Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What I did over my Christmas break

I have a five-day weekend and what do I do? I get sick. It was not fun.

For my entire Christmas holiday, I was stuck in the house not really wanting to eat anything and drinking more tea than is probably healthy (is that possible?). The time not spent drinking tea, coughing, sneezing and trying to clear my nose, I spent reading the Mark Reads Harry Potter blog.

I am no longer so obsessed with Harry Potter as I once was, though I do admit, I still can’t seem to avoid rereading at least one of the books every once in a while, though perhaps not cover to cover. Still, I no longer feel like someone’s personally offended me when they say Harry and Hermione are in love (though I do wish Steve Kloves never wrote that dancing scene in Deathly Hallows, Part 1) and I have given up trying to analyse Percy's betrayal or prove to anyone that Ron and Hermione, Ginny and Harry are OTPs.

Unlike when I first started reading Harry Potter back in grade 7, when it was still a relative novelty, right now, the entire pop culture is just so drenched in Harry Potter things, that it’s no longer bizarre to see people walking around in long black robes or wearing Gryffindor scarves. They sell t-shirts like this online and you can wear it around and no one would blink or even comment. “Muggle” is now an official word in the Oxford Dictionary and you have the so-called music genre of wizard rock. Sometimes, when you are so used to the fact that you can now go to the Harry Potter theme park to drink butterbeer that it becomes rather hard to imagine someone who doesn’t have any idea of what a butterbeer is. (Frankly the first time I saw the name of this drink, it grossed me out a bit). It’s kind of like you’re so immersed in the wizarding world that it’s become strange to be confronted with the ignorance of Muggles.

Yet precisely because all of this, it becomes such an enlightening and liberating experience when you read about someone else who is experience all this magic for the very first time.

Mark blogged about his experience reading the Harry Potter series, starting back in May and he had now finished the seven-book series. The point of interest is that, of course, he had very limited exposure to the series before diving into it. He knows so little about the HP when he first started that he wonders whether to be offended by the word “Muggle” and whether it’s meant to be racist. He looks at the cover of the American edition of Sorcerer’s Stone and calls the Snitch an “egg with wings”. As one of his commentors said, he is literally Harry, walking into this entirely new world and blogging about it.

It’s very amusing to read his reviews of the first few chapters of Sorcerer’s Stone but it also just makes me marvel at JKR once more at how much foreshadowing, subtext and clues she’s littering throughout the whole of the exposition of the first book. There are things that are never revealed until Book 7. Really, she was’t kidding when she said she was planning all seven books in tandem with writing the first.

I have to admit, the fact that I actually read the first half of the series backward (in the following order: Book 4 then 3 then 2 then 1), when I actually read Sorcerer’s Stone for the first time, I was spoiled for a lot of the little clues that JKR was giving. So it’s an entirely new experience for me to read about jumping into the first chapter of Sorcerer’s Stone with no prior information whatsoever. This and the fact that I have now read the entire series also makes me rather torn between amusement and almost annoyance at how Mark seems rather dismissive of things like owls, shooting stars, animagus, Hagrid, and thinks Harry being an orphan is simply a plot device. The entire review of the first chapter is a massive case of famous last words. Very funny, and borderline annoying. 

Then again, I suppose I do have to excuse Mark’s harsher reviews at the beginning, seeing as he came to reading HP after reading and blogging Twilight. After the shallow puddle that is Twilight, it must be pretty mindblowing to switch to the depth of Harry’s world, where nothing is as it seems and *gasp* rules of magic don’t contradict themslves to suit to plot! It’s so easy on the first read to dismiss the Brazilian boa constrictor episode as just pointless children’s fantasy, but oh, what a massive, as JKR would say, anvil-sized foreshadowing hint that was!

I was initially turned off by the very frequent swearing, but had to get over that, because reading this blog is like reading Harry Potter for the first time all over again, but better, because as I said, I came into the HP series backward. I was spoiled for a lot of things. Even with books 5 and 6  I was spoiled for a lot of things. I think the only book I wasn’t spoiled for was book 7 and that was because it was the only book to be released in Vietnam at the same time as in the UK and USA. But for Mark, this an entire new world, an entire new language. We forget that we have been learning the language over the course of the series being released, but Mark is being hit over the head left and right with words that in the beginning, mean nothing to him - Quiditch, Gryffindor, Slytherin, Muggles...

It’s great, because despite his initial reservations, Mark totally falls in love with the series as it goes on, and still points out the stylish flaws along the way, which when I was reading it, I was probably too caught up to notice. It becomes rather obvious when you look back at it that the books have a rather formulaic structure. It starts with Harry at the Dursley’s, being miserable and then inevitably ends with rather big infodump chapter(s) with lots of talking and tying up of loose ends.

I have to admit that I love this blog even more because Mark has such similar reactions to me on certain things. He loves Lupin too! I can’t describe how much I love Remus Lupin throughout the entire HP series, how disappointed I was that he wasn’t given as much exposure as I wanted and how distraught I was when JKR killed him. I didn’t cry when either Sirius or Dumbledore died, but I really was tearing up when Lupin died. I would have been bawling if I wasn’t on an airplane at the time. Not to mention, Mark ships R/Hr and H/G!!! He appreciates just how awesome Ginny really is! There are few people I know in real life who appreciates Ginny, not only because her character is absolutely assissinated by Kloves in the movies (I have a rather huge grudge against Steve Kloves that I won't go into), so it’s always good to be assured that I’m not the only one on Team Ginny. Not, of course, that I know Mark in real life or ever will.

Well, I think it’s time for me to stop gushing about Mark and his incredible blog. Just go read it.