(Yes, it's a Harry Potter post; no, there are no Deathly Hallows spoilers lurking within. I wouldn't do that to you.)
Five years ago I would never have imagined myself a "Pott-head" - to borrow Susie Bright's coinage. I had read the first Harry Potter book, at the urging of my law-school roommate Ellen - a staunch fan - and I'd found it disappointing after all I'd heard about the books.
My first exposure to the phenomenon had come much earlier, in 1998 or so, when the series was not yet a series. A small little boy, a son of a post-doc in the lab I was working in, asked me "Do you know Harry Potter?"
"No," I said brightly, leaning down to make eye contact with the little guy. "Who's Harry Potter?"
The look of contempt on that little face is something I will not soon forget.
So the first book made little impression on me when I first read it in the late spring of 2002. A while later, maybe six months or so, I was in an airport with nothing to do and so I bought a paperback copy of the second installment, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and devoured it on my trip. This book was better than the first, much darker and scarier - little kids were gravely injured - and I felt myself getting hooked.
I reread the first one, and then it was over - I was a Pott-head. I bought books 3 and 4 - also in paperback - on the same day, and read them quickly enough to buy book 5, the prolix Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, in its first hardback printing. And I re-read the entire series before book 6, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, was released.
I've appreciated many things about the series, in spite of it also having some weaknesses. Its characters are characters - they are exaggerated, entertaining, totemic and engaging all at once. Its threads are cleverly wrought, and its universe complex and internally consistent. Its themes and its bestiary of monsters and villains reflect J.K. Rowling's knowledge of literature and mythology. Add to that J.K. Rowling's Dickensian gift for naming her characters - Malfoy, Umbridge, Lestrange, Riddle - and the result is a series that is just a delight to read. Well, not so much read as devour, as even volumes I've read before are exceedingly difficult to put down once begun.
And so I found myself drawn into the excitement that preceded the release of the seventh and final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I didn't advance order a copy of the book or attend any pre-release parties, but I was excited nonetheless, looking forward to finding out how the story ended. I re-read book 6 - and liked it more the second time around - formulated my theories about who would die and who would be redeemed, who RAB is, what the seventh horcrux would turn out to be, and whether Harry and Ginny or Ron and Hermione would ever get their romantic acts together (and whether they should), and settled in patiently to wait for the pandemonium to die down.
Then something happened. The book saw its release late Friday night, and I spent all day Saturday and Sunday in a tense panic. I was gripped by a paranoia - a Mad-Eye Moody paranoia - that I would be accidentally spoiled, that I'd overhear a conversation in Starbucks or click on somebody's blog and it would be all over.
I found that I did not want to know how the story ended until I found out for myself. And I realized that I just couldn't wait - the longer I waited, the greater the chance that I'd stumble upon some horrible piece of spoiler information and the experience of reading the book would never be the same.
So, on Sunday evening, I headed into Brookline Booksmith and bought myself a copy. I spent about two and a half hours reading that evening, and then another two this morning when I started awake at 5:00 AM from dreams of Harry Potter characters bursting out of my new kitchen cabinets. Now I'm about halfway through, and I can't wait to get home and finish it up.
Yep, I have to admit - I'm a Pott-head.