Sunday, July 22, 2007

Harry Potter Hell

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.


laura said...

Your niece partook in the insanity! SHE forked out 20 bucks to stand in line at midnight. Oy. Then, because she hadn't finished the previous Potter installment, wanted me to sit down and silently read the first chapter of that book together. I then caught her reading aloud (with drama of course) in her bedroom to herself! She has even stopped writing her 1937 short story to catch up on her reading. How's that for a "mini-Rhi"?

rmellis said...

I love it!

Mr. Inertia said...

... she said with a wrinkled brow and one pinky raised to her mouth.

McQ said...

We McQs are big HP fans, owning not only all the books but the audiobooks as well (a literary and dramatic delight unto themselves). As the junior McQs are on the other coast at the moment, we curmudgeonly older sorts avoided the crushing lines at the three big box bookstores here (no independents, to our dismay) and slipped into the neighborhood grocery store at midnight to pick up our copy. Which we then proceeded to read together. Out loud. In our hotel room (with well-stocked kitchenette).

Twenty hours (spread over two days) and one very scratchy throat (mine) later, we emerged from our adventure tear-stained and a bit forlorn but still very, very satisfied deep in our readerly hearts where it matters.

Being that caught up in a story alongside millions of others around the world reminds me why I'm so proud to be writing for kids. Long live the joy of getting lost in a book!

5 Red Pandas said...

I've never read any of the books or seen any of the movies. I'm surprised I've managed to remain Potter free but I guess that's because I don't have kids. It wasn't a conscious effort, but I generally don't read or watch anything unless I really want to. My husband, however, has read all of the books and seen the movies. Of course when he bought the book I teased the hell out of him as is my nature and I pretended to read the ending and threatened to spoil it for him. It was one of the rare instances where he actually looked angry and exasperated with me. So, I wonder how much marital strife Harry Potter has caused. Are there Potter widows and widowers out there? Do they need to form a support group?