Late on the bandwagon again

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First, I apologize for any incoherence in what follows. Dog’s been sick. You’ve heard that expression “Sick as a dog?” Oh yeah. I’ve had about 3 hours of sleep in the past two nights.

I feel as though I’m always late to climb onto any new bandwagon that comes along. This is particularly true where entertainment is concerned. I never heard of Firefly until it was off the air, I missed the first season of House as well as the first season of Lost, I’ve only recently started watching Battlestar Galactica and am still trying to sort out the characters, and I’ve yet to see a single episode of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, or any spin-off thereof.

The latest bandwagon onto which I’m about to belatedly climb is the Harry Potter bandwagon. I guess I could say I was once on the bandwagon but fell off: I saw the first two movies when they came out—2001 and 2002 was it? Too much hype to miss those. Mike was still living at home then and we went together. I enjoyed them, but after he left for college I rarely went to the movies alone and I didn’t see the third or fourth movies. I bought Mike the first book in the series shortly after it came out in 1997, but he never read it. I’m not sure why; he read quite a lot back then. It isn’t that he didn’t like fantasy or magic, on the contrary those were his favorite genres. Too much hype can be off-putting for Mike, or he may have decided, based on what he was hearing from classmates, that the whole Harry Potter thing was “a girl thing”. That would have killed it dead, for sure.

Anyway, I didn’t keep up with the story, the movies, the buzz. I forgot who was who. Then a couple of weeks ago, while channel surfing I landed on “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and got sucked in. I was frustrated, though, because I realized I’d missed a movie and didn’t, for example, know who Sirius Black was. So, following my usual pattern when I have missed or, in this case, fallen off a bandwagon, I used a couple of gift certificates—the certificates I earn by using an credit card—and ordered a boxed set of the four movies on DVDs. I had a Harry Potter movie marathon this past weekend.

After the holidays, I plan to use a couple more gift certificates (I use that credit card a lot) to buy all six of the Harry Potter books. I plan to read them one after the other in a Harry Potter reading marathon, because that’s the way I like to do these things. I like thick books; the thicker the better. I like to sink into a book universe and never come up for air.

I’m wondering, though, if I’ll enjoy the books, having seen the movies first. I don’t know what to expect. Mike told me his roommate is a Harry Potter fan and I asked him if Joe had mentioned whether or not the movies are true to the books. All he said was that the movies “leave stuff out”. Well sure. The books are long. But do the movies leave out good stuff because there just isn’t time to fit it all in, or are these books like those by Peter Benchley, which make good movies after screenwriters cut out all the crap? (Jaws.)

Also, are there significant differences in the characters? I’ll say up front that if the physical description of Harry Potter differs significantly from that of Daniel Radcliffe, well, fuck that. That goes for the other characters as well, including my favorite: Professor Severus Snape. But here again I worry—is he as good a character in the books, or is Alan Rickman really responsible for making Snape the ambiguous character I can’t get enough of?

My concerns aren’t without justification. During the summer after 2nd grade I read “The Wizard of Oz” nine times, after which my parents (finally, sheesh) started buying me other books in the series. Before long I had read them all. And in case you don’t already know, there’s a major difference between TWoO, the book, and TWoO, the movie. In the books, Oz is real. When Dorothy taps her heels together and says “There’s no place like home,” she summersaults onto the front lawn at Auntie Em’s place. In later books she’s able to travel back and forth between Kansas and Oz at will.

Hollywood must never have heard of sequels when the WoO movie was made. Otherwise, how to explain their having ended it the way they did? How could they possibly do a sequel? Another dream? Another bump on the head? I quickly decided that the books were The Truth and the movie was A Lie. This was my introduction to “The book is better than the movie.” It mattered to me. I was an unhappy kid, at home and at school. I wanted Oz to be real because I wanted to live there; Oz was my escape.

There are probably a lot of kids out there today who are as unhappy as I was and are self-medicating with Harry Potter books. I’m a big fan of this childhood survival strategy.


Oh my yes, this is the childhood refuge of choice for many of us. You'll enjoy the Harry Potter books in their own right, I think. That being said, Alan Rickman catapults Snape into the stratosphere, beyond his snarkiness of the books alone. Rickman is like that; it's what makes him so wonderful to watch! OTOH, I prefer Hermione in the books. YMMV!

I like the new look, btw... ;)

Thanks! I'd been wanting a new look for a long time--I never really liked the old format.

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