Reading Notes: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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I won't say a lot about the Harry Potter novel I'm been reading, mainly because it doesn't fit my self-imposed boundaries on this weblog, but it does raise some interesting thoughts about the modern reading experience.

You'll be aware by now, hopefully, that the series of Harry Potter novels was completed by Deathly Hallows in 2007, and that the film adaptations of the books are still rolling out.  The sixth of them, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, was released only a few months ago - there are two more to come, both based on the last book in the series.

It was probably the fact that I took my ten-year-old along to the latest film that reminded me that I still had book number 7 to finish, and as he was desperate to read the sixth and seventh books in order I decided I'd better get to it as soon as I could.

It's probably been three or four years since I dipped into the literary HP universe, but the films occasionally turn up on the home TV and I watch a bit of them with the kids, marvelling at some parts and cringing at others.  This acts as a visual reminder about the intricacies of Harry's life, his friends and his enemies, so I didn't really need a lot of back-story in the novel to get back into the flow of the novel.  And to Rowling's credit she doesn't go in for the "And as you will recall, Harry,..." infodump technique, she's got too much ground to cover for that, and she can safely presume a high level of back-story familiarity on the part of her readers. 

Film adaptations of novels are quite common and there have been times when I've read the book before I watched the film, and vice versa.  So that experience is familiar enough, but Harry Potter moves into something a little different.  I'm fully aware of some film adaptations that I will not see on the basis that I enjoyed the book so much I don't want my vision of the work affected by someone else's: The French Lieutenant's Woman is one that comes immediately to mind. 

But I'm wondering if this is the first time I've read a series of books, while at the same time watching a sequence of films based on the earlier books in the series? 

Since these films started to be produced in 2001 we've had the Twilight series on film falling into this same category, Dexter and True Blood on television, and probably a number of others.  I haven't read the books these TV and film series are based on, so Harry Potter is the only one of its type that actively affects me.  And I'm wondering if my reading experience has been significantly changed by this juxtaposition of film and book?  And, if it has, is there any way to quantify the amount? 

I doubt it. Whenever I read this latest novel, my mind's eye conjures up the actors from the films in place of any written description of the characters, and I suspect that in the future I won't be able to differentiate the book from the film. I can't help it; it's the way I'm wired.

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And interesting to think about how the film versions might have influenced the actual writing of subsequent books in the series, too.

I started reading the Sookie Stackhouse novels after watching the first season of True Blood. It was an odd experience reading the first book with the first season fresh in my mind (I think I read the book a week or two after watching the series). But then the later books started introducing new characters, and now it's disconcerting seeing these new characters appear in the series. This feeling's probably temporary. Like you, I suspect the TV series will homogenise all of our imaginations.

Wendy, the major instance, I can recall, of a film/tv program impacting on an author is the RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY series featuring the late Leo McKern. The actor inhabited the role to such an extent that Mortimer himself could not envisage writing Rumpole stories if McKern weren't around to play the character. As it happened, McKern exited stage left before Mortimer was finished, but the publisher continued to use charicatures of McKern on the cover of the recent Rumpole books, including the upcoming collection of stories.

Thuy, the Harry Potter books stick closer to the originals than a lot of TV series appear to do. I believe the first season of DEXTER was based on "Darkly Dreaming Dexter", the first novel in author Jeff Lindsay's series. After that I think the series diverges from the books. Though, as I've only just started watching season 1 and haven't read any of the books, I'm only going on what's on Wikipedia. What will be weird is if "novelizations" of these series start to appear, creating even further confusion.

Either way, I hoped to discuss the way some reading experiences are affected, one way or the other, by someone else's vision of the material.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on September 29, 2009 2:58 PM.

Australian Bookcovers #179 - Steal Away by Garry Disher was the previous entry in this blog.

Reprint: Obituary - Henry Kingsley is the next entry in this blog.

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