Hear me out.
J.K. Rowling conceived her entire series on a train. It would be seven books, matching the years spent at an English boarding school such as Eton.
Book Six was released tonight. Rowling herself appeared at Edinburgh Castle at midnight, behind a puff of smoke, to read some of it to some of her fans.
The series was conceived, however, on a train, as a growing-up story. The first book would be an 11-year old's tale told from the point of view of the 11-year old. The final book would be an entrance into adulthood, a mature book.
No one could hit that kind of timetable. It's amazing to me that the 6th book went on sale just 7 years after the first one arrived.
My daughter is a big Harry Potter fan. Harry taught her to read, despite mild dyslexia. First my wife read it to her, along with the second and third books. Then she read them herself, several times. She has grown up on Harry but she will still be grown before Harry will. So will the actors who have been portraying the title character and his friends. It's very likely the actors will have to be replaced before the seventh movie can be produced.
But there's even more to it than that.
Remember that, as Arthur C. Clarke said, "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
It's this that's the key to understanding what's really going on in the Harry Potter series.
As I said at the outset, it's a story about growing up. When we're children things do happen as if by magic, magic we take for granted. Cars go, planes fly, TV comes through the wall and videogames live in our minds. (Gee, who does J.K.'s second husband look like? Hmmm....)
Gradually we strip the magic away. Some of us become auto mechanics. Others learn to take planes apart. Still others work in computing, or consumer electronics.
It's still magic, but now it's magic we can understand, technology, something we can master. Something we must master, and go beyond, in order to make progress, in order to create new magic for our children and grandchildren to first take for granted, then learn.
The story is like Santa Claus in a way. I saw someone I admire criticize a statement I made about Santa Claus being real recently, saying I was being silly. But I see it every Christmas, and so do you. The magic of Christmas is real. We all have a hand in making it, every muggle one of us. But it's still real. Yet it's also magic.
The same is true for all the other magic we make, and the other magic we do, throughout our lives.
Education is the greatest magic of all. Education is the process of learning how the world works. We take what we thought was magic and learn to comprehend it, to control it, to master it, to go beyond it. It's a process that takes years, and it's a process we need to take the time for.
You should read the Potter books in order, at regular intervals. Each teaches lessons appropriate to its age. Just because the first book was a juvenile, don't assume the sixth or seventh books will be equally juvenile. They won't be.
And this is how I believe my daughter will in time teach these books to her own children. She'll have the whole collection by then. I see her, deep in the future, carefully gift-wrapping the first one we bought her, for her own child's 11th birthday. Maybe she'll say an Owl left it, and since both my wife and I went to Rice she won't be far off.
But if you want a world of juvenalia you're childish. You'll be unable to comprehend your time, unable to make progress happen. If you want Harry to stay 11, in other words, you're a real Muggle.
Harry has to grow up, to learn the truth of the world. So do you. So must we all. Harry Potter is the story of life, and of living one day, one week, one year at a time, of learning how the magic works and mastering it.
In its way the Harry Potter series are the most subversive work of its time, far more subversive than Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. They turn the entire Disney world on its head, call it out, they show the lie underneath that world, and help you understand the truth in that.
Enjoy the ride.