As I’m sure must be obvious to even the most casual of Bleeding Cool readers, the Bleeding Cool Team is quite a merry band of writers, editors, and code & data wranglers. As one might expect, people often bounce post ideas and drafts off of each other during the course of a typical day. I was asked to discuss such a post idea with a writer recently. It was to be a post about Fantastic Beasts. And so it came to pass, finally after all these years, that my dirty secret was revealed: I have never, ever read any of the Harry Potter books or watched any of the films.
Not that I considered it any particular secret. It’s just never come up. If someone on the team has a Harry Potter question, any of the several dozen experts in the field that we have on staff jump in, and I simply don’t raise my hand.
This revelation was quite a bit more… controversial, let’s say, than I expected:
“Who the hell hasn’t read or watched Harry Potter like for fucking real man,” one person responded.
“Get your shit together,” someone also said, astonished and unable to believe that this was possible.
Now… I’ve said some controversial things here at BC over the years, but I didn’t expect “I’ve never read Harry Potter” to be one of them.
It’s not that I have anything whatsoever against the material or its fans. Quite to the contrary — I’ve always thought of it as a very effective fictional gateway drug into the wide world of fandom in all of its many forms. That’s a great thing, and it’s not to be underestimated. But based on the tenor of the marketing and the reaction to the books as they were getting underway in the late 1990s, I simply presumed that they were meant for younger readers. That too is no barrier to entry, of course. There’s certainly plenty of comic books that are meant for all ages that I enjoy as well.
Frankly, it’s just been a matter of prioritization. Looking back on the books released in 1997, the year that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone debuted, I see that this was the year that I got seriously into thrillers and murder mysteries. Scanning that list now… holy wow was that the golden era of the thriller. That was the year of the first Reacher book, Killing Floor by Lee Child, and the first Lincoln Rhyme book, The Bone Collector by Jeffery Deaver, and I think that’s how it got started for me. From there I discovered that James Patterson‘s Alex Cross series was up to its fourth installment with Cat and Mouse, and eagerly got caught up on those. Then I spotted The Angel of Darkness by Caleb Carr, and of course before I could read that, I had to read the first one, which led me to a book whose craft, pacing, and historical subject matter makes it a favorite of mine to this day: Carr’s The Alienist.
You get the picture. I love to read, but beyond comics, history books and misc other non-fiction, and a heavy dose of thrillers every year (how the hell does James Patterson get so much done, by the way? I must know your secret, Patterson!)… well, there’s only so many hours in a year, and I haven’t figured out a way around that, quite yet.
Even though I was not uninterested, I’m so far behind in the Harry Potter (and related) universe that I was skeptical about taking it up at this late date. But after some arm-twisting, and an argument about it that got fantastically amped-up (I love a good debate when everybody knows the ground rules of it), finally I was convinced: something was said which is a spoiler of sorts so I’m going to leave it out, but suffice it to say that history is my catnip, and I’m good at researching it if I do say so, and within minutes of hearing [this thing], I was convinced.
I see you working, JK Rowling.
I’m the last person on Earth who hasn’t read any Harry Potter or seen any of the movies, but I won’t be for much longer. And I intend to have an awful lot of fun taking it apart along the way, getting it down to its beating heart, and seeing what makes it tick. Though all the rest of you have obviously read it all already, I hope you’ll follow along with me.