Friday, July 20, 2007

Potter mania

I have to admit I'm amazed by the frenzy whipped up over the impending release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but I suppose I shouldn't be. Ever since The Prisoner of Azkaban's release prompted waiting lines and book release parties at bookstores across the country, Harry Potter has been growing into a colossal multimedia juggernaut, complete with its own filkish subgenre.

I don't begrudge Rowling her success--if anyone deserves to become the first billionaire author, it's the divorced mother who wrote the first book while struggling to make ends meet on welfare. But I have to shake my head at her anger directed toward the New York Times for a positive, if somewhat uninspired, advanced review of the book that gave away precious few "spoilers" that could impact one's reading of the book in any manner.
"I am staggered that some American newspapers have decided to publish purported spoilers in the form of reviews in complete disregard of the wishes of literally millions of readers, particularly children," she said.

Which spoilers are she talking about?
J.K. Rowling's monumental, spell-binding epic, 10 years in the making, is deeply rooted in traditional literature and Hollywood sagas - from the Greek myths to Dickens and Tolkien to Star Wars - and true to its roots, it ends not with modernist, Soprano-esque equivocation, but with good old-fashioned closure: a big screen, heart-racing, bone-chilling confrontation and an epilogue that clearly lays out people's fates.

Is that it? That the end of the book clearly lays out people's fates? Or that it doesn't end with an ambiguous fade-out to an old Journey song? Gimme a break. The only real spoilerish material here is the reviewer's passing mention that "at least half a dozen" characters die in the book, which might be something revelatory if this were a new A.A. Milne Winnie-The-Pooh book, but is relegated pretty much to the "So what" category since it jibes with the "people die, but it's not a bloodbath" quote Rowling has been dishing out in every interview she's done over the past six months. The long and short of it is, if you want to find juicy spoilers, the New York Times' early review is probably the last place you're going to want to look. It's simply a case of manufactured hoopla, and when the review hit, Rowling and her handlers saw a golden opportunity to garner even more headlines than they already had by stirring up a banal tit-for-tat war of words with the New York Times. As far as problems go, it's a nice one to have.

For all my aura of bemused indifference, I, too, will be reading Deathly Hollows shortly. I won't be in line tonight at the local Hastings for the obligatory midnight release party (more likely I'll be washing dishes, or surfing the internets in the name of "research," which is a convenient way of avoiding actual writing), which will spare me the now-obligatory "Snape kills Dumbledore" drive-by shoutings.

My wife pre-ordered the book a month ago from Amazon. It should arrive sometime on Saturday, and I won't see much of her--or the book--for the next few days as she plows through it. Not that I'm losing any sleep over it. I'm in the middle of China Mieville's Un Lun Dun at the moment, and it's a crackin' good book. I'm disinclined to put it down, multimedia juggernaut or no.

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