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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Summarizing Harry Potter

In recent years I have been re-reading and rewatching some great books and movies. So I read through the Mahabharata, Asimov’s Foundation series, all of the Sherlock Holmes and Father Brown books, the Don Camillo series, Gibbon's Decline and Fall, Tolstoy’s Resurrection, and some more (quite a lot more, actually, and there were always new books to read besides). This, even as I realize ever more deeply how right Khushwant Singh was when he wrote (then approaching his nineties) that as one grows older, one realizes how many people one need never have met, how many meetings one need  never have attended, how many books one need never have read. One must not only be lucky enough to be free to choose, but have the power of discrimination that allows one to choose wisely – a power that, sadly, is given to too few of us, or is lost too early in life.

And even with all the freedom that one wants and all the discrimination one needs, one must concede that life is too short to savour all its pleasures over and over. There are simply too many good books, for instance, that I will never have the time to read from cover to cover again. Shortly after the seventh Harry Potter book (The Deathly Hallows) came out, therefore, I read through the whole saga at one go, and determined to write down my own summaries of all seven books, so that I could at least have the pleasure of re-visiting them from time to time. My daughter, avid Potter fan that she is, helped me most ably from the start. Sometime last year, when I had reached the last book, the continuity of the project was broken for some now-obscure reason (we became ‘busy’ with other, more pressing things, I suppose, as most people do when they do not want to admit that they simply grew impatient and distracted…). I am happy to say that today we have picked up the threads again, owing to my daughter’s stern reminder, and the job will soon be complete – before the last movie (DH 2) comes out in July. And it will give us both, father and daughter, a great deal of satisfaction.

A civilized person needs to carry around a lot of books inside her head. It helps to refer back now and then to summaries that one has made for oneself. It is also a most delightful feeling that I no longer have to think that I did it for my daughter, because I did it with her.


JD said...

I have read the entire Harry Potter series, and have found it to be engrossing; all the plots & subplots are so meaningful and have perfect endings.

One feels a connect with the characters of the book, and in my opinion that is why it has gained universal appeal across all ages of readers.

The story emphasizes the triumph of good over evil, and though it being in the magical world has so much practical implications in our "normal" world.

Though I will admit that I didn't enjoy the movies as much as I enjoyed reading the books. Maybe, it's because the 'director' in me visualized the scenes, going through the pages, in my own way. Nonetheless, I always find a certain solace in going through the books again & again.

Sir, I will wait for your reviews on the series. Hope you'll share with us in the blog, which you have so generously done over the years.

Thanks & Regards.
Joydeep Mukhejee
(Xavier's 2002 Batch)

Shilpi said...

The last line is a good line. One of those things though that one cannot fully feel unless one experiences something similar.

You know, for some reason, every March/April that Harry Potter saga keeps revisiting me even if I don't revisit the books every year. Some of the characters come pay me a visit, some of them smiling and some wagging a finger, some trying to tell me something or remind me of something, a liner here and there will keep flitting around, and sometimes I'll want to go and ask Dumbledore just one question. This time too the folks visited at some point, so I started writing a bit about the meetings, liners, thoughts, the parts that had made an indelible imprint, and the characters who had gotten me hooked or infatuated or bloody creeped out. But I lost steam. I consoled myself then by re-reading your old essay on the series and Dumbledore, and by just letting the characters talk a bit before taking their leave. I didn't want them here this time and was somewhat annoyed - although there was one bizarre click that fitted and I saw it with sudden clarity before it became fuzzy...it'll probably return some other time.

I re-visited them in 2009, and am glad I did. Read all of them in one go and after having some conversations with Pupu...and in one particular conversation she reminded me of the 'single teardrop' and Dumbledore. And back in early 2008, when I had expressed my intense and utter grouch regarding all the later books, she had given me all the reasons that she had liked them...

Was this essay also meant to whet the appetite of your regular readers or what? You know what I'm going to say...even if you don't choose to post the summaries on your blog for any hack to use them as their own.

I wonder on another note why you say that the power of discrimination is often lost early on in life...I'll wonder about it on my walks. Illumination often strikes then unless I'm busy being a grump. It seems strangely counter-intuitive in some ways. That Khushwant Singh liner (something you told me some years ago) is something I remind myself when I mentally go over my list of friends and wonder whether there is something terribly wrong with me. That one is something I've felt too: one needs to carry books around in one's head, and not forget.

The Earthsea and Dune series are ones that I wish I could re-visit but I need to read so many other books that I haven't read - not even once. This is an awfully long comment. I was wondering what the week's special was going to be and this one made me feel good.

Harman said...

What a great way to spend time with your daughter!
I am taking notes, for when I have my own children one day :)

Anand Tiwari said...

Dear Suvro da,

I am eagerly awaiting your assessment of the Potter series. I must confess i am in the small minority of people who do not think much of the Harry Potter books. Perhaps, i am prejudiced against the Harry Potter phenomena at some level. The whole publicity drama surrounding the books and the movies are a big turn off for me. I could never isolate the outside drama from the actual content. I am content reading 'Sonar Kella' for the umpteenth time and watching its screen adaptation than going through the Potter books & movies. Many Potter fans have told me that i simply don't get it (which may be true). Therefore, it would be refreshing to read your analysis of the series. Maybe it will change my mind.


Sunup said...

Dear Sir,

I have read many a book in my life so far, but haven't summarized even one. So I would love to read the joint effort of the father daughter duo. Kindly do post it. I have read all the Potter books, and have quite liked them, since the 'fantasy' genre is one of my leisure time favorites. But my all time favorite in this genre is the "Lord of the Rings". I just can't express the feelings that I had after I finished reading it. I guess it's one of those books that just knocks you off.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

I've been both lucky and sensible, so I have consistently given a lot of 'quality time' to my daughter ever since she was born. Discussing books is just one way I do it.

In the early days my attitude was exactly like yours, but then it changed. You can read about it in the earlier post titled 'Waiting for Harry Potter 7': just use the search bar. Then let me know how you felt.

The wonderful thing about Rowling is that she dared to try something in the same genre after Lord of the Rings, and managed to pull it off. I wouldn't have thought it was possible! As for reading the summaries, I don't think that would be possible, because the whole thing is simply too long to fit into a blogpost: and I have found that long blogposts don't find readers anyway.

sayantika said...

Dear Sir,

Can you please post the summaries on your blog? I agree that long blogposts find few readers, so can you please post them with one part at a time? The Harry Potter books were also quite huge, yet they were read by many, and I hope your posts too would find many readers. I am very eager to read your summaries and looking forward to reading them.
I had tried to develop this habit of making summaries of books I read with some comments of my own, but after making that for three books, I wasn't doing it any more. May be, I just got distracted. Summarising the series must be difficult, especially with the little details that Rowling has put in here and there, like reading the tea leaves in Part 3 or the jokes cracked by Fred and George every now and then or just Hogwarts, with its numerous chambers, passages and secret ways. Kudos to you for attempting it!

Thanks and with regards,

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Well, let's settle on this: if there's a very large number of people who make the same request, I'll consider posting at least one or two of the summaries; if there are only a handful, I might email them personally to those who asked.

Debotosh Chatterjee said...

sir ,
i would definitely like to read the summaries . please go ahead with the project !

Rajdeep said...

Great! One request here!

Pritam Mukherjee said...


I too would love to read the summaries.

Anonymous said...

I know very late, but recently I started the reading harry potter, and am already through the first three parts, and I must admit, I liked it more than I had expected to, I definitely would love to read your summaries on the same.


Amit parag said...

Within the confines of whatever capabilities we possess, how few among us can say, at the end of the day, " I dare do all that may become a man; who dares do more is none".

Suvro Chatterjee said...

With due apologies, Amit (this must be another sign of my failing intellect with advancing age), I couldn't quite figure out how that quote from Macbeth fits in here. Incidentally, when he uttered that line, Macbeth was actually only blustering, having just had the living daylights scared out of him by Banquo's ghost!

Amit parag said...

So few of us think of carrying books inside one's head, and fewer still, are those who actually do that.
I wasn't referring to the conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Macbeth or alluding to the happenings in the Inverness, but the beauty of those words, so carefully arranged as to convey a very powerful thought, forced me to write them here. I mean if we take the literal meaning of the words sans the context, does it not seem fit for those who are real "men"?

Vaishnavi said...

Dear Sir,

I would love to read your summaries on this series. It is one very dear to my heart and I fell in love with the movies because they were another bit of Harry Potter that I could hold on to. I was at the theatre on opening day of the last movie and there were many people like me; excited and a bit sad that this really was the end. There was even a group of guys who came wearing graduation gowns (wizard's robes you see). When the movie ended and the lights came back on, there was an anti-climatic feeling. More than a decade has passed since my introduction to HP and I felt that it ha gotten over too soon! I wanted to re-read the entire series once I had seen the last movie. I am the type that wallows unfortunately and this will stop me. Finally got hold of a copy of For Whom the Bell Tolls Sir and I have just begun reading it!