Thursday, July 28, 2005

Kim writes:

If you've read this blog and Cynthia's detailed entries over the past week, you just may be wondering "Does Kim ever work at the shop?" or "What does she do with her time, anyway?" Those'd be fair questions. I do work at the shop, in fact I was just there yesterday. I just haven't written about it yet. My time over the past two weeks has been taken up by something far more important, far more wonderful than any old shop.

People who know me won't be surprised by this, but to understand what I've been doing you first need to know that I have a slightly obsessive personality. It's true. Think about this: I took my first quilting class in 2000 and owned the shop by 2003. That's obsessive. Maybe more than slightly.

I rarely become interested in anything halfway. Whatever I'm involved with seems to expand to fill my entire life. This makes it very easy to be a good shop owner and teacher, because I'm passionate about what I do and can convey that passion to my customers and students, but sometimes I become more than a little sidetracked by other things.

My current obsession is actually a reemergence of something that I have been following since 1998. It pre-dates quilting. It's been a pleasant preoccupation over the years, something to spend a little time on now and again, but it has only become a full-blown, raging obsession over the past couple of weeks. This one's serious. Over the past couple weeks I've thought about little else. I've spent almost all my free time reading about it, researching it on the internet, writing about it, having delightfully long conversations about it with other obsessives, and even dreaming about it.

What could be so captivating that it would dominate my waking (and sleeping) life? You may have heard of it: a little series of books about a wizard named Harry Potter. If you've read the books, especially the most recent, you're probably nodding your head in understanding. (In which case, if you want to chat about it, do stop by the store. I'd love to talk to you.) But if you haven't read the books, it may be a little hard to understand how a series of children's books can send a supposedly mature 30-something woman around the bend.

I've always been a big reader. When I was a child, I'd finish one book and immediately start another. It's always been easy to immerse myself in an imaginary world and make myself at home there. But rarely, in all my years of reading, have I found myself in a world as imaginative, as fully developed, with so many wonderful characters to care for, as J.K. Rowling's wizarding world.

Has there ever been a series of kids' books that has ensnared so many grown-ups? Separate adult versions of the books have been released in the U.K.--the only difference is in the cover. I've seen many adults reading these books in public, including some who tried to hide their interest in a kid's book by covering it in brown paper. Many book critics have tried to find a parallel to adult works, proclaiming this or that book "Harry Potter for grown-ups." Stephen King had the best response to them: "I'm thankful that 'Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell', by Susanna Clarke, was almost as good as its lyrical first reviews...but it's not Harry Potter for grown-ups, as so many of them said. Harry Potter is Harry Potter for grown-ups, you dweebs."

Rowling's vision has transcended the scope of traditional kids' books. This isn't a normal children's series in which each book can stand alone. Rowling's books are multi-layered and interconnected. A minor detail in one book becomes a major plot point in another. Each book builds upon the next creating connections that are fully realized only later in the series. As Harry's grown the books have grown with him, becoming deeper and darker, emphasizing universal themes--good vs. evil, love, choice, redemption, friendship--that resonate and remind us of, without preaching, what matters. Plus, Rowling has a wonderful imagination and sense of humor. These books are just plain fun.

I've loved these books so much that I finally managed to convince my husband to read them this year. How did he like them? Let's just say that midnight on July 16th (the release date for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) found my normally sensible, stable, reasonable, engineer husband standing in line at Wegmans with me to get our copy. I tried to read the book slowly but finished by Sunday the 17th. Kevin finished by Thursday. I'm actually re-reading the whole series again, looking for clues I missed earlier, based on the new information from this one.

The release of the seventh, and last, book will be bittersweet. As much as I want to learn about Harry and his friends (and the fate of the wizarding world), it will be hard to close this chapter of my life. Good books can do that--transport you to another world and make you believe in them. Based on that criteria, Rowling's Harry Potter books are some of the best.

If nothing else, I hope that, if you've been wavering about reading these books, I've managed to push you over the edge. Go ahead, try a chapter or two. You won't become obsessed. I promise.

(But if you do, at least you'll have two years to catch up before the last one is published.)

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