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Why I’ve Never Read Harry Potter and the Deathly Stone of Secrets

For some reason, many of my friends seem to believe that I’ve read all the Harry Potter books. For the most part I play along, not wanting to get into any confrontational situations. I don’t want to step on my friends dainty toes and I don’t want them stomping all over mine.

Kids these days…. Credit: baloo-baloosnon-politicalcartoonblog.blogspot.com

In truth, I once tried to read the first book, but didn’t get to far. I must have been around ten years old. I’d seen the first (and possibly the second?) movie, but for some reason I had assumed that the book would be way too smart, and boyish and difficult for me to handle. Then one day, my  younger brother’s (probably unread) copy was lying around, so I picked up and started reading. I was actually pretty impressed. It wasn’t above my reading level. And I actually liked it.

But then an unforeseen predicament arose. I got bored. Reading it felt too easy. I’m not really sure what this means, or what it meant to ten-year-old me, but I distinctly remember feeling unchallenged and putting it down and never picking it up again. I don’t even know where this copy is to date. My family does not (and has never) owned any of the other Harry Potter books. My siblings and I are perhaps the only products of our generation, living in North America, who have not read this cultural phenomenon of a series.

I am very entertained by the fact that, because I’m ‘a reader’ and a future English major, my peers assume I commiserate in their love and admiration for Harry Potter. I think that our interpretation of these facts about me are a little off base. The way see it, the facts that I’m ‘a reader’ and a future English major are why I have still snobbishly avoided reading this series. I also I have better books to spend quality time with.

Along the same lines is this little scenario: Knowing that I read, a girl in my gap year program asked me if I’ve read Fifty Shades of Grey. She was literally aghast when I told her I hadn’t and made a general inquisition to those in the lunchroom, beginning with the question, “Okay, who here’s a reader”.

Really, this was the cutest thing I’ve ever witnessed. I’m sorry — very, very sorry — but the term ‘books’ is not synonymous with the term ‘literature’. The fact that someone reads a lot means nothing in my highly pretentious mind. And to me, Harry Potter is not literature. (Although, I will be the first to admit that Anne of Green Gables, i.e. my most favouritest book in the world, is not really literature either. But that’s entirely different. Obviously.)

Anyways, going back to “HP”, I find it very entertaining to think about how far back my snobbery goes. Even as a little kid I was pretentious with regards to reading material. Sorry, the little hipster in me seemed to say, this is just too mainstream. This was before I was conditioned to be pretentious and judgmental in order to feel good about myself and my life-choices. This was before I even started reading real literature — what already was I reading back then? Junie B. Jones? Little House on the Prairie? And yet, I closed Harry Potter and the Something or Other a few pages in, already thinking that it was just not good enough for me.

Of course, it’s not like I’ve ever read the books, so I can’t truly comment on this without coming off and kind of ignorant — and seeming ignorant is something I try to avoid when possible. Which is why I’m choosing this forum to make my somewhat pointless point. Real life conversations about such things freak me out. I don’t know how to think on the spot and then make my mouth say the things it should. I’m terribly afraid to offend people and spit all over their personal preferences and tastes when we’re face to face. And they tend to respond to my points, because apparently that’s how conversations work.

Also, I try not to ruin my friends’ illusions about my commiseration in their fandom. And I’m pretty good at playing along. I think my brother and I had a marathon of all the movies a few years ago (although I really can’t recall how the series ends, maybe I didn’t make it to the end) so I do know enough to keep up. One of my good friends even sends me Mean Girls/Harry Potter mash-ups on a regular basis, knowing how much I love the former and probably assuming I feel the same about the latter.

So, to be very open with you, this post is in response to situations I keep finding myself in. My friends (and teachers and teachers’ children) here keep finding out that I’ve never read these darned books and they are always being so shocked about it. So this is my crummy rebuttal that the people to whom this response is directed probably won’t even get. But those of you on my side will get it. And I much prefer preaching to the choir over preaching to the ignorant masses anyways.

Dear me, let us be elegant or die.

Little Women was almost ruined for me before I even read it. Which is such a shame, because now that I have read it it’s one of my favourite books.

Let Us Be Elegant or Die

How pretty! From chickylovit on Etsy

It all started when I was younger (I don’t recall how young,  but sometime between grade three and four perhaps? ). There is this woman who’s friends with my family, but we only see her on occasion. Every time we did see her, she’d bring us presents of some sort. While I was a late reader my love of reading began years ago when I was in grade three, and I guess this woman knew that because she would always give me books. Now, books are never a good option as a gift. Unless you know someone very well, it’s difficult to know what they’d like to read. You’d want to get them a book they’ve yet to read, but how would you know if they’ll even like it? Their are a few “universals” that of course everyone must love, but likely the recipient has either read this book already or they will of course be the one person who doesn’t care for that book. Moral of the rant: don’t buy books for a random friend’s child if you have no idea what they may or may not care to read.

This woman would always bring me books that she obviously bought for less than five dollars at a second-hand bookshop. Look, it was a very sweet gesture, and I’m sure she had the best intentions. Presumably she saw some books that she thought I’d love and picked them up for me, hoping to introduce me to some great, classic-y books. But, of course, she knew little about me and my taste in books so she always managed to miss the mark. Not to mention the fact that even if she had given me Jane freaking Austen at that time in my life I wouldn’t have read it, as I was still partially in the Junie B. Jones  stage of my life.

I can only remember a few of the books she brought me over the years, as I mostly just skimmed through them. There was a lot of Nancy Drew, with which she thoroughly missed the mark. I vaguely remember reading through a few of them, but I remember not liking them at all and in the first place I have no use for Mysteries. I’m not even sure if these were the original Nancy Drew books, (although after a quick google search, which led me to this wikipedia article, I’m even more confused about the series as a whole… and it’s authorship… I’m also even more sure that I don’t care to try these books again). I believe there was also a copy of Jane Eyre at some point, but I have reason to believe it was an “abridged” (read “massacred”) edition. There was  a picture with a girl on a horse on the cover. I don’t think I so much as opened it. (For the reference, since that time I have read the real Jane Eyre and loved it.)

“Great” (not) Illustrated Classics. Photo credit: http://www.greatillustratedclassics.com

And speaking of books that have been murdered because people thought it might be fun to re-write them in their own words for the sake of little children’s reading pleasure, she also bought me Little Women, butchered with care by Great Illustrated Classics. I really wanted to read this book and I really wanted to like it. The problem is that even in this new and improved (yes that is biting sarcasm) edition, I was still too stupid to understand what was going on. I didn’t really get the social conventions, historical context or pseudo-old fashioned  language. I even revisited it a few times once I was older, but I never really got into it.

The problem with this and other such books is that they’re kind of like spark notes (which I do not endorse… like, what’s the opposite of endorsement?), but, if possible, they’re worse. Yes, I would go as far as to say worse. It’s almost exclusively summary (the absolute epitome of cringe-worthy “telling not showing”), but unlike spark notes, whose sole purpose is so you don’t have to read the book, these you actually have to sit through the entire thing! Furthermore, the entire point isn’t what happened, but how it happened! Every single part that I adored in the real book was absent in the “abridged” version! Who cares that they went to a party, that doesn’t matter, what matters is that “Meg’s high-heeled slippers were very tight and hurt her, though she would not own it, and Jo’s nineteen hairpins all seemed stuck straight into her head, which was not exactly comfortable, but, dear me, let us be elegant or die.”I say, if  child is too young to read a real classic, they should wait until they are old enough to appreciate it. There is no need for such mass murder of brilliant prose.

Thankfully, I ended up reading the real book this past summer. Click here to read my thoughts on the real thing.

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