Happy Birthday J.K. Rowling!

Well, J.K. Rowling’s birthday has been over for hours in the UK, but given that she’s not exactly a regular reader of mine, I’ll send this out anyway without feeling like it’s too much of a faux pas. Wishing a happy birthday to a celebrity one doesn’t know is a bit of an odd phenomenon anyway (and don’t get me started on wishing a happy birthday to dead celebrities…I mean, come on), but I mostly see it as an excuse to send some appreciation out into the ether. And boy, do I appreciate J.K. Rowling.

There is a level on which it seems silly to be so grateful for a series of “children’s books,” but when I think about the hours of emotional experience that have been given to me by the Harry Potter series through its author, it’s really not silly at all. I have always been a person who can care to almost unreasonable degrees for fictional characters, and I love being that way; I love being able to reach those highs and lows of happiness, worry, anticipation, sadness, anger, loss and love in a contained realm, in a way that lets me easily slip back to my regular life, which doesn’t often reach those giddy highs, and where I hope desperately to avoid those devastating lows. That is a huge part of what fiction is about, and why stories are a wonderful, crucial part of human existence.

J.K. Rowling gave me a story that in only a few years, I’ve already turned back to multiple times. She gave me characters I care about fiercely in all of their flaws and glory. She created a world that will remain a vibrant place that I can visit over and over. And she showed the world that a work of popular fiction, near-universal in appeal, could also be a carefully constructed, complicated story told through steady, worthy prose that explores themes that are truly meaningful to our lives in contemporary society—something the Dan Browns and Stephenie Meyerses of our time have not done. She is a brilliant writer of fiction, and I believe with my whole being that no matter what else we face in the world, we need brilliant writers of fiction.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 reached the one billion dollar mark in worldwide box office today, in its 19th day in release. This puts it as the eighth highest box office total of all time, with more countries still to open. There are many reasons not to equate profit with quality, but when I see a franchise I know to be the product of superior storytelling reaching incredible numbers of people, it makes me happy. The very existence of the Harry Potter phenomenon makes me happy, and I so look forward to seeing what its author does next.

Thank you, J.K. Rowling.

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Other projects:


Downton Gabby: podcasting about Downton Abbey from a funny, foul-mouthed, feminist perspective

Quick Lit: reading one short story a day in 2015

Grand Dames: collecting sundry achievements of admirable women

The MacGuffin: archive of my days as a film critic

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