Welcome to the Book Nerd’s Guide to Life! Every other week, we convene in this safe place to discuss the unique challenges of life for people whose noses are always wedged in books. For past guides, click here.
Over the last few weeks, the countdown to the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has inspired me to wax nostalgic about a lot of things: the book series that turned me into a reader, the days before the movies when I thought it was pronounced “HER-ME-OWN-EE,” the hours spent in line at Barnes & Noble to get a copy of a new book at midnight, my lost youth.
Saying goodbye to books, particularly a series, is hard, more so when you’ve spent the bulk of your childhood in a routine of waiting for them, first in book form and later as movie releases. It becomes the norm. You miss it when it’s gone. You realize how much you’ll miss it when, at 11:35 a.m., July 21, 2007, you finish Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows after staying up all night, and think, “Well, at least I still have the movies.” And then those, too, end.
Yeah, saying goodbye to books is hard. You work through the stages of grief, augmented by the inherent drama of the fantasy book lover.
First is denial. You plead to the void for spinoff series and films based on textbooks from the same universe. Because as long as there are tangential properties to cling to, the story isn’t over. You can’t mourn something that isn’t gone. Everything is fine.
At some point, you realize the magic’s never going to be quite the same. You’ll never be able to recapture fully the feeling of watching the story unfold for the first time. You get angry. You post irrationally annoyed comments on friends’ Facebook posts about their results from those clickbait Sorting Hat quizzes. You block anyone who got “Hufflepuff” from your feed, because you just can’t handle well-adjusted mental states right now.
The anger morphs into self-loathing, and you start to make bargains with the universe. After all, maybe you just didn’t earn that Marauders sequel you long for. Maybe if you read all of J.K. Rowling’s non-Potter canon, you can right the ship, earning enough karmic points to get what you want.
Eventually, you start to come to terms with reality: the books you loved are finished. All you’ll have from now on are cyclical rereads. You think about people of the ancient world, who listened to oral tellings of The Iliad repeatedly, and you smile because at least you don’t have to wait for a traveling singer to stop by and butcher the details to relive your favorite stories.
And then something happens. A bomb drops. A movie trailer, or casting news, or the script to a play is released. All of a sudden, you’re right back in it. You’re playing through Pottermore like it’s your own hero’s journey. You get a rush, knowing there are more midnight premieres and parties coming, knowing there will be more to consume. Maybe it was reading Robert Galbraith, or maybe it was divine providence, or maybe just a reward from the universe in exchange for the Daniel Radcliffe farting corpse movie.
Whatever is responsible, you don’t care. The warmth of a familiar fictional hug has hold of you right now. Still, now that you know all good things end, you’re prepared for this to pass as well. Eventually, there will be many years that go by without new material from your favorite fictional world. You know you will be all right, in no small part because you know that, while the published and authorized material might come to a finite end, there will be no shortage of Luna Lovegood fan fiction for eons yet. And that right there is something to believe in.