Note: The following entry–and all entries on my blog, for that matter, will not contain spoilers regarding the final book in the Harry Potter series, so please feel free to read on!
Note deux: This is part III of a three-part series; please scroll down and read the first two installments if you have not already done so!
Inside the magical world of reading books. . . .
As a teacher, I find that how I read is not how I encourage other teachers to “hook” their students to read books, especially the reluctant readers. I’m sure you all know the drill: Look, study, and discuss the cover. Make predictions. Read the table of contents carefully. Study any artwork that might exist in the book, etc.
All that prereading stuff I throw right out the window, especially when it comes to good ol’ HP.
Actually, Rita turned me on to this way of reading back when Phoenix was released. I was too much in teacher mode when I saw her reading it, and I threw out the autopilot questions: What do you think will happen? Did you get any clues from the Table of Contents? What does the cover mean exactly?
Ugh. How embarrassing as I look back.
She closed the book (she was reading under the sunlight as she stretched out in her summer chair) and held a grin longer than I thought normal. She seemed to be searching for the right way to put it.
“I don’t read like that at all,” she offered, shielding her eyes from the sun. “Why would I want to ruin the experience?”
It made total sense to me. Why do I want to predict? Why do I want to think I know what’s going on at all? Let the words lift their meaning from the pages, one letter at a time, just as they were originally placed there.
From that day on, I’ve read like Rita.
So, when Tonks and I got home, clinked our books in victory and cracked the spine ever so delicately, I bypassed the Table of Contents quickly, having no desires at all to read a single word of it.
I turned to the dedication, and read it. Turned to the two opening quotes, read them twice, then turned to Chapter 1. Read the title at least three times. Took two deep, deep breaths. . . .
And began reading.
I was careful not to look ahead to the next chapter; I refused to have any knowledge of where this chapter might take me. In fact, I resented some of the titles that seemed a little cryptic, wondering when I would get to the heart of the chapter (when I knew all along that, in this book, the heart was in every page, every word, every stroke of every letter).
I read with Goblet, Phoenix, and Half-Blood right next to me, constantly referring back to critical and relevant passages that mattered to what I was reading right now.
I avoided human contact as well. I could not trust my wife or my daughter, either. My wife was on the computer all day, working. But in the process, she was informing me of all the HP spoiler pages and spams she was being bombarded with. My daughter, at one point, was nearly 100 pages ahead of me (I caught up eventually and finished a few hours earlier than she), and I feared that she would blurt out a shriek, a gasp, or even a single tear, and it would rip at me to not know what was happening.
So, I was nice to both of them. Paid attention to them about all things Non-HP, and was a good boy, if you will. My greatest fear was in our few excursions out of the house.
Now I know what a panic attack must feel like.
Like an undercover agent, I was constantly stalking relatively empty aisles, practicing self-occlumency to blur out any discussions or comments that I might overhear, without any warning whatsoever. I would dash in and out of grocery stores, order carry out, have food delivered. Anything at all to keep the outcome of the book a genuine surprise for me.
It worked. When we were finally done for the day, I sat at the dining room table, pushed away any and all appetite, and recommenced reading.
I suppressed my own gasps and exclamations, but I cannot hide the way I feel right exactly now, just as I had felt when I had finished the book: Sorrow for the end. Sorrow for the parting of the ways. Sorrow for the deaths and the destruction. Sorrow for it all.
When I finished the book, I closed the cover with, again, great reverence, and smiled. I did it. I actually did it. I had worried for so many months–was it really years?–that this moment would be stolen from me. Some fool in the grocery store, at the gas pump, even on the television would certainly blurt out some terribly important news about the book, and I would be forced to read through to an ending that I already knew much about.
I hope, in the coming weeks, to talk about some of the lessons I learned from Deathly Hallows. Until then, though, I leave you, Constant Readers, to your books to enjoy and savor. There will be plenty of time to share words of what-ifs and why nots. Until then, I shall do my best to inform, entertain, and persuade about the things that matter to me the most outside of the Harry Potter World. . . .