I Never Saw Harry Potter Slow Down Long Enough to Read a Book, Not Incidentally

“For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors and laugh at them in our turn?”
 Jane Austen

Waiting for a break in the conversation, the impatient ten-year-old saw his chance.  The two mothers had slowed their discussion of preschools just long enough for him to break in and change the topic to something that really mattered.

“Jocelyn, you should come down to the basement and see how far I’ve gotten in the new Harry Potter game on our Wii.  It was released today, and we went to Target right after breakfast to get it.  I’ve been playing all day, and I’ve unlocked a lot of the characters already.  The Dementors are so cool.”

Never one to pass up the opportunity for malarkey, I shrieked, “Dementors?  In your basement?  Nice try, Jo-Jo, but there’s no way I’m going into your basement if there are Dementors there.  I’m ascairt of Dementors; even thinking about them makes me feel all cold inside.  Nope.  Sorry.  Not gonna go.  I’ll just be staying up here, in the light, where I can dash out into the sunshine and play on the swings and slide–objects which seem tragically untouched today, in fact.”

“Oh, come on, Jocelyn.  You should come down so I can show you all the stuff in the game.  The Dementors aren’t even scary.  Here, I’ll show you.”  Then he ran up the stairs to find his enormous Lego guide book.  Panting, moments later, he opened it to the picture of a Dementor mini-figure.

 Lego Harry Potter Minifigs Dementor Prisoner Of Azkaban

Spluttering, I gasped, “Why, that’s what I look like every February when I’m shuffling around the house in a fleece blanket and have eaten too many Jelly Bellies!  Sure, it’s horrifying, but such images are nothing new to me.  Lead the way, son.  Take me to your Death Eaters.  Of course, I’m not promising I won’t scream once I see them in action on the screen, of course.”

“Just come on.  It will be fine,” the kid assured me, skittering down the stairs and finding the imprint of his rear end that lingered on the carpet in front of the screen.

“Now that I’m down here in the dank bowels of your house, I’m all nervous again, especially because I see you’ve got your minions gathered ’round,” I noted, gesturing to his three brothers, all of whom bounced excitedly on crossed legs.  “Just show me Hogwarts.  I don’t need to see any Dementors.”

Unable to appreciate my manufactured drama, the kid turned to his brothers and reported, “Jocelyn keeps saying she’s afraid of the Dementors.  Good thing I’m just getting used to the game and can’t always find them.  But, Jocelyn, I’m going to show them to you; maybe if I just make my Harry and these redheaded guys–I just call them “The Twins” because I don’t know who they are–run around Hogwarts, I’ll find some for you…”

“Hey, kiddo?  Those twins are Ron Weasely’s older brothers, if I remember correctly.  Also, I don’t think the Dementors can come into Hogwarts.  I think you’ll have take Harry outside to find them.  I’m pretty sure they’re unable to enter the school.”

With a tone of new respect, the kid asked, “Do you have this game?  You must have beaten more levels than I have so far.”

“Nope.  Few things make my breakfast sit harder in my stomach than racing off to Target after ingesting it, so I don’t have the game.  I just remember that I always feel better when the action is in Hogwarts since the Dementors are kept out of it by some spell–I think Dumbledore cast it.  I love Dumbledore!  Whenever I get all shrieky about how hollow the Dementors make me feel, I hope the story will go back into Hogwarts, where things are relatively safe.  ‘Cause when those Dementors are floating around, sucking souls, I feel absolute terror.”

Looking away from the screen for a nanosecond, the kid asked, quizzically, “You mean, like, in the movies?”

“Naw, I haven’t seen the movies.  I mean when I read the books.”

Out and out confused by now, he scrunched his eyebrows together and squeezed out, “What do you mean, the books?”

Feeling scrunchy and squeezy myself, I could only say, “What do YOU mean when you say ‘what do you mean, the books?’”

Continuing to push the buttons that kept Lego Harry zipping towards Hagrid’s cottage, the kid lifted his eyes long enough to clarify his confusion, “There are Harry Potter books?”

The breath easing from my body–and not due to any Dementor’s soul-sucking kiss–I warbled, “Um, yea.  There are some Harry Potter books.  That’s how I know about these characters.  That’s what I’m talking about when I tell you how terrifying I find the Dementors.  Books.  From books.  You should try them.”

Shaking his head in complete disbelief, the kid looked around at his cadre of brothers, all of whom awaited their turn at the controls.  He chortled, “I don’t get it.  How can she be afraid of Dementors from reading about them in books?”  Then, looking at me, he upped the chortle to friendly mockery, “I don’t get it, Jocelyn.  How can something you read in a book be scary?  Books?  Scary?  Huh?”

Backing away, wishing him luck in defeating the level and one day figuring out the names of The Twins, I mumbled a few words about “well, there’s a lot of fear inside imagination and, well…um…books really can take your brain to…” before I realized his gaze had swiveled back to the screen,

to stare at a world of fantastical characters–

capable, on the written page, of conveying darkness, shock, vividness, fright–

flattened by pixels into safe, predictable, easily-controlled opportunities to “win.”

Fair enough.  

If Lego ever introduces a line of Jane Austen products, you better believe I’ll camp out at Target the night before, sweaty credit card clutched to heaving bosom, anxious to be the first to buy the Pride and Prejudice game and make the Elizabeth mini-figure slap Darcy across the face, ride a pony through the moors, and dance a graceful air in the ballroom–all in an effort to collect enough yearly income to stage a wedding after defeating the villainous George Wickham with a well-placed barb in the final level.

After all, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single Jocelyn in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a Wii. 





18 responses to “I Never Saw Harry Potter Slow Down Long Enough to Read a Book, Not Incidentally”

  1. unmitigated me Avatar
    unmitigated me

    "there are books?" my heart just died a little.

  2. Jazz Avatar

    Sweet jeebus.

    Words fail me. How very very sad.

    Though I'd venture to say your label is right…

  3. EmJay Avatar

    This made me sad….I have the first book sitting on the hutch in my kitchen having just been returned from my niece. I can mail it out immediately just tell me where it needs to go.

  4. Jenn @ Juggling Life Avatar
    Jenn @ Juggling Life

    Yikes! That's scarier than Dementors.

  5. secret agent woman Avatar
    secret agent woman

    Oh, Oh, my.

  6. alwaysinthebackrow Avatar

    Yes, the next group of children are likely to never know the pleasures of the imagination, including those of reading. I fear for them as well as feel sorry for them. The children I see can barely read, often to the point of being totally unable to comprehend a full sentence. Wii is just one of the technologies implicated in this. Perhaps there could be an exciting game which encouraged reading, perhaps setting up challenges solved only after having read about them in a book. I am only so thrilled that the love of reading seems to have been passed on to my grandchildren.

  7. ds Avatar

    What a terrifying post. I don't know which is sadder: the child who didn't realize there were books, or the parents who failed to introduce him to them…

  8. yogurt Avatar

    I do think you have stumbled onto (or carefully crafted) an idea that could open up an entirely untapped and lucrative market for video games. You can be Elizabeth if I can be Lydia. She sure did seem to be having fun with the evil Wickham.

  9. Pearl Avatar

    Books! I pity the fool who don't read the books.

    This was a delight to read, Joce. And maybe a dog-eared copy of the first book will make its way to the kids' house????


  10. Becky Cazares Avatar
    Becky Cazares

    Being an avid book reader since childhood, I personally don't understand how people can't love reading. However I don't think it is so much a problem of the "young 'uns today" with their video games and other alternate entertainment. I think every generation of us has had readers and non-readers. During my single years I would house-sit for quite a variety of folks – some with nary a dictionary to be seen, let alone a shelf with any books at all. Such lonely houses. However I also have the most wonderful, dear, creative, intelligent sis-in-law who just happens to NOT be a "book person." Us readers (I'd venture to say ALL who comment here are such!) can't fathom that existence, but it doesn't seem to be any worse with the younger generation… as evidenced by the Potter popularity. The question remains, is it nature or nurture? I still can't figure that one out!

  11. kmkat Avatar

    How charitable and generous with your time are you feeling? (what with prepping for the move and all) You could invite those poor deprived kids over for the bedtime reading session at your house. Wait, wait! You could do that and START the HP book(s). Then you will up and leave the county and the kids will BEG their parents to read to them. Win!

  12. lime Avatar

    oh my…to think that these wii ones don't know there are harry potter books is more than a tad disturbing. it's just plain demented.

    wow. just wow.

    field trip to the library…stat!

  13. christopher Avatar

    I love the way you brought that whole episode together…very much worth reading.

    A few years ago I would have been more disturbed by an aversion to reading. My daughter, now 23, read everything…and would have been one lining up for the Harry Potter books after breakfast.

    My son, 7, is clearly a visual learner, aside from any trend of the times…and I have had to learn about acceptance.

  14. Pam Avatar

    Oh my.If these children have two parents with them,that's double the shame factor for not encouraging a love of reading and books.Sometimes one is astounded by the level of ignorance out there. In my first years of teaching,in a country industrial town I came across a little boy who could barely communicate.His mother who was struggling herself said "We never talked to him, no-one told us we could talk to babies, we thought he wouldn't understand anyway". Back here in the city, the child of six, who, although living an hour from the beach, had never seen it.Very sad Jocelyn, but redeemable.

  15. Deborah Avatar

    The Harry Potter books remain among the few that my youngest son has read – although he found them un-put-downable they didn't turn him on to books in general. He reads a lot – just not books. I keep trying, and every once in a while he'll fall under the spell and love what's been put under the Christmas tree, for instance, but the internet has too big a lure for him.

    A very cleverly written piece, Jocelyn-soon-to-be-in-the-neighbourhood-sorta. I would have made a finger-waggling essay out of it but yours is much more fun.

  16. tattytiara Avatar


  17. Green Girl in Wisconsin Avatar
    Green Girl in Wisconsin

    That would have made me drink. Heavily. And scream "books first! Books first! Books first!"

  18. Steve Avatar

    Oy! Just posted a link to this in my Adolescent Lit class. Too sad. Too funny.

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