The OF Blog: Why reading Harry Potter spoilers would be a good thing for me

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Why reading Harry Potter spoilers would be a good thing for me

Lately, the Chicken Littles of the online world have been running around as if their heads had been chopped off, proclaiming that the sky would be falling if plot details from the last Harry Potter novel were to be released now before the July 21st publication date (by the way, sorry for "spoiling" the message and "plot" of the Chicken Little tale. Doubtless that was the main, if not only, point of said tale, to have the plot about a chicken screaming that the sky is falling).

To that, I have to say no. It would not be a tragedy. In fact, for some of us, it would be a blessing to know these major events just before the release date. And before any worry, I'm not on crack (just amphetamines) and my mental health is actually quite good (said pills are for narcolepsy and other side effects of sleep apnea).

The reason why I would argue that in my case (and undoubtedly in the case of many) is that knowing the main structure beforehand allows me to read the story the first time for depth of characterization, to judge how themes that have developed over 6 books will be concluded (and to what degree of artistry Rowling does this), and it would allow some such as me to pay much closer attention to the construction of the story once the pesky plot worries have been removed. It would be as if I were re-reading a book that I know is good, only to be able to discover that there are extra layers of goodness that had been overlooked in the haste to "find out what happens."

Forgive me if you take offense at this, but I think it is quite shallow to read a writing only in order to "find out what happens." I am not dismissing it as a valuable object, but the enormous value that apparently so many are putting on this single book I fear is going to distort their perceptions of the book and of the series as a whole.

I have come to see this series as being more than just mere "fluff." There are many subtle character development issues, a very well-done transition of writing style to reflect what the characters are facing, and for the most part there are excellent conflicts and dynamic tensions in these books. In addition, each succeeding volume builds upon not just what had happened, but upon our own understandings of what is now transpiring. These twists and furtherings of character and of themes such as overcoming Loss and Child Abuse or Trust and Friendship are what, I believe, ultimately appears to readers who do more than just race through the books to "find out what happens next."

I am sure many will argue that the "specialness" of revelations and so forth will be "lost" when things are revealed to them. Perhaps that is a valid point, but I believe it has been distorted as well. I knew well in advance (okay, 3 days of me actually sitting down to read it) that Dumbledore dies in HBP. But nothing of any of the summaries/"reviews" posted here and elsewhere at the time could summarize just how well Rowling sets up that scene and how over the course of the novel Dumbledore and Harry had begun a new phase of their relationship that made that scene and the resultant funeral all the more poignant. Knowing that Dumbledore was to die in this allowed me to read those passages more carefully, looking for foreshadowing (and finding it), making for a much more enjoyable reading experience.

Perhaps not all readers (okay, perhaps very few readers) are going to approach matters from this vantage point. I understand. But in a time in which people are so paranoid-sounding about all this, I find myself feeling the need to post this, to present another take on this.

If the story is good, knowing what happens will lead to a greater understanding of the story down the road. Spoilers are just overrated - they cannot reveal the meanings hidden in the text, they can only reveal the barest framework of a story, the plot. So be of good cheer. And I will be reading any spoilers I come across before I start reading the book sometime Saturday or Sunday.


Neth said...

NPR talks about this too.

Larry said...

Going to listen to that in a bit. Thanks for the link :D

Marcel said...

I truly am glad to see I'm not alone out there. And I thought the NPR interview was also very interesting...

Add to Technorati Favorites