Happy birthday, JK Rowling and Harry Potter!

Illustration by Mary Grandpre

Little known fact (to this blog, at least): I am a huge Harry Potter fan. Not super obsessed– not like this guy, anyway– but I have been reading the books for almost 13 years. I went to 3 midnight releases for the 5th, 6th and 7th books, midnight-premiered 4 of the 8 movies (and nearly won a wand at the midnight premiere of “Goblet of Fire” but ended up losing because I was the first of three people who didn’t know the incantation for the Tickling Charm [it’s “rictusempra”]), and I frequently listen to the audiobooks when I go to sleep. I also own The Psychology of Harry Potter and The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy: Hogwarts for Muggles (you know, so I can intellectually supplement my obsession). But I digress: for those of us super-fans out there, we know that Harry Potter would be 32 today and that JK Rowling is 47.

I used to reread all of the Harry Potter books every summer, but alas, this summer I am reading the likes of Judith Butler and Andre Breton instead. Next summer, when I am not reading for comps (indeed, for school in general), I am definitely going to reread the books all the way through– maybe twice so that I can make up for this summer. I have to tell a story how I almost physically felt my blood pressure skyrocket yesterday. I got an email regarding one of my classes– a history class, Readings in the American West, which fulfills my out-of-department requirement. This email included a book list and a rough outline of what to expect this semester, though a full syllabus will be coming later. We are going to have to read 13 books– about one per week– in addition to an essay or two each week, and we will each be expected to present reports or essays on other readings every few weeks. I should have expected there to be a lot of reading for a class that actually has “Reading” in the title. This is all in addition to my reading for two other classes (I am expecting Intro to Museum Studies to be about 150 pages a week, and it is thankfully a lecture class, which will be the first one I will have taken since I have been in grad school. My other class is a seminar about Degas, and I have no idea what to expect).

This is going to sound pathetic, especially considering that I am a grad student, but I have never had to read an actual book in its entirety for one class session except for maybe once or twice (and they were short books, like 150-200 pages. Research reading, however, is a slightly different story). Usually I am given 100-150 pages of articles/chapters from selected books per class. I looked up each of the 13 books he listed, and they are all around 400 pages. I’m going to be totally honest here: until I am done with comps, there is no way that I am reading these books in their entirety, and I probably still won’t read them cover to cover even after I am done with comps. I have discovered that how you read is more important than how much you read, which may be terrible self-advice, but quite frankly, I don’t know anyone who reads every single thing all the way through.

Salvador Dali, “Soft Watch at Moment of First Explosion” (1954)

I can’t believe that it’s already the end of July… I swear that time speeds up as summers progress/you have something that you are dreading. I’ll be back in school August 27th, and I am concerned about how I will handle next semester. I wish that I could have taken 2 classes as opposed to 3, but following my first year review I was informed that I needed to take an out-of-department class that specifically informed my thesis (I had been hoping that I could get away with taking Intro to Museum Studies, which I need to take for my Professional Certificate). I’m starting to read more articles and essays rather than books, partially because it’s easier to read a wider variety of stuff, but also because it doesn’t take as long to get through. On Sunday I want to write one of my 3-page answers to one of my major questions; ideally I’d like to have all 8 written by the end of the month, but we’ll see how that goes now that the next 3 weekends are filled with weddings.

I have to keep telling myself that the worst will be over by mid-December, because after that point, I will only be taking one class and working on my thesis. With that in mind, I leave you with the following musical gem:


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