Rachael Benavidez, Zeteo Associate Editor
[One in an ongoing series of posts. For the full series see Zeteo is Reading.]
27 May 2013
I’m not ashamed to admit it—I’m reading J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Again. I just needed a break from the scholarly texts that are comprised of information about the real world, which is sometimes a bit much. I usually allow myself a bit of leisure reading at the end of a semester.
I love what I study. That’s why I do it, but sometimes my brain needs to take a break, to travel through space and time, so that when I go back to my journals, biographies, and literary analysis, the information has somewhere to go. I often use the jigsaw puzzle analogy: when you’re working on a puzzle and can’t seem to find the right piece, simply walk away, do something else, and come back later. In all probability, the piece will magically appear in a very obvious place. “It was right in front of me the whole time!” Your brain just needs a break, time to digest information, time to sort it out into neat little compartments.
Oddly enough, while browsing the news, I came across an article by author/journalist Katie Roiphe on entitled “Pottermania: Harry Potter tourism, where the pilgrims are adults and the books are a religion.” She discusses her nine-year-old daughter’s search for “the real Harry Potter” on their trip to London. She also notes the appeal of the series and visiting tourist sites for adults:
Rowling has clearly tapped into the eternal children’s book fantasy of the weird outsidery kid who is, somewhere, understood. The regular (Muggle) world neglects, ignores, can’t see the strengths of the outsider kids, and then they are absorbed into a magical world where all of their outsidery weirdness is explained and repurposed as a gift; it turns out that what distinguishes them from Muggles– their strangeness, their alienation, is that they have magical powers (that is, they are powerful.) This is a seductive idea, and it goes on being seductive long past childhood….
J.K. Rowling’s genius was to create a lush magical world that exists just beneath the surface of the regular, mundane world, which carries on oblivious to its existence. Which is to say implicit in Harry Potter is the idea of slipping through, of stepping in, through a fireplace, through a toilet, through a brick wall at King’s Cross station, through a bright red London phone booth, to the magical world. The portals are beckoning, you just have to find them. It is this tantalizing sense the fanatics are after; the vivid magical world so close you can touch it, just out of reach.
Funny, in re-reading the series, I am stepping outside of my world, but I am still reading about the outsider, the Other; only here, he eventually triumphs. In my studies, it is this triumph for which I am searching, for amid the tragic figure, there is still humor, friendship, and love.
Illustration: ptEcLo from Bek Pictures on Deviant Art