Thursday, March 10, 2011

So Dorky it's Cool

Reading Harry Potter was an incredible experience.  I had no idea at the beginning that these books would be so rich, and so deep.  They are classics, in every sense of the word, and Harry Potter's influence over so many millions of readers is no accident. 

Many will read the series and absolutely love the books, be swept up in the story, and have no idea how to explain "why".  They're just "so good".  But- why?

It's like a flower.  Everyone loves flowers, admires them for their beauty.  But once you study the intricate way a flower came from a seed, or bulb, in the dirt, all the changes it goes through, to become a flower, and all that needs to happen so there can be more flowers- you never look at a flower the same way again- and it's beauty in your eye increases.

This is how I feel about good books- it's how I feel about Mr. Potter and the genius of J.K. Rowling's creation.  It. is. incredible.  On the surface, it's a great story.  But digging deeper- there is so much to discover.

When I read the books, the brilliance of the storytelling drew me in and it was as if I was right there- I could see it all, and the characters became real to me.  And throughout the narrative, not only do we fall in love, but we join the story, with these brave souls to the finish-  and those with eyes to see will find a deep treasure of  literary excellence.  These books are just a professor's dream-  and we are entertained and involved from start to finish.  As C.S. Lewis says, we're instructed- and delighted.

I am planning to read through the series again, this summer*.  I will start sometime in May, reading book by book, taking notes, digging in deep to the story and the devices that make it brilliant.  If you have read the series at least once, and would like to join me, I'd love to start a group to last through the seventh book, by the end of August.  Just let me know.  We'll read a book on our own, taking notes, then come together for beverages and some deeper discussion questions etc, compiled from a couple of great books I've found for the serious re-reader.  It's so dorky it's cool.

One book I found, I was able to get from the library, and I wanted to recommend it to anyone out there that has read the books and just wants an accessible introduction into the themes, deep meaning, and literary devices used to craft the story- and it also answers many questions parents may have if their children are reading (or thinking of reading the books).  For instance, it does a great job of explaining the difference between Invocational Magic (sorcery, calling up spirits) and Incantational Magic (the kind we find in fairy tales, Narnia, Lord of the Rings- and Harry Potter).  It also dives in to how this great story is a mirror of  The Great Story, of which we are all a part, and have an essential role to play. You can read more about it here.

I thought it was a very well-informed, balanced book. I would caution though- it's spoiler-rich.  I'd highly recommend reading the books first, before diving in, but, that's me. 

*Again, if discussion of epic literature, literary alchemy, the endless literary doppelgangers, threshold characters, the qualities and requirements of classic literature, historic, religious, relational, literary and political references, cycles of death and rebirth on small and large scales, round vs. flat characters, seeking and finding identity, symbols, allusions, the hinting and uncovering of unseen things, the significance of names, edifying themes of deliverance, temperance, virtue, honor etc. is your thing- Then join me this summer.  We can make ourselves nerdy t-shirts and everything.


Justine Lueth said...

Have you read C. S. Lewis' collection of essays "On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature"? If not, I think you'd really enjoy it. I read it for a philosophy of literature class in college alongside a bunch of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien books and found it extremely well-written. It might be a nice supplement. :)

Justine Lueth said...

Actually, I was thinking about it and it might have been "Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories" by Lewis that I enjoyed so much. I can't recall which essays were in which collections. Either way, you might like to investigate them.

Eva said...

your offer is tempting... i am trying to read them aloud to terry though (b/c he will not read them himself - only likes serious, ministry related books - boring!). slow going. we started #4 again after you and i were fb-ing about HP.

Ashley said...

I am actually re-reading the series right now, and let me tell you -- the second time they're even better. While they were fun the first time, this second round is showing me just how well J.K. Rowling planned in advance. Makes her even more respectable as an author.

And now when I'm done I may have to find this other book you speak of...