Tuesday, July 10, 2007

All About Harry

I've been lying. Although the "What I'm Reading" Section to the right shows a list of respectable literature, the real story is that I am also rereading the whole "Harry Potter" series. I am wailing through them, carrying them everywhere, propping them up on the stair master (after engineering a system of rubber bands to keep the pages in place), snatching glimpses while I sautee onions for our dinner. I have let myself sink below the waterline. I'm completely submerged in the wizarding world and I have not the slightest interest in coming up for air.

I'm rereading the series to get the overarching story straight before I settle down in my big easy chair with J.K. Rowling's last Harry book. Sure, I want to get my hoarcruxes straight from my port keys. I want to assess some dilema-producting characters like Snape and Aunt Petunia, too. (You know she's got to be the sleeper!) Truly, I have been bitten hard by the Harry bug. That's because I come from a family of storytellers. And not just stories about this cousin's lousy car or that sister's affair. Our best stories came from my father, and his best stories were some of the most fantastical children's stories I've ever heard.

When I was a kid, my dad worked two jobs. Between working in the mill and teaching night school, I might not see him for days and then only late at night. On those special nights, he'd plop down on the side of my bed, sometimes waking me up, and give me the next installment of our current story. (He'd work out the latest chapter on his lunch break at the steel mill.) He'd set out recapping what had happened where we had left off and launch into the new installment. My interruptions, suggestions for changes, and sudden inspirations were strongly encouraged. He'd just weave in my mid-air plot twists, and off we'd go right back into the story. It wasn't long before his stories felt just like my own.

The earliest stories were about a series of his own past life incarnations. He recounted his previous lives (prior to this much more dreary one as a human) in exciting detail. These lives included a stint as a brontosaurus, a stag (shot by King Henry the 8th), and a bear (who was immortalized in song when he "went over the mountain.") I listened, rapt, and asked lots of questions about the mechanics of dinosaur life and just how fat that king was. His stories were so convincing that after I told them to a playmate up the street -- and from a strict church-going family -- his mother forbade him to come inside our house again. My dad just chuckled and made up another story.

As I grew older he made up a series of tales about J. Sweetbody Goodpants, the genius son of the buggy whip king of Boston who lived in the 1800s. ("J. Sweet" was a terrific inventor and single-handedly created the first automatic shoe buttoner.) But Dad's real masterpiece, famous family-wide, was the saga of Two-Gun Bunny. This sharp-shooting rabbit served under the Union Army during the Civil War and spoke English and Rabbit fluently. Once discharged, he went off to have adventures across the expanding West, including making and losing a fortune in the Silver Rush and working briefly as a Canadian mounted "bunny". His best friends were his right-hand "man", Rattlesnake Sam, and a talking kelly-green horse named Finn McCool. For this saga, we kept a large atlas under my bed that I could consult when my sense of geography got fuzzy. It took us two years to get Two-Gun from the surrender at Appommattox to a peaceful retirement in Toronto (on a good police pension).

So, Harry's wizarding world suits me just fine. Unfortunately, my dad isn't here any longer to partake in what, I am certain, he would have recognized as a familiar parallel universe to our own. But, for a few stolen minutes here and there, an hour before drifting off to sleep at night, I can pretend that my first storyteller is right next to me reading along. He would have loved it. And he might have slid that atlas back under my bed. Just in case I needed it.

6 comments:

Blue Lass said...

What a charming evocation. But now I am starting to wonder about some of the things you told me in high school...I seem to remember an ancestor who was a contemporary of Clarence Darrow and declined an option on the zipper patent. Truth or lie -- I mean, fiction?

Anne Custis Kenealy said...

Actually, what you site is nonfiction. Of course, in my family, the line between historic fiction and proven, foot-noted nonfiction is, well, arguable. As far as I know, my grandfather, Big Bill, worked with Darrow on the case that established the insanity plea. (How fitting!) A great uncle and avid patent-submitter turned down going in with the inventors of the zipper. Something about shoe-buttoners caught his fancy, I would guess. ;)

miketubs said...

Anne,

Great post about Harry! I'm sorry to say that I haven't read any of the books yet, but two of my nephews have. One has even read all of the books at least three times!

Regards,

Blue Lass said...

So who dies already? I promise not to tell.

Blue Lass said...

And where is kitty? You promised us a kitty.

Anne Kenealy Lindenfeld said...

No kitty yet...but there IS evidence that we already have mice. Talk about getting to work quickly.

Finished Harry #7 yesterday. Wept a bit, then resolved to read the series again. What a great tale!