Sunday, July 22, 2007

Harry Potter and the Uninterested Person

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By now, Harry Potter’s either dead or he isn’t. So far, I’m sleeping fine either way.

The long-awaited last volume in J.K. Rowling’s seven-book series hit store shelves this weekend with the finality of a 1.8-pound hardcover novel being dropped onto a kid ages 9 to 12. At last! After nine years and 4,149 pages, everybody and their cross-dressing uncle will know if the tousle-haired boy wizard has the strength to defeat the evil warlock who killed his parents: Darth Vader.

What?

Oh. Whoever.

Also pleasing to “Harry Potter” fans: the fifth movie is now in theaters, “Harry Potter and the Inordinate Phoenix.” In it, Harry travels to Arizona, where he samples local culture and cuisine, marvels at the hot climate yet relatively low humidity, and uses his psychic mojo to solve crimes. In the end, he’s so good at it that he wins a scooter! Right? What kid doesn’t like a scooter!

Excuse me?

Not in Arizona, you say? No mention of scooters at all, you say? I see.

Sorry about this, folks. I really wanted to explore the whole “Harry Potter” phenomenon for you, I really did. I’m just not into it. Not even a little.

Actually, something about “Harry Potter” makes me want to hufflepuff all over my shoes, but that’s neither here nor there — the point is, I have a duty to inform! And this is the weekend to do it! Across the globe, millions of people are tapping into the “Harry Potter” magic, and “Harry Potter” is magically tapping them of $25. I’d be remiss if I didn’t write about this.

I even started the research, true and proper! I read the first two books! Six years ago.

Meh. They were OK.

Never felt like reading the others.

I haven’t seen any of the movies, but I did see a trailer for the latest one on TV — I caught it between two other, more interesting commercials.

I even probed the darkest, moistest crevices of Wikipedia.org to learn the true facts about the books. Did you know that “the publication of ‘Goblet of Fire’ caused unprecedented heights of Pottermania to be reached internationally [citation needed]”? It’s true. To this day, the Pottermania-meter is still busted.

But for all those minutes of research, I still can’t muster any enthusiasm for “Harry Potter.” You know what the Pottermania-meter would register if you held it up to me? Probably 3 or 4 Pottervolts. That’s it.

Keep in mind, I’m not begrudging anybody else their “Potter” enjoyment. Go ahead — buy the book, watch the movie, practice your “parseltongue.” Go draw a lightning bolt scar on your forehead with a Sharpie even though it’s permanent ink and you’re 43 years old. Knock yourself out. I’m just saying I can’t get into it — and it sort of bothers me. Just a little.

I’ve been trying, this past week, to pin down exactly why I should be bothered. Ordinarily, popular trends wash over me, and I stand in the midst of them, completely dry, unaffected, undisturbed. Anybody who’s seen the lousy way I dress can verify this.

But the release of the final installment in the largest publishing phenomenon ever? That’ll happen once in my lifetime, unless some other longwinded, pedestrian book series comes along. And who’s to say lightning will strike twice that way? This could be my only chance to connect with millions of people worldwide, and here I am, totally lukewarm about the whole thing.

Maybe I’m just responding to the fact that author J.K. Rowling is making unfathomable sums of money, right now — as in, if you crane your neck slightly east you’ll hear a giant sucking sound of cash flowing toward her castle in Edinburgh.

Maybe I’m just old and cranky.

No, that’s not it.

The best reason I can come up with for being so immune to Pottermania is because Harry isn’t the sort of person I want to care about. From what I’ve read, he’s a rich jock who, like most rich jocks, gets all the attention. Not true? He’s got a vault full of gold coins, he’s apparently the best Quidditch player anybody’s ever seen, and he’s got his name on the book cover. Boom. Rich jock.

Slate Magazine does a more eloquent job excoriating Harry than I could: read on.

I’d probably have more interest in the recent “Harry Potter” hysteria if he were less like A-Rod and more like me: snide, lousy at sports, works for a living, eats too much cheese. I wouldn’t mind the scarf, so we’ll keep that.

In fact, that gives me a fantastic idea. Now that there aren’t any more “Harry Potter” books, I can fill the void! All I need is a catchy name, a couple of sidekicks and a good agent, and we have the next book craze:

“Reginald Magicpants and the Mysterious Secret”!

Just brainstorming here: Reginald is a little boy who lives with his mean relatives in a three-decker tenement. One day, while Reginald is in front of the TV, eating cheese, a strange, massive, hairy visitor knocks at the door — we’ll call this person “Tia Jorgina.” Anyway, she whisks Reginald Magicpants away to learns wizardry at Goofblunder County Regional Community College of Magic. While Reginald is there, he comes upon the title’s Mysterious Secret — a secret so mysterious it’s been kept secret for centuries by a mysterious, secret group whose very existence is a mystery shrouded in secrecy. There’s a whole “middle of the book” thing I haven’t come up with yet, but at the end, Reginald defeats the bad guy.

Or does he…?

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