My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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processing Harry Potter

I just finished reading Book 7 and am now back online.

Like many other Harry Potter fans, I’ve avoided the Internet like the plague since the book leaked two days before the release. I added mail filters to prevent anything related to Harry Potter from reaching my inbox temporarily. I restrained myself from visiting websites that allowed open content and resisted from doing searches. I simply did not want to know the ending.

For the final book launch, I decided to stay in Boston since I knew so many fans that lived there. Besides, I absolutely love the independent Harvard Book Store and figured that the excuse to support them would be just wonderful. It was a good decision because there was so much enthusiasm in Harvard Square. “Harry and the Potters” played Harvard’s lawn and thousands of costumed children wandered about. They shut down the streets and there was HP music everywhere. The excitement was just overwhelming. And I couldn’t help but repeat over and over again, “all of this is for a book???” The little geeky fangirl in me was having a field day. As we stood smooshed in the crowd to pick up our copies, my friend was astonished by the number of college-aged boys willingly dressed like adolescents. He kept chuckling and repeating things that were being said further back in the line. My favorite? “How many people do you think have hard-ons here?”

Some of my friends were too afraid of spoilers and chose not to go out and celebrate on the eve of the book launch. The mere existence of people who find such joy in ruining others’ pleasure irritates me and so I was trying not to explode as friends were texting me with the antics of mean-spirited folks. One friend kept promising me that there was a most insidious place in hell for such folks. The spoiler who took the cake in the reports I got? The asswipe who had the gall to rent a plane and fly it over San Francisco/Berkeley with spoilers.

When I got to the airport on Saturday morning, I was giddy with joy over seeing hundreds of people waiting for planes, their heads all stuck inside the same book. The flight attendant kept asking me, “are you done yet?” and I kept glaring at him. It was clear that the dozens who were enjoying the book on the plane wanted to be left alone to read.

Personally, I had a hard time reading the book. I promised myself that I would read it immediately so that it wouldn’t get spoiled. But I wasn’t prepared for how much of it would center around Harry’s relationship to his mentor. I guess if I thought about it for a second, I would’ve known that. But I had to put the book down on a number of occasions as Harry worked through different emotional responses. I don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun by going into more detail than that, but for my friends out there, I feel the need to share that the book was a surprisingly cathartic experience for me. Grief is an odd thing, but thinking about Peter as Dumbledore brought a smile to my mouth alongside tears to my eyes.

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11 comments to processing Harry Potter

  • Yeah I was also afraid of going in to boston and getting spoiled. Not to mention my wife and I start reading at midnight so we can finish asap.

    If we did have some kind of need to read it as fast as possible I would have loved to go in to the city. I do feel like we miss out on a lot. Harry and the Potters put on a great show.

    your site just need spoiler tags to black everything out.. though I doubt feed readers would respect them. bastards!

  • Ahhhh clearly you should just twitter everything in your life, and I should subscribe to it since I was in Harvard Square that night! But not on official HP7 business, just went in to get milkshakes at Bartley’s with a friend and we ended up staying till 1030 or so. Tried to find some people we knew in the fray at the concert but especially once it got dark it was just too impossible and they had terrible cell phone call quality and couldn’t follow directions (turn… around… walk… to Widener… giant… Columns…). We met lots of random people we knew just by accident, though, it was neat.

    I didn’t much like 7, but at least JK’s writing had improved more and she had better editors. Oh well. I was still quite depressed once I finished it.

  • Book six came out the day of my mentor’s memorial service. I put off a trip to South Africa to be with his family in Williamstown and left the next morning, putting the book by my bedside to read when I returned.

    I got food poisoning in Cape Town and asked R. to download the scan of the book from the Interwebs and email it to me so I could read in bed. It was extremely difficult to make it through the final chapters – I wasn’t ready to deal with Dick’s death in reality, and encountering it metaphorically was something I was totally unprepared for. Cathartic, but very surprising – I hadn’t expected to be sobbing as I finished a “children’s” book.

    Love and strength, my friend.

  • Much to my surprise, I found myself getting really quite choked up. Certainly much better than previous two. But, of course, I really can’t say any more as I’d have hunted down with dogs anyone who gave anything away before I’d finished it.

  • As a non-fan, I have enjoyed supplying out of date spoilers to my HP fan friends. They get these adorable pitying expressions.

  • Thanks for your support of Harvard Book Store and independents in general. I was out there with my daughter on Friday night, and we had a fantastic time. Hope you did too.

    Will it ever happen for a book again?

    All best,

  • Thanks for your support of Harvard Book Store and independents in general. I was out there with my daughter on Friday night, and we had a fantastic time. Hope you did too.

    Will it ever happen for a book again?

    All best,

    frank (harvard book store)

  • Here in Italy, there were spoilers in a newspaper (“Metro” – one of those freebies) a few days early. I managed to skate over it and not read, but a friend is furious. I was offline Friday noon to Sunday noon. Got my copy from a friend Saturday evening (not so easy to come by in Italy), finished reading Sunday afternoon so that I could give it to friends who wanted to read it as much as I did.

    I cried at the end over something that struck me particularly at this time in my life, probably no one else in the world cried at it!

  • I also avoided spoliers like crazy and still managed not to rush through the book. Now that I’m finished (after staying up all night last night), I don’t know if the ending itself really could have been spoiled. It’s almost exactly what I knew it would have to be, but I’m glad that it took reading the whole thing to have it confirmed.

    Did you manage to catch Harry and the Potters in Harvard Square? I would have loved to have been there for their party.

  • someone

    VOLDEMORT KILLS SNAPE

    VOLDEMORT KILLS SNAPE

    VOLDEMORT KILLS SNAPE

    HARRY AND GINNY GET MARRIED AND HAVE 3 KIDS

  • Rukia13

    Aw c’mon – use spoiler tags for the sake of those who haven’t read to the end yet!

    I raced through my HP7 in nine hours. I bawled for half an hour over the first death. I was numb by the last five.

    I agree that Rowling’s writing has improved. I did, however, find that the middle dragged a bit – when they were going around and around and around.