Understanding Pottermania

July 22, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

Kim PhotoNo doubt I’ll be in for some ridicule by confessing that I’ve never read a single Harry Potter book. I was chatting with some people last week – all adults and all devout Potter fans, preparing to line up outside their local bookstore, ready for the doors to burst forth and start selling the seventh book at 9.01am Sydney time Saturday July 21.

Of course, I haven’t been living on Mars. I’m aware of the Harry Potter phenomenon but somehow the thought of reading a book aimed mainly at kids and full of wizards on flying broomsticks and some dude with an odd shaped scar has never appealed to me. I often see adults on trains reading Harry Potter books; I have rarely seen children reading the books but maybe I’ve just not noticed.

As much as I know of the Harry Potter series, it seems to retell a tried and tested fantasy tale – battle of good against evil; young hero valiantly battling the forces of darkness; wizards and magic; mythical creatures; and an odd giant or two thrown in for good measure. So I’m not at all sure what the special appeal is but then I haven’t read the books. I’ve been told (rightly or wrongly) that the first book was a bit “light on” and that with each book JK Rowling’s writing style has become more sophisticated, the storyline more complex, and the tale has become darker.

Some of my friends had marked July 21st in their diaries months in advance so they wouldn’t miss out on the day of publication of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. One of them even camped out from 5.30am Saturday morning in winter’s icy cold so as to be first in the queue.

Four days before publication, I read about a Canadian chap, Byron Ng, who apparently ‘stumbled onto’ a leaked copy of the seventh book, which had been posted onto the Internet. The publishers used GPS to track the trucks delivering the books to book stores and I read that alarms were secured to book crates. So with all the heavy security, you wonder how someone allegedly took photos of the book and released it onto the Internet days before publication. Someone, somewhere, whipped out a camera and took a photo of the 794-page book and ended up with 500 files. The photos made it very difficult for die-hard Potter fans to read – pages were askew, someone’s fingers appeared at the bottom of some of the photos, holding the book; and someone’s brown shoes appeared in photos.

Two days before publication, I decided to have a look at the so-called leaked copy of the book from the Bittorent file-sharing site, the Pirate Bay. Just in case you haven’t laid your hands on a copy yet, possible spoiler alert is ahead – SKIP THIS WHOLE PARAGRAPH. I noticed that there was an epilogue taking place nineteen years in the future and something about his scar not having pained Harry over the last nineteen years. Mentioning this to a friend, little did I anticipate the dramatic reaction – I had inadvertently (assuming the leaked copy to be a true copy) revealed that Harry doesn’t snuff it and that maybe he has three children who are later packed off to Hogwarts. And news from The International Herald Tribune has revealed that the leaked copy was indeed the genuine article. Actually, not knowing too much about the Harry Potter series, it seems that this is a fitting ending: neither Harry nor Voldemort snuff it; apparently Ron marries Hermione; Harry marries Ginny; and lots of characters snuff it. So maybe this leaves the door open for books on Harry’s offspring continuing the fight against darkness and evil? Young readers upset at the demise of any characters will have a crisis hotline number to ring for counselling according to The Guardian.

I read that a distressed guy in Canberra had to be rescued from a freezing lake because he’d taken the plunge in to retrieve the receipt for his pre-ordered copy of the book. And apparently 5,000 fans flocked to Waterstone’s bookstore in London to start queuing well before midnight and participate in a glittering launch event.

So I decided to check out what the fuss is all about and headed off with a friend to line up on Saturday morning at a local bookstore. 5,000 fans weren’t in evidence; maybe about 40. But I noted that the majority were adults, some dressed in black gowns and witches hats. When the doors opened, I was pleased to see there was no unseemly fracas and that people in the orderly queue proceeded to whip out a receipt, grab their book, get a photo taken and rush out the door. Quite a few headed off in the direction of a coffee shop, presumably to get cracking on reading the 700+ pages.

With friend’s copy in hand, I turned to the final pages (amidst threats of “tell me the ending and I’ll kill you”) and it seemed that the leaked ending I’d read a few days before was the same as the ending in my hands.

My friend rushed home to spend the entire day reading the book. I decided to read the first book in the series, but didn’t make it beyond page 2 (sorry, but I didn’t like it). I admit to feeling like a social outcast and cannot hold my own in a conversation about the characters and the plots. Okay, back to my book on Indian history!

And if you want to read a potter-ed version (sorry) of the final saga, check this out. It’s one person’s chapter-by-chapter description of the book (post-publication), her reactions to the demise of beloved characters, with way too much coffee drinking so she can stay up all night finishing the book and blogging about it. Basically, all I need do is read this and not bother wading through 700 or so pages!

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Entry filed under: Books, Harry Potter, Reflections.

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