"Kiss Harry Potter Goodbye"

By Tracy Mayor



Salon Staff
November 9, 2001 9:25PM (UTC)

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Tracy Mayor's point about how the Harry Potter movies will displace the private visions of the series' readers is well taken. (Indeed, the same thing can be said for the upcoming "Lord of the Rings" movies.) But how is this different from any other film version of a book? Whether it's an excellent adaptation like the 1962 movie version of "To Kill a Mockingbird" or a lousy one like the 1984 movie version of "Dune," readers will be influenced on some level by the images provided by filmmakers. Illustrations, stage and radio adaptations, music and other interpretations of a book also influence the reader's imagination.

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Is this a bad thing? I don't think so. I've found that experiencing other people's interpretations of a book can really enhance my own reading of it. As a reader, I can pick and choose what bits of other people's interpretations to weave into my own imaginings -- and can reject them if they don't fit in with my vision of the story.

Besides, it's not as if Chris Columbus is going to send out goon squads to destroy every copy of the Harry Potter books. The books will be there, no matter how good or bad the movies are, and we can always go back to them.

-- Nancy Ott

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Our beloved literary characters are always influenced by other media -- drawings, illustrators, fan art. There is rarely a "pure" imagined experience.

Yes, it's true that certain actors will make the characters their own. Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman -- I'll think of them when I next reread the series out of unemployment boredom. However, my Hermione and my Ron are still mine -- and my nieces and nephews all agree. A hearty "That's not what they look like!" resounded after viewing the first trailer.

Which brings me to my second point: Kids are very strict about their club membership. Just because you saw the movie doesn't mean you know your history of Hogwarts. As a result, I don't think that kids' ability (desire) to precisely imagine a very personal charactization will come to a crashing halt on Nov. 16. I think, however, it will for most adults.

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-- Maria Hecht

Speaking as a children's librarian, I certainly know the pangs of angst as a beloved book is made into a film. But honestly, I think the fuss being made about "Oh now the movie will ruin the books for us" is balderdash. The hype about the hype is more annoying than anything that the studio publicity machine has put out.

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And as for our mental images being twisted ... well, that's hardly new. Given how much people complain about books with new illustrations, visual images have always been susceptible to input from the outside world. Sherlock Holmes' famous deerstalker hat is nowhere in the text. It comes from Sidney Paget's illustrations. It's only in cases where our own concepts diverge utterly from what's presented that we stubbornly hang onto our own visions. Richard Harris will never be my Dumbledore, and the smooth cap of brown on top of Daniel Radcliffe's head will never be Harry's untamable hair, regardless of casting directors and studio hairstylists' continuity concerns.

I believe that, in the end, the film will sell the Harry Potter books to even more readers, rather than drive them away. After all, new converts can read three sequels right away, but the next movie's not coming out for months yet! Visual images can get even reluctant readers into books, as any librarian who has had to stock a pile of "Pokémon" chapter books can tell you.

So on with our capes and glasses and lightning bolt scars as we troop off to see the wizards. I guarantee, we'll still have our books tucked under our arms.

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-- Cindy Dye


Salon Staff

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