Living in my imagination

Having been alerted to the existence of this veritable wonderland of Harry Potter excitement, I immediately rationalized the $25 entrance fee as a small price to pay for the chance to pretend to be a witch AND go to England (Scotland? Is Hogwarts supposed to be in Scotland?), if only for a short amount of time. Luckily, I’m already in New York, so I won’t run the risk of splinching myself (my apparating skills are, regrettably, sub-par).*

While I would, of course, prefer the exhibit not to be an exact replica of the films’ takes on J.K. Rowling’s universe, I can also understand that any other sort of representation would be strange after the movies have so universally presented visual and tangible scenery, that now it’s really all anyone can imagine. Books-to-film always have that unpleasant effect on the mind during subsequent readings of an old favorite.

In any case, no one can deny the incredible effects that total immersion in a work of literature has on the mind, nor the almost impossibility of reading without some sort of picture, hazy or not, forming there. It’s no surprise that the Harry Potter series has been replicated in so many ways, but it gets me thinking about what other sorts of books I would love to be able to take part in. Of course, fantasies are the first that jump to mind, followed perhaps by historical narratives, but surely there are many much more familiar worlds that are enticing purely because of characters or events.

Off the top of my head, I would love to be able to visit, or I suppose, live in, Georges Perec’s Paris apartment in Life: A User’s Manual with all of the knowledge of its inhabitants, of course. Narnia, obviously I would go there, and I would probably pay money to be best friends with Jo March, Jessica Darling, Bridget Jones or Anne Shirley—I begged my parents for a vacation to Prince Edward Island just so I could be like Sara Stanley and Anne.

Or maybe the magic of books lies in the fact that the experience of living them, knowing the characters, is so wholly personal—whether or not the settings are fictitious. I can’t decide what I’d like better, in all honesty. Where would you go? Who would you befriend?

While you decide, I’m going to run off to Potions class—don’t want to be late for Snape, you know.**

*Bear with my Harry Potter humor.

6 Responses to Living in my imagination

  1. Speaking of Scotland … obsessive academics (I am not one of them, not an academic anyway) imagine their way into fiction physically too. Here’s a paper from the journal Hypermedia Joyce Studies that describes physical models of the Dublin of Leopold Bloom in Joyce’s Ulysses, which came to my attention via a colleague of one of the paper’s U. Edinburgh co-authors:


    In the paper there are videos that give views on how three characters move through the ‘Wandering Rocks’ chapter of that novel in an ‘aquarium model'; and how characters travel across the city modeled on an animated map. Pretty cool, esp. for 2005.

    And, yes, I did visit the Martello tower in Sandycove myself when I was in Dublin years ago.

    • Rachel says:

      This comment made me more excited than it probably should have. I LOVE Ulysses, and for a project in college, I took photographs of dozens of places mentioned in Bloom’s journey and corresponded them with passages/interpretations from the book.

      This is the neatest thing, thanks!

  2. Patrick DiOrio says:

    I got hold of four of Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan books when I was a youngster, maybe twelve or so. They belonged to a friend’s grandfather. The books had long been out of print and this was before they were reissued in paperback in the sixties. Until then I was only familiar with the movies and comics and newspaper comic strip. I had no idea the original stories were actually books. I read the first three in the series: Tarzan of the Apes, The Return of Tarzan, The Beasts of Tarzan and then one out of sequence, Tarzan Untamed. More than anything I fantasized some day going to Africa and living as the Apeman beneath the green jungle canopy, swinging from limb to limb and oh the adventures I would have! That was then, of course. But what those books did for me other than sparking my fantasies: it made me want to write my own. And for that, I will forever cherish those books.

  3. Josin says:

    Yes, it’s in Scotland. Hogwarts was supposed based on Fettes College, a private school in Edinburgh, and a gorgeous bit of architecture if you’ve never seen it.

  4. ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS was my favorite book as a kid, and I always dearly wished to see a replica of Karana’s hut, with its fence made of whale ribs and meat hung up to dry, and at least a map of the island if some of the other locations couldn’t be created (the spring, cave, etc.).

  5. Donn says:

    Something that I think the Narnia books did very well was to make the fantasy world feel just adjacent to our own, waiting for you if only you knew where (or when) to look.

    And Ulysses, yes! Portrait of the City as an Author’s Canvas. It’s the opposite of most books that explicitly leave certain details to the reader’s imagination, but at the same time (in a funny way) it requires even more imagination to picture than any of them. Not just because even though you may know what, say, O’Connell bridge looks like but the fact that you’re sitting at home means you have to conjure it all up from nothing, but also because it’s set in the past, in a city that never quite corresponded to what existed to its readers.

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