Saturday, 21 July 2007

Harry Potter? Bah! Humbug!

It may not be as big as Christmas or New Year, but there’s no doubt about it---love it or hate it---it’s BIG.

Yes, it’s H.P. day ... and it’s global.

I wasn’t planning on posting about it, but it’s even infected me. And I say that because I reckon I’m immune (or resistant) to hype generally, and to dear old Harry in particular. I read the first book and may have started the second, and have enjoyed the films’ special effects well enough, but I’m no fan of the writing style J.K.R has adopted here for the same reason I never enjoyed most of Enid Blyton’s writing either (although definitely a fan of the Noddy books, which managed to scare and thrill me whenever Noddy's misadventures took him into the forest at night). All the same, I’ve got to admit I’m a fan of the J.K.Rowling/Harry Potter phenomenon. Love it.

Although many people look at me askance and some have even taken a step sideways when I’ve admitted I don’t like H.P. (as if they might be accused of associating with a heretic, as if I’ve denied the existence of god or, god forbid, declared myself a vegetarian), I relish the fact that here’s a book published for both children and adults, that people are ready to queue for, to spend decent money on, to jump into freezing lakes for, and that, beyond all else, has made reading a cool activity for one and all. All this.

My twenty-three year old daughter, home for a few days, had one question for me before she brought her train ticket: “Dad, do you think I’ll be able to get hold of a copy of Harry Potter?” And the first thing she did this morning was head into town to our tiny bookshop. There was no advertising on the window, no placard on the pavement inviting Potter fans to step inside, no copies of Deathly Hallows on the shelves, and she had to ask the owner if he had any to sell.

The hysteria surrounding the security of the book, the contracts demanding that none are released prematurely, makes itself felt in different ways I guess.

Our local bookseller mumbled something, reached under the counter and brought out a copy in a brown paper bag. He also slipped her a piece of folded paper. It had more the feel of a drug deal than a book purchase, but regardless of this she got the goods and is now ploughing through it. Has made page 190 as I post this. (And the piece of folded paper? A 20% discount off her next purchase. Good on him.)

In Canberra, where the temperature recently has hovered around 2 degrees, a man was so distraught when his Deathly Hallows reservation receipt blew into Lake Burley Griffin that he jumped in after it. Way to go! Unfortunately, when he was fished out, he’d failed to retrieve his receipt and was suffering from hypothermia and acute distress. To help him calm down apparently, a hospital doctor rang the bookshop to make sure they’d honour his lost receipt.

This all begs one question: What’s going to happen in the future? We might slightly change the way we celebrate Christmas or New Year from one year to the next, but we know they’ll come round again, sure as eggs is eggs. And as sure as golden eggs are golden eggs, isn’t it likely that someone somewhere will be desperately looking to repeat the phenomenon and introduce us soon to the next J.K.Rowling, the next Harry Potter? I hope so. I really do. Despite the hype. Because, whatever the genre, whatever the style, I love the fact that the publication of a book can create such a stir, and that someone will jump into a lake for the sake of a book. Good on you, J.K.

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