Harry & Me: The Sorceror’s Drone

When I think about why I was at first resistant to reading the Harry Potter series, I think it all came down to magic.

I had never been a big fan of magic as a storytelling device. As a comic book fan, I had always found Doctor Strange impossibly lame. As a reader of fiction, while I took several stabs at reading The Chronicles of Narnia (never getting past the first chapter or so of Prince Caspian), I avoided things like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I paged through the novels of Terry Brooks because my best friend at the time was reading them, but on balance I was a kid who stayed on the Science Fiction side of the Sci-Fi/Fantasy divide. I was all about Star Wars and Transformers and Voltron. Witches and wizards bored me to tears. They still do, in many ways. Ask me whether I’d rather have my toenails torn off one-by-one or sit in a room with my wife while she watches Charmed and I’d tell you, “Boy, that’s a tough one.”

I’ve never really been able to put my finger on why this was and is, but it something I keep trying to figure out.

What finally wore me down when it came to reading Harry Potter was a coworker’s insistence that, at its core, the series wasn’t as much about magic as it was about a kid coming of age. And so, on a summer afternoon in 2001, I walked down the road from my office on Tremont to the Borders on School Street, and I picked up a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone in paperback.

Within a day or two, I was back at that same Borders, buying a copy of Chamber of Secrets. And in the next two weeks, I found myself devouring the series like Galactus devouring planets after a hunger strike. If I finished a book on the morning train to Boston, I actually took a fifteen minute break mid-morning to go down to Borders and buy the next book so that I could maximize my reading time come lunch. When I finished Goblet of Fire, the last book available at the time, I had no idea what to do with myself. The next book wasn’t due out for another year at least.

So, how did Harry succeed with me when so many other tales of magic had failed? I think it really did have to do with the fact that, as my coworker had insisted, the books were not as much about magic as they were about a kid struggling to deal not only with his own identity, but with the identity of his family. The Potter series was not just about who Harry was and who he was destined to become. It was also about where he came from, and who he came from, and my coworker, perhaps knowing how interested I was in matters of family history, knew that these elements of the story would be the ones that hooked me and that, gradually, I would come to terms with the fact that the setting of the book was a magical one.

To Be Continued…

Next week: “Harry Potter and the Well of Wish Fulfillment”. And, coming soon, “Everything I Need To Know, I Learned From Fighting a Mountain Troll”.