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From Apathy to Amazement

by Wilf

How did it all begin? The constant re-reading, the agonizing over when on Earth book 5 would come out, the spending of far too much time on the internet looking at HP sites, the wondering why the hell Ron can’t just admit he fancies Hermione — how did it all begin?

My mind is cast back to a certain double issue of the Radio Times in the year 2000. Those who buy this well-known magazine not less than once per year know that a double issue means the Christmas issue. For, on Boxing Day 2000, BBC Radio 4 were going to broadcast “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” in its entirety. Not as a radio play, you understand, but just an umpteen-hour long reading. I recall noticing this, and being somewhat surprised at this huge deviation from normal Christmas schedules. No point in listening to it, I thought, it’d just be a waste of time.

At the time I was 17. Harry Potter had come out when I was 13, an age where I considered myself too old for children’s books. Or at least, too old to be seen in the children’s section of the town libary. Consequently, I had never had the opportunity to pick up a copy and decide to read it. Books 2 and 3 followed, and I remained in blissful ignorance, not least because the amount of recreational reading had decreased in my life due to an increased workload at school and the lure of computer games.

That Christmas 2000, I dimly recalled the release of book 4, but I had decided anything that hyped couldn’t be that good. (Now, I believe anything that good shouldn’t be that hyped.)

So, being in an odd state of hostile indifference towards the books (i.e., I didn’t want to make the effort), what happened to have such an opposite effect, you ask? The cause of all this was my mother.

Every Boxing Day, our family would go for a walk somewhere. My mother, unlike me, had been listening to the opening chapters just before we hopped in the car, and she decided she wanted to keep on listening. Unable to suggest anything better, I was forced to listen, too. By the time we reached our destination, a drive of less than an hour and around four chapters, I was hooked. We ate lunch in the car in silent enchantment, and it was with reluctance that we climbed out to go on the walk. On the way home after the walk, and on into the evening, I couldn’t unglue my ear from the radio.

So, I had fallen hook, line and sinker — and to make matters worse I hadn’t heard the opening or a big chunk in the middle.

Now, at this point I have a confession to make. I worked in the school library, and when I returned to school, I proceeded to grossly abuse my position of trust. All the copies of Harry Potter books were out, and there was a list of people with reservations as long as your arm (around two feet, I exaggerate not). So, I entered my name on the reservation lists for books 1 and 2, and proceeded (by devious means) to bump it up the list so I would be the first to get it. I still had to wait, but when they were brought back, I took them home and proceeded to read them from cover to cover in a way I hadn’t done with books since primary school. Rather than wait even longer for books 3 and 4, I went downtown and bought them from the local bookstore, and read them in a similar manner.

I still remember the lump in my heart as Gryffindor won the Quidditch Cup in book 3, being gobsmacked as it was revealed that Percy had a girlfriend at the end of book 2, and total shock over the ending of book 4.

By Easter 2001, a mere two years ago, I was a diehard Harry Potter fan. If you were to look at my room, the only giveaway would be the fact that the four books are more than slightly worn through excessive re-reading. However, if you were to monitor my internet usage, you would wonder how I was able to get any work done.

In a way I’m preaching to the converted here, but if you haven’t read them yet, go and buy them now. Go on…you can go without sleep for the next week or so.