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The Department of Mysteries: Thanks, Jo

by Bob Sindeldecker

In America, the last Thursday in November is the Feast of Thanksgiving; a time when we reflect on and appreciate our good fortunes. This week, I thought I would use the gift MuggleNet has given me – this column – to reflect upon and appreciate the gifts Jo Rowling has given to us all.

So, Jo…

Thanks for the magic.
The HP books came into my life at a time when I sorely needed them. I did not begin reading them until the Fall of 2001, just before the first movie came out. You all know what happened in September of that year: in the months that followed I – and really all Americans – needed something to relieve our suffering. Harry Potter did that for me.

I was lucky enough to have four books in print when I discovered the series, so I did not have to wait. I read all four almost non-stop in a 2 week period before Sorcerer’s Stone premiered. Some fans were disappointed in the film, but not me. I was glad to have it, as I was glad to have the books. After the horrors of two months before, I needed a little magic in my life. Thanks, Jo, for providing it.

Thanks for the logic.
The one thing that saves the HP books from being dismissed as “silly fantasy” is that they are not silly. In fact, they have a superb internal logic. Events have consequences, and everything makes sense. There are no sudden plot twists that violate rationality. In that sense, the books are NOT “magical” – not in the sense of a magical World-view in which things happen for no reason. That would be insulting, and Jo would never insult us. For that I am grateful.

Thanks for the Orphan Boy.
As an orphan boy myself, I can relate. After my parents died, I dreamed that my “real” family (rich and with good-looking sisters) would rescue me from the homes. It never happened. But at least the staff were all decent people. I never had to live with a family that hated me. I had friends who did – they really preferred the homes – so Harry touches a nerve in me that is very direct and personal.

My Ron Weasley was named Jim Spelman. He had two wonderful parents and two beautiful sisters. I don’t know how I would have made it through high school without them. Ten years after graduation, Jim let me live with him when I came back to Ohio from San Diego and had nowhere else to go. His parents have helped me plenty of times since. And yes, like Harry, I thought their house was the best I had ever seen.

Thanks for Fred And George.
Really, what would the HP books be without these two? Not nearly as fun. Besides the fun, the two “bad” Weasleys also provide a moral counterpoint to the usual “eat your veggies, do your homework and obey your elders” line of thinking. Indeed, Fred and George are really the moral center of the books. They know what is right, and it is almost never what is allowed. They are the contrast that throws the blemishes of Authority into high relief. So thanks, Jo, for letting us see the truth through them.

Thanks for Hermione.
Like most boys, I could never talk to girls. I would have loved to have had one that I could always talk to, always rely on, and who always cared for me. I believe Hermione is Harry’s One True Love – I know others disagree – but that really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that she is a girl he can talk to, a girl who doesn’t freak him out and a girl who isn’t freaked out by him. Having someone like Hermione when I was Harry’s age would have made my life so much, much better. Reading about her in Harry’s life is the next best thing.

I found my Hermione in college, by the way. Her name is Denise Pratt. Like Hermione, she still often disapproves of me, but only in the best way. I hate to think what my life would be like without her.

Thanks for the sly, wry humor.
Where do I begin? The wonky Wizard Monetary System. “And they do mean EVERYflavor.” Charm Your Own Cheese. Kwik-Spell. Gilderoy Lockhart. “I collect plugs.”The Quibbler. HARRY POTTER RESCUE PARTY. And on and on. As an adult I get most of the jokes, but there are still layers upon layers that will only gradually be uncovered by younger readers, and by non-British readers unfamiliar with the UK and her traditions. In that sense, I feel kind of cheated by my own worldliness, since I have so little left to discover. But thanks for putting it all in there, Jo. It’s fun to dig into all the double meanings and hidden parallels, and the kids who have yet to trove them up are the luckiest ones of all.

Thanks for Being Cool About It.
This is critical, because most authors would not be so nice about sharing their work as Jo has been with us. By “sharing,” I mean her approval of fan fiction and websites like MuggleNet. She could have been very hostile: lots of artists (or usually people who stand to make money from the artist’s talent) try to suppress any “unauthorized” material. But Jo Rowling is a very cool lady, and she sympathizes with fans who need their fix. She is also smart, because encouraging fan efforts produces priceless good will and only whets our appetites for the next book.

And thanks also for saying, “[It’s] Jo to you.” You certainly are “Jo” to me, more than you know. My oldest sister is named Jo Ellen, so calling you “Jo” really does make you feel like family. You could almost be my long lost sort-of-twin sister, our ages are close enough (there’s the orphan boy dream again). It is to your great credit – and our great pleasure – that you are so Cool About It.

Thanks for the fan community.
As a Star Wars fan from 1977 – when I might have entered Hogwarts if it existed – I remember what fandom was like before the Internet. In a word, it was centralized: we read magazines, some did fanzines, but basically it was a bunch of receivers eating up everything a central few publishers dished out. Now it is decentralized, and we are all much more fortunate. The internet gave us MuggleNet, MuggleNet gave me my own column and that column has given me loads – just LOADS – of Fellow Travelers to share my passion with. The books are great, but being part of something much, much bigger is the greatest blessing of all.

It’s all because of you, Jo.

Thank you.