Shortly after Mr. and Mrs. Girl visited Seattle, Maggie wrote about her husband’s hithertofore secret addiction to Harry Potter on her website. I dropped her a note to sympathize:
Me: If we’d known our spouses shared the same affliction we could have gotten them going on Harry Potter and then slipped off to catch a movie.
Maggie: The Queen too, eh?
Me: And how. Fortunately she has lots of friends who also suffer the ravages of Pottermania, so I am spared the coerced conversations. But if she ever decides to attend an event that starts with some word coined by J.K. Rowlings and ends in “-con,” we should get together, the four of us, and stage a group intervention.
Maggie: If you think Bryan would help us stage a Potter intervention, you’re nuts. They’d be much more likely to overcome us, tie us to a sofa, and read aloud until our eyes glazed over.
Me: No no, by “group intervention” I meant you and I could get intervention for both of them at the same time. I figure we could get better rates that way.
Maggie: Bulk-rate Harry Potter intervention … now there’s a potential gold mine.
Me: Hey, yeah. We could stage a fake convention called MuggleCon or ConWeasley or somesuch, and people would urge their Potter-addled loved-ones to get all dressed up and go. And then, after everyone arrives, we would seal the doors and have a bunch of specialists would come in and intervene the shit out of everyone. PROFIT!
Maggie: However, as a conscientious business partner, I should point out that we could make a lot more money just organizing Mugglecon, and then robbing people blind for stuffed toy owls and boxed lunches. Of course, it would be tough to shower away the stench of shame afterwards…
The sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, had been released at the time I wrote this, but I hadn’t read it. Nor did I plan to. I’d read the first five books, but Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix was so dreadful that I swore off the series forever.
But then I found myself between novels, and Half-Blood Prince was laying around our house, and I figured I’d just read a few chapters to tide me over until my next trip to the library. And then …
Um, intervention for three, please.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is easily the best of the series, and the first I thoroughly enjoyed reading. And I’ll tell you why, too: J.K. Rowling’s publisher finally decided to assign her an editor. Her fourth and fifth books (Goblet of Fire and the aforementioned Order of the Phoenix) were released at the height of her popularity, at it was clear that no one dared edit The Sacred Word of Potter; as the result the books were long, rambling, unfocused, and boring. Worse, Rowling decided to make Harry act like a teen in the last few books, apparently forgetting that everyone hates teens for good reason. Half-Blood, on the other hand, while only slightly shorter in length than the previous book, has a much tighter narrative, one in which every scene actually advances the storyline (unlike earlier novel, where entire chapters could have been excised). And Harry stops acting so insufferable, so the whole thing doesn’t come across as a 800 page LiveJournal entry.
I’d recommend you read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The problem is that I cannot, in good conscious, recommend you read all the books that come before it.
So here’s my Harry Potter Reading Plan, similar in spirit to my How To Watch The Star Wars Prequels primers.
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: The book is relatively short and you’ll breeze through it in a couple of bus rides, so you might as well read it. It’s enjoyable in a “kids book” kind of way, even though I was pissed that the “logic puzzle” the kids have to solve doesn’t make a goddamned bit of sense. The movie was also okay, though if you’ve seen any of the Lord of the Rings flicks you are bound to be disappointed. Just read the book, you pansy.
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: If you read the first novel, you’ve already read this one too, as it has pretty much the same plot structure. The film too is rather lackluster. My advice: skip them both, read the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Wikipedia entry and call it a day.
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: I actually liked this one quite a bit, and it was my favorite before I read Half-Blood Prince. Rowling starts introducing darker themes, and drops the standard Scooby-Doo plotline that she structed the first two novels around. The film is also pretty good, so take your pick.
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Oh dear, here’s where everything goes pear-shaped. Entirely too long and utterly lacking in internal consistency, Goblet of Fire contains a couple of important revelations, but the story arc as a whole is sound + fury = nothing. Paradoxically, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the best of the four movies, so watch that instead.
- Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix: AVOID. There’s no film yet but the Wikipedia page is exhaustive, so just read that.
Follow the above steps, read the surprisingly, um, readable Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and against your better judgement you’ll find yourself actually looking forward to the next and last book in the series, due to be released next year. I know I am.
Now, if I could only get this stench of shame out of my clothing.