Miller: It’s Potter time (once again)

by Alex Miller

From local worries like the ongoing saga of Little Beaver Trail in Dillon Valley to what to make of Obama’s recent trip abroad, it’s difficult at this time for me, as a newsman, to keep focus on what’s truly “important.” That’s because when I arrive home from work, I enter a realm of reality utterly divorced from issues that lay outside the sacred realm of Harry Potter. Much as the students of Hogwarts do when they magically traverse from real London to the wizards’ train via “Platform 9-3/4,” passing through the door of our home in the evening is to go from hum-drum ol’ Frisco into a place where wizardry is real and understood, where it’s perfectly normal to carry a wand and have a beard so long as to need a scrunchie tie halfway down.Today, as some may know, is a very important one for Potterphiles: The sixth film – Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows (Part 1) – is being released (in fact, some have already seen it, since it screened at midnight Thursday in Dillon and at theaters around the country). As she has with all the previous films, my wife began preparing months in advance by trotting out all seven books for a re-read and loading up the DVD player to screen the six previous films in a sort of running loop – much like your average conservative might have Fox News on 24/7 as a sort of background radiation.Since 1999 or so, Harry Potter has become a central column of our family’s literary canon, infecting all seven of us to varying degrees and supplying a sort of lingua franca of witchcraft and wizardry terms and tropes that, it must be said, border on the obsessive. No, none of us have had a lightning-shaped scar tattooed on our forehead, and when our oldest son had to start wearing glasses he did not opt for the Potter-Lennon frame of the working-class British. But the degree to which these stories have penetrated our imagination is a stunning feat of literary branding, all the more impressive when you multiply it by the millions of others Potterphiles around the world (the books have been translated into 60 languages).As perhaps the least fervent of my family’s Potterheads and most vocal critic, I am occasionally treated as heretic and banished from the room (especially during screenings of films featuring the broomstick-riding “sport” of Quidditch – to me the most ridiculous invention in all of the Potter books). At various times am I heard to call out some of the more absurd plot lines (like why are these adults constantly subjecting these children to life-threatening danger and then sort of standing aside?) and decry the risible acting in the early films (although the kids did get better). Potter author J.K. Rowling is a thief of the first magnitude, borrowing lavishly from the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, among many other sources. But I can’t fault Rowling for looking for some pre-existing threads with which to weave the rich tapestry of Potter and Hogwarts, and given the joy her stories have afforded so many around the world, it’d be pointless to spend much time picking over such details.The appeal of Potter is simple: It’s a great escape into another world – and something we can probably all use in these troubled and confusing times. And somehow, the notion of being able to cast a spell or create a potion to solve a problem is oddly appealing. Now if we could just deploy a few of those on Congress …Summit Daily editor Alex Miller can be reached at or (970) 668-4618.

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