So I'm finally up for air after the bookselling insanity that is Harry Potter. I missed most of our party because I was too busy reading tarot cards (damn, I had fun: possible career change in my future? Must consult the cards...) but I was up bright and early to sell books. Harry Potter books, of course. ONLY Harry Potter. Okay, one woman came in and bought a collection of Leonard Cohen's poetry, but that's about it.
It was a lot of fun to watch people's faces as they came in the store. People were very excited. No one wanted a bag: "I'm going to start reading right now!" I've never seen such a thing.
I read the first two books (or three? They run together) out loud to my son, but when he stopped wanting to hear them, I stopped reading them. I edited my reading heavily, because he was pretty young at the time, and the books are violent and scary. They're also Hollywoodish, in my opinion -- the violence feels gratuitous and the characters are not so great. However, the world Rowling describes is quite interesting and undeniably entertaining.
The Harry Potter mega-phenomenon owes only a little bit to the quality of the books, and much more to people's desire to be part of something big and fun and literary and positive. And I think, on the whole, it IS positive. It's not such a good thing that the publishing industry is encouraged to put all its dollars into a few big hits rather than many small hits. It would be nice if all that dough was spread around a bit. However, I'm a sucker for the sight of a kid reading a big, thick book. I can't help but think that those kids whose faces lit up as I passed them the book over the counter -- the ones who started reading before they left the store -- are going to remember the excitement they felt when they opened that book. And there were a LOT of kids in the store yesterday, in spite of the fact that B&N undercut us by like fifteen bucks. Those kids are going to have good associations with books and book stores for the rest of their lives, and that is a truly excellent thing.