Saturday, August 6, 2011

T - 22: Borne Back Ceaselessly Into the Past

10 points to Griffindor

Today, I watched Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, having fallen asleep on it last night and on Order of the Phoenix the night before, falling entirely behind on my planned marathon. I had forgotten that, in the movie, when Harry takes the Felix Felicis, he pretty much acts stoned. Which reminded me of Internet posts I read years ago about how you can turn any HP title into a drug reference. I can’t remember what the HP&tOotP title turned into, but surely #6 is Harry Pothead and the Half-Baked Prince.

Funny, how the mind works. The thing about rewatching the Harry Potter movies is how evocative they are of when I first read the books, not so much when I saw the movies. I read Half Blood Prince just after graduating from Columbia. I should say, after I walked at Columbia, since my chair ignored my emails asking what was required for my thesis and funding wasn’t what I’d anticipated that summer, so I had to spend thousands on an extra semester. I was so glad to be out of that, so glad to read a book for pleasure again, rather than as a race against the clock.
One of the first people in Manhattan to get the last book

If my feeble old mind remembers correctly, HP&tHBP was the first HP book to come out after I started at Columbia in Fall 2003, so it was like a return to my life B.C. Books were my joy and refuge again. I miss those Harry Potter summers, the buses and subways full of people carrying thick, harlequin-embossed books. In a city known for its toughness, millions were enthralled with a book about the archetypal battle of good versus evil. But then, we New Yorkers had evil hit all too close to home. I had no idea that my response to that evil would lead me down a path on which I’d be so clearly confronted with evil myself. Worse, by far, than evil are cowardice and complicity.
Adorable little girl and her older sister who were behind me in line. The parents wanted to take the kids to London for the last book, but could not afford it, so they drove from Florida to NYC to attend the release at Barnes & Noble in Union Square. I remember a man passing by in a taxi shouted, "Harry dies!" and that little girl's eyes were like a great, sad puppy's. A little while later, a man who looked vaguely familiar came out of the store and handed the girl a copy of the audio book. When her dad turned it over, we realized it was Jim Dale, who read the audio books. That night, he'd read selections from all the books and an excerpt from Book 7 at midnight.

The title today refers to the final lines of The Great Gatsby. I remember a friend, Rita, who knew it by heart. We were suitemates at journalism camp 23 years ago, the summer between my junior and senior years in high school. It really struck me, since I’d spent a good portion of junior year working on a paper about the parallels between Gatsby and F. Scott Fitzgerald, yet couldn't recite a line. That particular teacher’s term paper was notorious for taking over your life. We had to use books from the university library, because our high school library didn’t have scholarly sources. They called her “Killer Schiller,” because almost no one ever got an A in her class or on The Term Paper. But I did, which led to Sara nicknaming me “E. Scott Fitzjackson,” since "Erica Hemingway" didn't fit.

I remind myself of my stories, remind myself that’s what I am, what I’m meant to be, what I’ve become alienated from, what I’m trying to find my way back to, bit by bit.

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