My first encounter with Harry Potter was well into the series, when HBO showed the first movie and the second had just come out on DVD. I had never read the books — I was above all that silliness, that crass commercialism. I didn’t know about the magic.
It was a time when my life was falling apart again. My mother had died, I was estranged from the rest of my family, I was disabled, jobless, with a son to raise and no hope of any future that didn’t include the term baglady.
I just happened to turn on the television on a rainy day, my favorite kind of weather, to see the opening: Dumbledore capturing the lighting on Privet Lane. I fell into it, I was Harry: a child removed by the unfairness of it all from my true place in the world, left with barbarous and insensitive people to live, somehow.
And then the discovery: there is another world, a world of magic and light, yes, but more than that, a world where love, hope, fun, delight — in short, happiness — is waiting for us, for me. From that day, I have often said, wistfully, I want to go to Hogwarts!
When the movie was over, I went out and bought the two DVDs and the books that were available. I joined the fans who bought the books on the first day as they came out. I knew they were badly written, but I didn’t care. My favorite pronouncement on the Harry Potter books was, JK Rowling is a terrible writer, but she’s a fabulous storyteller!
The wizarding world grew darker and darker, mirroring our own world. Rowling, the pied piper, lead us into the destructive, life-killing forces of racism, aristocratic thinking, lust, bullying, and fascism that threat our own Muggle world. I didn’t like the penultimate book, The Half-Blood Prince at all.
But I wasn’t supposed to — darkest before the dawn and all that.
Harry, Hermione, Ron and all the others brought me deep into a magical rendering of the way we live now: a world corrupt with despair and hopelessness, run by bought-off politicians and the hidden, dark practitioners who hold their strings. They brought me into that world, and in this final chapter Rowling has brought me out again, crying through the last pages with happiness and recognition, as the best books will have me do.
Rowling brought me so low into the place where the Dark Arts live that I could not believe miracles or magic could save anything. I had to read The Deathly Hallows, but I was certainly afraid to. It has left me renewed, even restored. I feel better about the world than I have in a long time. And this time, I will say the story is as well-written as it is well-told.
I am on the other side of middle age. Not the target audience for the Harry Potter books. But they have saved me, a little. Like Dumbledore’s Deluminator, the books have re-illuminated my world; I can be happy here.
Thank you, Ms. Rowling.