Reading Rights

Magdalena Waz

Harry Potter. A name recognized and loved by the vast majority of people in our age group and one moving back into the spotlight with the upcoming release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One” in theaters Nov. 19.
I still remember my first foray into midnight book release territory, standing giddy with my best friend in a Borders on 95th street in Chicago, trying to remember all of the rumors we had heard and assumptions we had made about J.K. Rowling’s fifth book, “The Order of the Phoenix.” On the way home we tried to read by the light of streetlamps. Their yellow light slid down the page and we could only get in a few sentences before we were plunged into darkness at intervals.
In the summer of 2007 before my freshman year of college, during a flood of graduation and going away parties, my friend and I sat for hours in the basement of the Borders on Michigan Avenue. We were first and second in line, still hotly debating whether or not Snape had been acting on Dumbledore’s orders, and I was answering trivia questions meant for 5-year-olds.
All of this is tied directly to my experiences reading the books themselves. I don’t have those same associations with seeing the movies in theaters even though I’ve always gone to the midnight release or right after school got out.
Maybe there was a bucket of popcorn involved, maybe I stood in line – nervous with a ticket stub in hand. But what I do remember are feelings of indignation as I watched people in the theater actually enjoying themselves, and I realized that this was a spectacle for some people removed from the world dedicated to the reading of the books.
I was not there to enjoy myself. I was there to keep up with what was going on in the larger world of Harry Potter, and of course, to critique. In 2001 – as a 12-year-old – I perceived something sinister in the adaptation of these books into film. And as time went on, I noticed that the crowds at these premieres were changing significantly.
It didn’t matter anymore whether the films were in any way true to the books. The film version of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” felt satisfied with the two-second-long inclusion of Kreacher, for which Rowling had to argue before the release of the seventh book proved that he was an indispensable house elf.
Now, with the release of the first part of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” looming near, it is difficult for me to imagine how the story will be able to backtrack and include all of those snippets of information that Steve Kloves and Michael Goldenberg decided were trivial the first few times around. Of course, I’m writing nothing new here. Everyone knows that a film can’t in a tolerable amount of time capture the full scope of a book, but I wonder, as someone who is fully entrenched in the world of the books themselves, whether or not there is a difference between the way I experience both the films and the books and the way someone who only knows the stories in the films experiences them.
And right now, it’s too late to implore you last few to catch up on your Harry Potter reading. Chances are that you’re probably too old to truly join in. But keep in mind that as you settle into your seat next Thursday night, right before midnight with a bucket of popcorn, you are not watching the seventh book brought to life. You are watching a patchwork of scenes that are meant to evoke the whole but routinely stop short of getting it right.