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It's magic

Being a geek takes courage



I can't recall a time when I wasn't eagerly flinging myself into the pages of one book or another. They were hallowed passageways to another world, and I lovingly devoured them, wishing all the while that each book would magically last forever. Because that's what books are: magic. I have fallen in love with, befriended, and loathed people who don't and never will exist. Most people indeterminately meander their way through college, uncertain of what they want to do and be. Me? I was born to be an English major to reap the harvest of the world's greatest minds.

As a voracious reader, it makes sense that I have committed nonsensical acts to get my hands on a particular book. You could almost excuse the fact that, after having all four wisdom teeth pulled, I convinced my boyfriend to drive me vomiting and drugged out of my mind to a bookstore 40 minutes from home for a midnight book release. Or that, after a particularly rough concluding chapter, I hurled my book at the wall, howling, in the middle of the night. There's nothing unusual about this. Why read, if you have no emotional investment in whatever it is that you are reading about?

None of these confessions are all that shameful or geeky until I also confess that these particular circumstances bear no relation to Rushdie's novels, Chaucer's lyrical tales, or the story of one of the Bronte sisters' epic heroines. I am referring to J.K. Rowling's books about "the boy who lived," and by lived, she means defeated "You Know Who" books classified as children's literature. For an English major with admittedly pretentious taste in literature, adoring the Harry Potter series is like suffering a fall from literary grace. Will I be excluded from a bookish afterlife? Would Joyce turn up his nose at me? Would Wilde deliver a cutting remark about my taste? My only redemption is the fact that I loved Harry Potter before it was fashionable before Hollywood swooped in and pillaged the plots I so dearly loved so that millions of adoring fans would pay money to watch Daniel Radcliffe swoop around on a broom. How I loathe those fans, even the ones who bothered to pick up the books after watching the movies. His story was mine before it belonged to anyone else, and that's the way I preferred it.

My love for this series was born in the fall of 1998, when a family friend gifted me with the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Having just entered my freshman year of high school, I was appalled at being given a children's book. But I uncharacteristically hadn't brought a book to pass the 20-minute car ride home. So I opened the "children's" book, and found that it was impossible to close. And each of the five books that followed has inspired the same devotion. The series addresses some complex issues: Voldemort's obsession with pure blood is not unlike many people's obsession with racial purity, and Rowling tackles the concept of death and loss with unexpected complexity. Then again, I tend to frequently draw parallels between Harry Potter and everyday life.

I positively glow when someone asks me to clarify the plot of one of the films. I have been known to shout spells at my friends "Stupefy!" is my favorite and, sure, every now and again I daydream about receiving my own letter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and wonder what form my patronus would take. But irrationality and childishness aside, I have to believe that the best part of me is the part that is emotionally invested in the battle between good and evil even a fictionalized one. That though my frenzy-like excitement at the release of each new book may annoy those who actually have to spend time with me, this rare, child-like elation is well worth becoming a temporary social pariah.

I would like to believe that we all harbor geeky selves. We've all secretly stood in line for tickets to a movie we were ashamed to love, made heroes of characters and people with whom we'd be ashamed to walk on the street, listened to music that could never move us to dance in public. Most people don't associate courage with geeks, but how else do you explain an individual who chooses to pursue an interest that lowers them in the esteem of their peers?

Having read this, you should understand why Friday, July 20, is an important day for me. As soon as my workday ends, I will be taking my place in line at Barnes & Noble, among the other robe-clad, wand-brandishing geeks, to pick up the seventh and final book of the series. Every book is a living, breathing entity each ending a painful, glorious death. I can't even think of a term, an explanation for the end of a series that has enriched my life for the past nine years. In the grand scheme of world events wars, tragedies, and deranged leaders Harry Potter doesn't exist. And neither does his magical world. But, to me, his world is a necessary escape from this one its wars, tragedies, and deranged leaders because when geeks everywhere cheer for Aragorn and Frodo to defeat Lord Sauron, for Luke Skywalker to overpower Darth Vader, and for Harry Potter to overcome Voldemort, what we're really cheering for is beauty, liberty, and equality in our own uncertain world. And when you really think about it, there's nothing geeky about that.

Arts Editor Ashley Schwellenbach is stupefying. Send magic spells to aschwellenbach@newtimesslo.com.

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