just to see... and was sooo disappointed. Maybe because I was so taken in HP world, and then discovering someone sees it differently, but not only that... the translations are made for children and HP is so much more than that.
I strongly hate the "slovene" translation of the names (as much as "Mrlakenstein" can be considered Slovene, considering the "stein" part...). At one time I even read both english and Slovene versions together and put donw all the things that were different in the translations (and there were many, really).
It angered me so much that the translator changed things the 5th and 6th book I read in English only. But the last translation (5th or 6th?) is maybe better, because Gradisnik did the work. I don't know if I want to try, though. And I'm not that obsessed anymore ;)

Blogger Wonder Woman said...

I've never read HP, nor had any intention to do so and now after reading all this, I am afraid of even trying to read it, because I don't want to get as addicted to a book as you all are:))

Anonymous lilit said...

Another thing - my favourite book was 4. It was long, but there were things happening all the time. We waited for 5 quite long and after reading it I was disappointed. It felt different. It was longer than 4, but it seemed more filled with trivial things just to make it as long as possible. It was also much darker than 4.

What did you think of it?

Blogger Bo said...

Why am I commenting this? :)
I found myself in a totally hostile territory here, I am so in minority, for - I have read - none of your beloved HP books! Please don't do me any harm.

I am half kidding here, you know that, as I know perfectly well that Nadezhda just wanted to express her admiration for HP and also to induce that feeling onto some not-yet-HP reader. - Like me for example, although I highly doubt this - me reading HP - will ever happen. But do never let me say never again. The quantum world, we are living in, namely doesn't know anything about totally uncertain events; just everything has some probability.

Which of course means I do respect you here and the rest half of the world, who are enjoying with HP.
Why I never took HP in my lap, I can't say for certain. I remember having watched one film, which left me cold. I never experienced that wish of reading HP. - So much worse for me, you might say, and you would probably be right, people are missing so much, they even don't know it ...

Blogger Bo said...

wonder woman: yes! I am not alone. :)

I still respect you guys ... girls here I really may check my pulse with one of the books, probably the first one, although belgothiel made me laugh, her reading the second part first!

Blogger Nadezhda said...

WW - we're not addicted, it's just so good you like it more than you like other books and are willing to put more effort into it. Just try it. You don't have to be an obsessed fan, you can just read the books and enjoy them enormously and leave it at that. :) Besides - better being addicted to a book than food/alcohol/cigarettes, right?

Lilit - I didn't exactly read any of the translations. I began reading the originals and liked them. Then I said I'll just see what the translation is like. I read a random chapter from book one (the preview of the book on and was disgusted. They translated some of the names, but not others and the ones that they did translate make absolutely no sense. Voldemort means "flight from death" in (old?) French. In Slovenian it's Mrlakenstein which means nothing, apart from the ending (-stein), which sounds German to me. Anyway, I think anybody who knows enough English should read the originals, because the translations are a rough approximation.

My favourite book was 5 - Order of the Phoenix. The revelation at the end is simply astounding (I kept thinking "how come I never thought of that before?") and I liked the length and how fluently the story flew even though (as you said) not much happened. But I think there are possible hints and clues which will help us to understand the final book. At least that's what Rowling implied. About it being darker - considering what was happening, that was no so unusual; I found it realistic. I also liked 4th - Goblet and then 3rd - Azkaban. I liked the 6th book only upon second reading. :)

Bo - "although I highly doubt this - me reading HP - will ever happen" - what is most unusual is that everybody says (me included!) that and then they end up liking the series immensly. I'm not forcing anybody, but I think you'd like it if you read it. I never wanted to read the books either until I finished the first one. And in my humble opinion, the films don't do the books justice. Just how can you truthfully translate 600 pages into 2,5 hours of film?

I'm not only talking about a book here - HP has transformed the publishing business and Rowling's book has become a record-breaker. I'm talking about a phenomenon so powerful it turned kids (from computers and TVs) to books, transformed the standards for writing children's books and had adults reading and enjoying a "children's" book. Don't you just want to know what the fuss is about? You can still stop reading if you don't like it, although I would advise you to persevere through the first (and maybe second) book. It gets much better later on.

Anonymous Tina said...

Here goes my story. I also felt superior in the beginning and I felt I wasn't going to like the book. After my sister persuaded me, I read the first book and half of the second one and... NOTHING happened to me!! I was left cold.

And the funny thing is that I wanted(!) to get addicted to it... because I know it is a great feeling. Lucky you guys :)

Blogger Belgothiel said...

Nadezhda: you're right - it's time Harry starts doing things himself, but the wise old wisard was just like a grandfather to me and that's why I felt empty after reading the 6th part.
Well, probabbly I used the wrong expression by saying that I wanted it to be "never ending story". I wanted to say that I don't know where to find other HP-like books after having finished with the last one.
My boyfriend first said she wrote only because of money, that she wasn't good at all. Having watched teh films he changed his mind - though he still doesn't find much time for reading fiction (studying obligations :/). I read most of them in Slovene, the last one in English I think. I found some translations of the names witty, but perhaps inappropriate. I think they derivate from the original more ways then one.

My favorite part is the 5th book as well.. it is a thrilling yarn and keeps me suprised.

Bo: I know, reading the second part before the first isn't the most clever thing to do, but it certainly helps you awakening interest and curiosity for the story! So, you can follow my story and perhaps you'll get hooked. :P

Blogger Nadezhda said...

Tina - you're the first person I know who didn't feel anything when reading Harry! I'm not sure (as you don't elaborate on the subject) why you didn't find the books interesting, but in their defence, I find the first two books the weakest. Although retrospectivelly they contain lots of important information, they are not as polished as the later books are. Maybe, if you're still interested, you could re-read the second book and the continue with the third. In my opinion the 4th and 5th books are the most action packed and maybe you'll like them more. Just a guess. Let us know what you decide! :)

Belgothiel - there are other books, I'm sure, though I agree with you that reading Harry was a wonderful adventure. For suggestions, you can start here: I heard that Paolini's Eragon was good. Did you read Narnia, too? What about Artemis Fowl? AS far as I heard they're all much liked among the fans of HP.

Your boyfriend was partly right - Rowling did complete the first book with the intention of publishing it to earn money. At the time she was unemployed with a small child and a university degree. No one expected her books would become so immensly popular - when she was talking to her would-be-publisher prior to the first book's release and told him she was planning a seven-part series, he told her it would be best she got a day-job as well as she won't be able to support herself solely on writing.

I think with the translations, it is important what you start with. If you start with the originals, then there's no way you'll like the translations.

P.S. If you're ever re-reading the series you could do it in English! :)

Blogger Lilit said...

Oh, the translations are a mess.
Tom Marvolo Riddle = Voldemort.
I can't even remember what he did to compose Mrlakenstein. I don't know why he didn't translate Dumbledore - if he knew the meaning (=bumblebee)?
Oh the worst - Marius Maly (hello? at least if you want to imply he's small, don't use the y, for god's sake!).
These are only a few I remember. It really pisses me off, really :D
I mean, translating the names, cool, fine by me. But translate them in Slovene, not half slovene/german/english whatnot.
Aaargh! :)

Blogger Lilit said...

Another one - Hagrid - Hagrid is his surname, his name is Rubeus. But in Slovene books Hagrid is his first name, surname is Ruralus. Wtf?

Blogger Nadezhda said...

Yeah, that with Hagrid is a really big mistake. The original translator isn't very consistent and if wh was trying to translate the names, then why (just so it sounds cool?) include foreign letters like "y"?

Is Filius Flitwick Marius Maly? Oh my, oh my... I hope Gradišnik did a better job, although he couldn't just change everything and start afresh, could he?

P.S. I've got a few theories on book 7 and I'll put them on tonight if boyfriend goes to bed early. That's an IF in there. :)

Blogger Lilit said...

No no... Peter Pettigrew is Maly (pettigrew = small = maly, get it?).
I really have to reread the books. Problem is I only have 1-4 at home (5 and 6 didn't impress me that much). I'll try to borrow them from the library, though.

Blogger Bo said...

Nadezhda: The truth is that I am curious. I will give it a shot. - I hope I won't get addicted. :)

Thanks for clarifying the movie bit - that HP movies aren't any good in comparison to HP books -, for that was one of the main reasons why I am now totaly illiterate HP-wise. I can't say I am proud of that.

Blogger Belgothiel said...

Nadehzda: Thanks for that link on the Mugglenet!
And I will certainly reread HP (original: 1.of an interest 2.I have a will to improve my English). I've been missing him these days, especially whilst reading your blog! :)

Blogger Nadezhda said...

Lilit - yeah, I get it. But Flitwick is also small and he was my first association. If you can't get them from the library then I could perhaps help with 5 and 6 as I have copies of both books.

Bo - That's the way to go! :) Do report (on your own blog or here) what you thought about the books and if at all possible, read the originals. Persevere through books 1 and 2 and then start to enjoy yourself! :) You don't get addicted if you don't want to - at least in theory. ;)

Belgothiel - you're welcome! And I'll take your missing Harry because of my posts as a compliment. :)

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