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Novel Curiosity: Life as a Speed-Reader

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?” Dumbledore, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”

Sitting on my floor, sifting through my Harry Potter shrine, I thumb through decade old article cut-outs, toy action figures, Quidditch playing cards, unopened “Chocolate Frogs” and “Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Bean.” Giggling, I scan my original Quidditch match drawings, elaborate theories (Draco was really Harry’s brother?) and alternative endings (Dumbledore adopts Harry?) I felt that familiar tugging need to submerge myself in the real thing.

But no. I have a college essay to write, I can’t spend the day before Thanksgiving rereading Harry Potter.

But, I know my character flaws. Just as Harry’s bravery gets the best of him sometimes, once I begin reading a book. I physically can’t put it down.

In third grade I discovered Goosebumps, the children’s horror fiction series by R.L. Stine, and quickly unearthed my fast paced obsession into reading. If I began a book, put it down; it would consume my thoughts for hours. Frightening me, tapping into my imagination, surrounding my thoughts with horror.

But as the stories became darker, a miraculous thing occurred: I became a speed-reader. I simply could no longer read and put the book down–the dangerous plot forced me to read the entire novel in a single sitting. Goosebumps, known for their happy, yet strange, twist endings calmed my racing heart. For example, in My Hairiest Adventure, protagonist Larry is frightened by uncontrollable hair growth and local animal’s violent behavior towards him. But, as my 9-year-old imagination raced through the pages to the twist ending, the story concluded that Larry was actually a real dog, temporarily transformed into a human. By speed-reading to the end, I dissolved my fears and laughed at the ridiculousness of the twist.

After I read all sixty-two Goosebumps books, I rapidly dashed through thirty Laura Ingall’s Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series,

fourteen of Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series,Gregory Maquire’s alternative fairy-tale stories Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, Son of a Witch, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and Mirror, Mirror.

Soon, my late-night flashlight adventures into fantasy worlds prompted my optometrist to outfit me with contacts, for my 12-year-old eyesight was diminishing.

Through my new contacts, I gazed at my library’s Scholastic posters: “Harry and Hermione Love to Read! Reading is Fun!” soon joining the throngs of 6th graders and plunging into the wizarding world. As my height increased, I continued to turn the page, J.K. Rowling’s creative descriptions riddled with hidden clues all the while stimulating my imagination. Despite my eagerness to pay rapt attention at each Potter midnight book release, I yawned through my plastic circular glasses, proudly carrying my flute cleaner as my own “dragon-heartstring wand.”

Yet something happened as my teenage years flew by.

I aged alongside Harry.

Although true fans know Harry was born July 31, 1980 (same day as Rowling!) Harry and his friends are my age.

Rowling slowly released all seven novels coinciding parallel to my age. Holding my breath in delight each year, I annually exhaled every summer when Rowling introduced the latest novel. Immedaitely after reading the book in one sitting, I began theorizing, plotting, analyzing and re-reading the novel. I made it a summer tradition to chronologically re-read each book to familiarize and anticipate each summer release.

As my reading levels strengthened and vocabulary increased; Harry, Ron and Hermione grew as well by mastering difficult Patronus Charms. When my blossoming middle school crushes dated other girls, I identified with Harry’s teenage heartache as Cho Chang chose charming and dashing Hufflepuff Prefect Cedric Diggory instead. During high school lacrosse games, my coach forced us to learn a play and physically act it out. At first I was frustrated, why can’t we just memorize it on paper instead of spending hours practicing? Furthermore, why spend hours memorizing math formulas? Researching essays? But as Harry and the rest of Dumbledore’s Army fought back against Professor Umbridge strict teaching methods, I realized my own inner weaknesses. Harry stressed the importance of practicing Defense Against the Dark Arts, to physically prepare yourself for whatever else is out there. Simply learning something in your head isn’t enough, you must practice the idea, the lacrosse play, the magic; until you have mastered it in your mind.

I was 17 when Harry was 17.

Harry is forever preserved in my mind as a messy-haired, powerful teenager; yet sadly I continue to age into my 20’s. Leaving behind Rowling’s wisdom for assigned college novels, I ache for the only stories to ever relate with my present thoughts and then continue to change with me.

Harry was different from everyone else. Not just his orphaned background and power to save the wizarding world; Harry found goodness in the strange, the weak, the young, the old, the house-elf, the werewolf and his friends. Through Harry, Rowling taught acceptance, the power of love and the importance of academics lessons transitioning into real-world applications. Rowling guided me through the toughest years of my adolescent life, and I thank her for strengthening my ability to discover hidden messages, build my imagination and create my own set of ethics and morals.

Transitioning into a career in public relations has allowed me to expand my curiosity beyond the constrictions of a limiting ending book series. Constantly reading the news, following developing stories (Wikileaks) and Twitter’s live stream of information lets my imagination run wild. Daily interactions with PR professionals at my internship or with fellow students in BU COM, inspire me to challenge myself, strengthen my writing skills, release my imagination.

Leaning against my wooden bed-frame over Thanksgiving break, I skim through my copies of Fantasic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Qudditch Through the Ages, Tales of the Beedle and the Bard. The dog-eared pages carefully creased, forever preserved by my teenage self.

Sighing, I cave in and carefully lift my well-worn copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Settling into my soft bedroom pillows in my San Francisco suburban home, muting the outside patter of the falling rain; I let the Muggle world fade away and remerge myself back into the Wizarding world.

Seven and a half hours later I have reread Rowling’s final installment! Blinking to the sudden surrounding darkness of my room, I join my family downstairs just in time to hear my mother announce we’re going to the movies tonight! She’s already bought tickets for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.


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