I didn't want to read the Harry Potter books. They were trendy, and worse from the perspective of my teenaged self, they were my little sister's novels. But one late-'90s summer on a family hiking trip out west, I ran out of things to read, and raided her backpack for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I remember the heat and the red rocks on the edge of my vision and the book and its sequel squarely at the center of it. For more than a decade since, I've read the novels almost in a panic as soon as they were published, had heated discussions about them, even reported on a charitable movement based in Harry Potter's values. Harry Potter hasn't just been a series for me: it's the cultural framing device of an entire generation.
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J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter universe has remained an essential cultural phenomenon, depopulating owls in India and fueling a massive amateur fan fiction industry. With the Friday release of the first movie based on the final novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, that phenomenon is finally beginning to draw to a close.
The Harry Potter movies have always been a pale substitute for Rowling's novels. Nevertheless, for years after that final book's publication, the movies have promised us something more, something new from the Harry Potter universe. And after next year, when the second and last installment of Deathly Hallows comes out, we can't expect anything else.