Saturday, March 29, 2008

Deliberately Writing to Future Historians

Dear Future Historians and English Professors,

I am writing to make your job easier. I know how difficult and frustrating it can be to figure out what people in the past may have been doing or thinking, so I present you with this letter that imparts all the facts (free of bias) about the history of Harry Potter’s readership.

As I’m sure you already know, Harry Potter was the most famous protagonist of the early 21st century. His author, J.K. Rowling, went from rags to riches from the enormous success of the series; children and adults around the world read of Harry’s adventures. But what you may not know is who didn’t read Harry Potter, and why they refused to join in Harry’s magical world.

There are three kinds of people in the twenty-first century that have not read Harry Potter. The Cannot’s, the Must Not’s and the Will Not’s.

The Cannot’s are people too poor, too busy earning a living, illiterate, or unable to read one of the many languages into which Harry Potter has been translated. This group is large and is spread across the world. The absence of Harry Potter in their lives comes of necessity and nothing ill can be spoken of them. The latest estimate is that 4.5 billion people fall into this category.

The Must Not’s are people who are able to read Harry Potter, but choose not to on moral grounds. These people are often – but are not exclusively – Evangelical Christians. They believe witches and wizards are evil and homosexuality immoral; consequently these people choose not to read the books. If you would like to see the passion with which these people reject the series, please see the documentary Jesus Camp. Because I – being an unbiased presenter of plain facts – believe people are entitled to their freedom of religion, I will speak no ill of their decision not to read the books. At this time approximately 300 million people are Must Not’s.

The Will Not’s are people who have the time and money to read the books, have no moral objection, but choose not to read the series because they think this decision makes them unique. They love to tell you how proud they are that they have never read the books. How childish it is to read books targeted at adolescents. And how much they hate what they have never experienced. These people – factually speaking – are unhappy with their lives. Their refusal to read Harry Potter is a cry for help. What they’re really saying is, I want to read them. I want to join the club of fans, but I’m afraid it will rob me of the only thing that makes me unique. The Will Not group is quickly diminishing as they break down, one by one, relinquishing themselves to the wonder and magic of the Harry Potter series. By the time of your reading this note, far off in the future, the Will Not’s will almost certainly not exist. At last count, there were 47 of these people.

You now understand all there is to know – just the facts – about the readership of the Harry Potter series. I hope this letter has helped you in your endeavour to understand what we of the early twenty-first century were like.

Respectfully yours,

Adam Crymble

P.S. Historians write of the past in the hopes that people in the present will understand.

Journalists write of the present in the hopes that people in the present will understand.

Who writes to the people of the future? Ridiculous content aside, can we talk to future historians? Or will we just be considered another source amongst a sea of sources? Is there a difference between a contemporary account (such as a newspaper article), written for contemporaries, and an account specifically generated to explain ourselves to people not yet born?

And more importantly, have YOU read Harry Potter yet? You don’t want the next generation of historians to categorize you as a “Will Not.” I’ve just seen to it that the future will see these people in a negative light.


Sarah Waugh said...

Brilliant Crymble, brilliant.

Tim Compeau said...

Good post, but I will always be a will not. People in the future can think what they will.

Your post reminded me of a diary entry I read a while ago, addressed to a historian, perhaps:

From Nathaniel Ames (Mass.) to a future reader of his diary (1758)

"do not despise old times too much, for remember that 2 or 3 centuries from the time of seeing this, you will be counted old-time folks as much as you count us to be so now...Do not think yourselves so much wiser than we are as to make yourselves proud..."

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