Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Review *Harry, a History*

So because I'm participating in the Harry Potter Challenge and because it spans a year, which is more than enough time to read all seven of the books, I've decided to also read some supplementary books on Harry Potter and the HP phenom. I don't mean those books about magical creatures in particular or the science of HP. I mean specifically books that add to my knowledge of the story.
And I started with Harry, a History which is written by Melissa Anelli, who is webmistress of one of the most popular HP sites, The Leaky Cauldron. I read a review that declared the title should have been Melissa, a History and it isn't totally wrong. HAH is a fascinating read, but it is more about the events of HP mania as it affected those associated with The Leaky Cauldron. I still really liked it.

Melissa is a likeable person and you cheer as you read about the first time she meets and interviews J.K. Rowling. At the beginning when she's telling about her first encounter with the Harry Potter books, I felt a kinship with her. The first 2 or 3 books were out by the time it was recommended to her and she was unhappy with her job, unhappy with her home life and was feeling the anxiety of making something with her life, right after graduation. One day after a huge blow-up with her mom over trying to find a job, she hides in her room to re-read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone:

I ran a hand across the cover in the cheesy way people do when they look at albums in Hallmark commercials, then scurried back to sit against the wall, and opened the book for a second time.

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

I sighed aloud, as if I'd sunk into a down comforter. The ho-hum tone of the opening sentence was a complete lie, and it felt great to know it. There were giants and dragons and spells and witches and battles and friendship and magic to come, and it was all funny and warm and loving and powerful, and I hadn't realized how much I missed it.

I loved reading how Melissa would hide her love of HP and her work on The Leaky Cauldron from her co-workers who she thought wouldn't understand a grown woman's fascination with a kid's book. I also enjoyed the story of how she went from an internet reader to websmistress of a hugely popular website, just on her knack for research and love of the books. I love the purpose it gave her at a low time in her life.

Some parts of the book weighed me down, like the chapter on touring with the rock band Harry and the Potters and her in-depth explanation of fan message boards dedicated to writing fanfiction about characters hooking up and the internet wars it started. I wasn't really interested.

Instead, I loved the parts about how HP became the publishing phenom it did, with the help of loving publishers, editors, and of course booksellers. And I loved Melissa's personality, which came through as excitement for a wonderful series of books for "kids". I remember that time, before the adult HP cover art, where adults were laughed at for reading the series. Now it's no big deal. But at one point it was weird to see adults reading these books.

Some cool things I learned are that Margot Adler, the lady who wrote Drawing Down the Moon, a survey of wiccan/pagan culture, was instrumental in HP's initial popularity in publisher's circles. Also, Cassandra Clare, author of the Mortal Instruments series, wrote an incredibly popular fanfiction trilogy about Draco Malfoy. Actually, after reading HAH I sent Cassandra an e-mail asking her where I could find a copy of her Draco trilogy but she hasn't responded. It was probably silly to e-mail her about it; there was some controversy about the trilogy and it led to some schisms on popular HP websites and message boards at the time. So she's probably tired of people asking her about it, also she's busy with a bestselling series. But it was neat to read about.

There's a lot about the hype and craziness that was HP around the pub date for Deathly Hallows as the end to the series in the book, which made me all nostalgic. HAH totally helped to renew my love for the books, not that I needed much coaxing.


Follow my progress in the Harry Potter reading challenge in the sidebar to the right!


Cynthia said...

I've been debating whether or not to get this book since I read online that it was going to be published. I think you're review might have swayed me into adding it to my "to buy" wishlist :)

I haven't read Cassandra Clare's Draco Trilogy, but I've heard quite a bit about it. I think that she used to have all her fanfiction posted online up until the time she became published.

I love your blog, btw, your reviews are awesome :) I gave you an award, you can find it here: http://cynthiasbookshelf.blogspot.com/2009/08/award-time.html#comments

Faye( Ramblings of a Teenage Bookworm) said...

Wow this is new! it seem cool

Award 4 u @ my blog!

Tales of Whimsy said...

I hadn't heard of this. Very cool.

Mandy said...

Cynthia: You can find the first Draco trilogy book here http://www.sendspace.com/file/chlxv3

It's pretty neat actually. Draco and Harry swap bodies ala Buffy and Faith and explore each others lives.
(Thank you so much for the award)

Faye: It IS pretty cool for the most part. There are a few sections I skipped but it was a neat read. (Thanks too for the award!!)

Juju: I remember it being printed after the release of the last HP book, but I wasn't interested in it then. The HP challenge has renewed my interest in all things HP.

R.J. Anderson said...

I can see why the fanfiction aspect of the book wouldn't have been of such interest to you, but I enjoyed Melissa's accounts of the fanfiction community because I was part of that community in 2001-2004, writing HP fanfic at the same time as Cassandra Cla[i]re was writing and posting hers. Sarah Rees Brennan, author of THE DEMON'S LEXICON, was also writing HP fanfic around that time. But I think I'm the only one who left my fanfic online when I turned pro...

Anyway, nice seeing you in the store today, and I've added this blog to my Google Reader for future reference!


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