daily kaddish: for J.K. Rowling’s mum

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On this, the opening weekend of the very last Harry Potter movie ever of the very last Harry Potter book ever (I’m not sure I believe either claim), a kaddish for the woman whose death inspired it all—at least according to Mira. Her friend Tim, who sat next to her at the movie yesterday, isn’t so sure.

I’m not voting. I’m still 3–4 books behind, which is probably as appalling as the fact that I don’t know for sure whether it’s 3 or 4, and I’ve only seen part of one of the movies (didn’t much care for it). Don’t get me wrong—I’ve liked the books, and I own the full collection. I’m even going to finish reading them. They’re pretty good books.

[amazon_enhanced asin=”0375701044″ /]Problem is, they’ve gotten too large. I do most of my reading in bed, lying on my back, and once a book exceeds a certain size, that becomes too hazardous. Sooner or later I fall asleep, my grip loosens, and the book hurtles at 9.8 meters per second squared toward my tender, sleeping face. I swore that Katherine Graham’s excellent memoir would be the last book to give me facial lacerations.

[amazon_enhanced asin=”014243714X” /]However, this fall I heeded Mira’s urge to tackle at long least the Japanese masterpiece, in Royall Tyler’s translation (which I much prefer to Mira’s beloved Arthur Whaley’s), and once again an over-heavy book has been doing damage to my face.

At least these were adult books, though! Can I really handle carrying scars on my face that were inflicted by children’s books?!

OK. Yeah. I suppose I’ll have to. Either that or I’ll need to take some long flights soon, and somebody will have to hide my iPad from me while I’m packing, because I already paid through the nose for the remaining Harry Potter books in the British English original.

A note about that: yes, Harry Potter is translated into American English. If you’ve bought the books at a US store, you’ve been missing out. The British English originals are much more charming.

No, really they are. The first time I read Harry Potter, it was book one, US English edition. I’d gone over to my friend Martha’s house, but before we could sit down to dinner, she had to take a business call. A long one. I picked up Harry Potter and read at least a third of it before Martha got off the phone. To her astonishment, I closed it without marking my page, set it down, and turned down her generous offer to lend it to me so I could finish it.

“Meh,” I thought. OK for killing time, but not worth finishing.

Cut ahead a few months. I’m in England, at a project kickoff meeting for a Japanese translation project. I get to be friends with  two of the translators, who mention how much they love Harry Potter, and I tell them I’m unimpressed. They ask if I’d read it in US English or British English.

What?

They explained.

A few days later, it was my birthday, and they presented me a gift-wrapped copy of Harry Potter the First, in the original British English.

A year later I was heading back to England for another meeting with these translators, and I realized I’d have to read the damned thing, finally, because they were going to ask me about it, and I’m a crappy liar. So, I packed it, and on the plane I…

…watched the movie.

I just couldn’t bring myself to read it.

The next night, I took it to bed, fell asleep, dropped it on my face, and then called it a night.

Fortunately, as is my wont after crossing more than a few timezones, I woke up around 4am and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I picked the book back up, started reading, and was soon hooked. I read until the last possible minute before needing to shower and dress for breakfast, read some more at breakfast, took it on the Tube and read some more, read some more at lunch, etc. I finished that book sometime in the wee hours the night before my big meeting, for which I was too sleepy to be very effective, but I had my verdict:

Yeah, they’re right. Harry Potter is much better in British English. Pretty fucking great, actually.

Unfortunately, they didn’t ask.

At the airport on my way back home, I picked up book 2. And on every trip back to England since then, I’ve sought out the next volume, and now I do have the complete set, just waiting for me to have some spare time to catch up on my reading.

About erin

Erin Vang, PMP, BMus, MMus, is Owner and Principal Pragmatist of the consultancy Global Pragmatica LLC®, offering custom JMP scripting, localization program management, and facilitative leadership services. She is also an orchestral horn player who freelances in the San Francisco Bay Area and plays assorted brass for the celebrated dance bands Midnight Smørgåsbord and contraPtion. More about Erin…
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