So, today is both Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling’s birthday. I’ll admit, it seems excessive to celebrate the birthday of a fictional character and a woman I’ve never met, but because I just finished re-reading Half-Blood Prince, I’m seizing the opportunity to speak to my boundless adoration for J.K. Rowling and her marvelous world.
In many ways, the two months since my graduation have been marked by my rediscovery of Harry Potter. As I embarked on my first trip to Europe, I picked up where I stopped re-reading last summer and began Goblet of Fire. While in Europe, I visited the sites that brought my favorite book series to life for me. Some were obvious (Platform 9 ¾, The Harry Studio Tour, The Elephant House Café), others slightly less so (the Scottish countryside, Eilean Donan Castle, the streets of London). There is nothing quite like bringing a childhood dream to fruition, especially when it exceeds expectations. Exhilarated, I resumed my re-reading with fresh eyes on the journey home and continued upon returning.
It is no exaggeration that, in re-reading these books, I have fallen in love with storytelling all over again. Ask Chris or anyone who has spent a few hours around me in the past couple months; I haven’t gone long without praising them. It is only fitting that, following my college graduation, with so much uncertainty before me in spite of my continuing education, I should return to my lifelong favorite series. Those pages hold so much nostalgia for me. And, as I’ve said every time I re-read this series, I always find something new, be it a previously unnoticed bit of foreshadowing, an adult remark that once went over my head, or the mention of a location that I’ve now visited.
But this time, re-reading Harry Potter was something more. For the first time, I did not just lose myself in the world but also studied its construction. And far from ruining the experience, it has only heightened the magic. At a time where my own frustration with Los Angeles has forced me to question my career path, Harry Potter has reminded me why I must write, no matter what. It is likely that I will never match J.K. Rowling’s greatness, but, as I’ve said before, if my work can touch a handful of people the way this series has touched me, I will have achieved great success.
Clearly, I could go on and on about what makes these books so superb for me: the intricacy of the world, the almost-painful realness of the characters, the masterful plants and payoffs, the subtle implications of emotions and actions that are more powerful when left unspoken. But, truly, no explanation could ever pay proper homage to the impact these books have had on my life. And yet, as I lie here in bed at 3am, sneezing my head off from a bad cold and emotionally drained from the end of Half-Blood Prince, I feel compelled to say something. To at least attempt to explain how these books have been so integral to who I am as a person and who I am still becoming.
I spent my childhood roaming the halls of a paper castle, whittling away the hours with my body in one place and my mind far away. In the beginning, each corridor held new mysteries and potential allies. I was too young to understand the motivations for my inky friends’ behavior or even what it meant that a door was left “ajar.” But heart and bravery know no age. And so I lingered, spent year after year revisiting these hallways. Conjuring images more vivid than the world beyond the pages, my fictional dreams and memories encroaching on reality. When my companions ached so did I, and when I grew, so did they. And when our journey ended, I felt compelled to create worlds of my own.
I have spent many days revisiting those hallways. Over the years, much cleverer beings attempted to capture their essence, rendered it into image and sound, but nothing could hope to match the feeling of those books on my lap– the pleasant weight and woody smell. The heartache and longing and ecstasy. The promise of one more visit to my ink-and-paper home.
And though long ago, I learned that my own acceptance letter would never arrive, though I’ll never illuminate the room with an enchanted twig or soar on a hippogriff’s back, I know that magic exists, if only on the page.