It started in my parents’ bathroom. If anything, this is my first auto-biographical entry. Sometimes I do flirt with the idea of journal entries, like releasing waves of unceasing narratives that gush into the internet, but then again, I find myself thinking against it. Who knows. One thing is decided; that is, no*thing.
With college starting again this year I was also determined to re-start something else. As my first, second, and third day flashed away I resolved to seek more methods of how to become a better writer. By no means am I considering writing to be a career, but then again, I haven’t ruled it out.
I needed to see good writing—writing that everyone loves. How it works, and how that is achieved. What makes a good story? What doesn’t? Why do we love some stories? And what about them do we love? A good place to start, I thought, was perhaps trying to learn the craft from the best. I could only think of one answer.
Harry Potter, I believe, is where my lust for literature first pricked up. It happened at the flip. Book 1, I borrowed from my cousin Aaliya. Not knowing the treasure I had taken from her I remember reading the first few words and then the rest of the chapter in my parents’ bathroom. Yes, let me explain.
Finally, I had found a spot in the house to read this book. It was night time and the whole pink tiled bathroom was bathed in a pale yellow light that was far from suitable for reading. But there I was, comfortably cocooned in a narrow empty long bathtub (10 years ago I had only stretched half its length). The dim light made the crisp white pages look like old parchments. So I read.
A giant troll in a flying motorbike; a cat who is friendly with a lady and runs away when he sees her (or so I thought); a man with a beard the length of a broom. Uncertainly second guessing myself as I kept flipping, a part of me wanted to give up on these oddities. Everything else fades.
Next I remember this: a large human sized pipe buried hundreds of feet underground, and Slytherin’s sinister snake slithering in the darkness, ready to slide to Harry and strike.
Months later the power cuts had gone rampant in Sri Lanka and I jammed the book to a battery powered whitish blue fluorescent light and read that same passage again and again, sweeping the pages to see what the Hell Hermione was doing. ‘Time Turner? How the hell does this work?’ I grumbled, beads of sweat dripping down my chin in the thick black heat that festers with the lack of air circulation when fans are starved of electricity.
This is scary. Cemeteries, tombstones, the Dark Lord rising from a freaking cauldron! It was night again and I had just finished it. Shooting looks all over the place in slight fear that he might have risen that night, I didn’t dare look at my then black window, covered by curtain.
Yes! The Golden hunk had just come to life for protection. Oh. My. God. Dumbledore is epic! Look at him wield that wand. The gong! Voldemort sucks ass, he can’t touch this.
3:00 AM. My aunt and cousin are sleeping on my bed tonight—the home is jam packed with summer’s visitors. My aunt growls in her sleep, but I’m deaf. My cousin spins in the middle like a foosball pin, but I’m numb. My mouth makes an O. Dumbledore has been blasted into the starry night and is soaring away from the stone tower into an inky darkness, falling downwards, in slow motion. Harry screams silently. My eyes are dry. I want to cry. I’m a horrible person, they aren’t even moist. Sirius was sad and still he only got a groan and a bow of the head. But Dumbledore, Dumbledore, he deserves tears!
They are soaring up into the cold night, piercing through moist wispy clouds. Higher and higher they ascend as the cold night air whips their f—dark hooded figures everywhere! I gasp and drop the book. Never has that ever happened while reading. Movies, yes all the time; but books, never. It is still the only time I have gasped for the mere reading of inked letters. Hermione is screaming above and Ron is howling below, the pair separated by thick stone. ‘NO!, no no, JK, not her! Kill Harry! Not her!’ Terrified of reading that dreaded word (Avada), I trekked on, my face whiter than it already is. Belatrix cackles, my heart misses five beats, and Hermione screams. ‘Why woman!? Why her? You already took Dumbledore!’ If she had been murdered I wouldn’t have been surprised if tears had leaked the moment her blood ceased to be warm. Hermione needed tears, anything for Hermione.
That’s it. Happily ever after? All of this and that’s your ending? What! Okay…I…I think can deal with this.
From what I remember, these were some of my first reactions to the series. I had never re-read the whole series. Books 4, 5, 6 and 7 I had re-read but I never went back to book 1 until this semester, a decade after the protection of the pink bathtub. One of the reasons I ran back to this series is that I’ve never yet come across a series of books that are this effortless to read. It’s like eating Swiss milk chocolate without the crunch of almonds and nuts. Normally I dread the length of books, knowing I have 600 more pages to read to fully appreciate the book I’m reading, so I’ll read on, happier I’m nearing the end (particularly Lord of the Rings and other classics). But only in Harry Potter do I crave for the pages to multiply. The Order of the Phoenix was short. When I first heard that 7 would be longer than 6 but shorter than 5 I was depressed for a day. What is it about these books that make them so fluid? I remember I had to stop myself when reading 5 simply because I would have finished that book before the day was over if I didn’t promise myself that I would read only one chapter a day to savour the flavour—fail, I downed it in a week.
My semester is over and right now I’m stuck at Gringotts, book 7. I ventured on this journey to read as a writer. It worked for the first few chapters until I fell victim to being a greedy reader. Half way through book 1 I found myself reading it like I was still 11. Screw the writing, the story is too delicious—so that’s what the Imperius Curse feels like! While reading these books in the past few months I remembered the trace of the general plot line but it was the details of the story that I had forgotten, making the reading all the more scrumptious. How is it that I can still read these books as if I had never opened them? The enjoyment, almost the same taste—good enough. Even now, the only reason I’m still at Gringotts is because I’m trying to stall the inevitable end. When I finished book 3 a few months ago I remember thinking I still have 4 books left to enjoy. Now what? A few more thin chapters to enjoy? I think my favourite chapter is Kings Cross where Harry meets Dumbledore for the last time. They actually do meet, I know it. See, that’s why I’m stalling. Pleasure is always derived from the chase, not the thing itself, because the climax is the very point at which pleasure ends when it reaches its peak.
The need for more Harry Potter books is dire. Something tells me to be optimistic, but not obsessive. As JK says, “Let’s give it ten years.”
Well, in trying to read as a writer I guess I’ve picked up on at least some elements that make this series amazing. The dialogue is almost everything. The plot line is at times airtight. The imagination is “tirelessly inventive” as stated by the New York Times. The characters are just….sigh…words fail me when it comes to the characters. But then again these aren’t new developments you couldn’t find on Google. I’ve failed. But I’ve failed happily. I’ll have to read the series again to see what the writing is actually doing and how it is working and what we can learn from it. But no, not this time. Adieu.
(Finished typing this just before going on to finally read Gringotts after a lapse of a week of stalling).