Joss Whedon – the man, the legend, the awesome

A couple weeks ago – actually, a week and a half ago, to be precise – I went to a screening of Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing at the Oxford Union. I was privileged and lucky enough to get to interview Mr. Whedon himself, along with his stars, Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker, for almost half an hour. I then attended the general Q&A session at the Union, along with a whole lot of other fans who’d waited in anticipation for the event.

You can find the interview here and the article summarizing the amazing Q&A session here.

 

Two of my favorite people, talked to and interviewed in one year, in the span of not even three months. Not bad, for a loopy writer going into her senior year, if I do say so myself (but seriously, if you’d asked sixteen-year-old me if almost-23-year-old-me could do something like this, she’d laugh in your face and tell you to go pick on someone else and not make fun of her, please).

 

A Birthday Card and Love Letter

To the dear, amazing, wonderful and incredible author, world builder and inspiration, J. K. Rowling,

(And also, to the fictional character who we all wish was real, Harry James Potter,)

I want to you wish you an incredible birthday. Many months ago, in May of 2009, I wrote a short little piece about how the Harry Potter books were the first ones I read on my own. I’d like to go further now, and tell the story again, because I truly believe that without the Harry Potter books, I wouldn’t have become the reader I am today. If I wouldn’t have become the reader I am, I wouldn’t have begun to write. I wouldn’t have discovered the wonders of dozens of other authors, their worlds, their views and their legacies.

But it all started with the eleven-year old wizard, forced to live in a cupboard under the stairs, that was invented by you, Miss Rowling. And I’d like to share the story of how these books changed my life, and why I’m so grateful to you.

When I was eight years old, my chief activities were playing with my friends and watching television. I was a TV kid. When I was even younger and my mother taught me how to read in English, I fought tooth and nail against it. Remember, I’d learned Hebrew at school with everyone else, but my mother wanted me to be as fluent in English as I was becoming in Hebrew. I was already bilingual, but she knew that if I didn’t learn to read and write in English as a child, I’d probably lose a lot of the benefits of being so.

By the time I was eight I knew how to read in both languages, but I didn’t like to. I liked being read to – I loved stories, it’s true. It was also the age where my friends and I spent our time inventing stories and plays and games. Stories were a big part of my life, but words on pages weren’t.

Shortly after my ninth birthday, my brother turned thirteen. For his Bar Mitzva, a great-aunt of ours gifted him with the first three Harry Potter books, the third of which had only just come out, all in hardcover. I remember I thought to myself that the books sounded dumb when someone explained to me what they were about. My nine year old mind wasn’t excited, for some reason, by the prospect of a wizard boy.

My brother read the books on his own, of course. I remember distinctly, however, the first evening my mother started reading the first book to me. I was in my bed, the same one I still sleep in now, and she read the first line, “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” I remember cutting in then and saying something along the lines of “But the book’s called Harry Potter! Who are these people?” and my mother smiled and told me to wait patiently and we’d see together.

A couple weeks later, when we reached the chapter titled “Halloween,” while my parents were having their Friday afternoon nap, I read the whole chapter alone without telling anyone. When my mother started reading it to me that night I felt so guilty that I confessed that I’d read it alone. I thought it would hurt her feelings. She was, of course, ecstatic, and gave me her blessing to continue reading the book, and the next and the next, on my own.

So Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (I had the American version) was the first book in English that didn’t have pictures in it (except for those small ones above the chapter titles) that I read most of alone, and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the first book of this sort that I read completely alone, from start to finish.

It changed my life. I just kept on reading. I discovered a love for fantasy, that led me to dozens of amazing books, and later branched out to every type of book imaginable. If I’d never reached that point where I wanted so badly to know what was about to happen that I picked up the book and read the next chapter alone, then I’d never have become such an avid reader. And being a reader… means the world to me.  I can’t imagine ever living without books. I can’t imagine never reading.

Harry Potter remained with me for years, and he’s still with me. I grew up with him. When he turned seventeen when the seventh and final book came out, I turned seventeen. The books saw me through the beginning, middle and end of puberty, they saw my first kisses and first periods, my first relationship and first breakup. They saw me through my father’s death. I can’t count the times I’ve read them. I know that they’re going to remain with me for my entire life.

Thank you, J. K. Rowling, for creating a world, characters and plot so amazing that you convinced a nine-year old who watched as many hours of TV a day as she could to find the wonder and beauty of words. Thank you, Harry Potter, fictional as you are, for being the star of this author’s books, for being courageous but normal, for being talented but average, for making me feel kinship with you. Thank you, Hermione Granger, the Weasleys, Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks, Serius Black, Fleur Delacour, Luna Lovegood, Dean Thomas,Seamus Finnegan, Neville Longbottom, Lee Jordan, Oliver Wood, Angelina Johnson, Alicia Spinnet, Katie Bell, Parvati Patil, Lavender Brown, Professors of Hogwarts, Rubeus Hagrid, the Malfoys, Dobby and Winky, Messrs. Crouch and Bagman, Tom Marvolo Riddle who grew into Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters, and, last but definitely not least (and I’m probably forgetting so many other good characters here), Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore- thank you for filling eleven (so far) years of my life with your magic.

Superpowers

As countless and timeless stories tell us, we humans have always striven for something more than our mortal talents. Stories as old as the Greek and Roman myths tell of people who had the gift of seeing the future or supernatural strength or cunning that took them far. Stories in the bible tell of the gift of speaking with animals or of healing or of being able to talk to god. We’ve always been and always will be fascinated with things that are beyond the every-day things that we can do.

I’ve heard many people ask each other what superpower they’d choose if they could. This question has always stumped me.

Mind reading? Oh no, way too horrible. I don’t want to know what everyone is thinking, because most thoughts would probably be either extremely tedious [“I’m hungry… What should I eat? Yum, grilled cheese!”] or disturbing [“What I wouldn’t do to that guy… *Rated R thoughts*”].

Invisibility? Seems depressing, in a way. Sure, it would be useful for spying on people or stalking them, but I wonder if it would be that easy to turn it on and off like that. Plus, stalking should involve more effort than that or it’s not worth it, right?

Super strength? Meh – Buffy Summers is cool, but I’ve yet to face a vampire and so I don’t really know whose face I’d want to bash in anyhow. Girl-power would be cool, but I don’t want to be scary…

I suppose the only superpower I’d really welcome would be the ability to fly at will. Being able to soar around would be wonderful, and I can’t think of a drawback to it. But really, that’s the only super-power that I can see as being worth anything.

So… how about you?