Monday, 16 July 2007

Harry Potter month

July is all about Harry Potter. JKR must pinch herself every five minutes. How is it possible that Harry has become such a global phenomenon?

Don't get me wrong: I am a fan. Although plenty of literary purists have criticised the writing, the archetypes, the borrowed mythologies, I see much to get excited over. When I first read the first book back in 2000, I was thrilled to be entering her imaginative world. And that world has continued to grow and mature with every book. I like the public boarding school with the magical twist. I like just everything about it.

The latest movie, HP and the Order of the Phoenix, has just been released. I loved it. JKR really makes me care about her characters, and as I watched all my old favourites -- as well as some new ones -- materialise on screen, a lump of emotion formed in my throat. The first time I watch the film version of a loved book, I am not a fair viewer. I watch with a critical eye, scrutinising to see what has been left out or changed. But my complaints about Order of the Phoenix are few, and mainly related to the lack of character development received by some of the supporting cast. I thought it was a great adaptation on the whole.

Even more exciting, the seventh and final book is released globally on Saturday. In reverent preparation for HP and the Deathly Hallows, I am re-reading number 6, HP and the Half-Blood Prince. In my view, this is the weakest of all of them so far. The plot is seriously lacking, and on the whole it's rather slow. All the excitement is saved for the final 100p or so. Nevertheless, I persevere so that, come Saturday, I can retire with select companions to the island to indulge in an orgy of reading!

But back to the global phenomenon. What is it about Harry that makes every book store send you e-mail after e-mail promoting free Hedwigs with every copy purchased, or special discount prices? Why is there a synchronised global launch: 12:01am in the UK, 9:01am in Aust and so on? Why am I going away with friends with the express purpose of being anti-social and reading it end-to-end in the shortest possible timeframe?

Has there ever been anything like it?

It must be the adults driving it. I can't imagine publishing companies and bookstores getting this excited over a mere kids' book. (Here's a Daily Telegraph article that supports my view!)

Really, we should be delighted that it's a NOVEL that is inspiring this maniacal behaviour. (We writers, that is.) Still, I have to wonder whether the world has gone mad. Maybe the witches & wizards are all sitting back laughing at us silly muggles.


  1. I have just read both the Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince. Funnily enough, I thought Half-Blood Prince was the best one so far. I found it much more entertaining than Order of the Phoenix (which I found extremely slow). Just goes to show that you and I focus on different things when reading. Interesting.

  2. Despite having never read any of the books (and only having seen the first two movies) I would like to kiss JK Rowling. If it wasn't for her I'm sure my 11 year old would still be a reluctant reader. He discovered her books about 3 years ago and went from being a kid who I had to nag to read his reader, to a kid who I have to nag to turn out the light at night because he is enthralled in a book! I don't know precisely what it is that has caused the HP phenomenon, I just know I'm grateful for it!

  3. Hmmm, just checked out the Daily Telegraph Article. Just wanted to point out I'll be buying the adult cover for my child as the children's cover is desperately ugly!!!

    But you are right - I know many adults who are waiting impatiently for the book to come out.

  4. Hayley -- your comment really surprised me! I would be interested to know what it is about HBP that makes it your favourite! My view is that it lacks tension for most of the novel. I never really cared what Draco Malfoy was doing; and while it was interesting learning about Voldemort's history and background, it was stuff that had all happened in the past, and therefore lacked drama. There's really very little else that happens! The little that does happen is over-laboured and repetitive. So tell me your opposting view! (This probably sounds like I hate the book, which isn't the case; but I do recall feeling very disappointed in it on first reading.)

    Lisa -- I agree with you on the cover. What were they thinking?! However, since I have all the rest in the children's cover (and the adult covers weren't available early on) I will stick with the ugly cover.

  5. Yes, nothing worse than not having the same covers for a series. I once bought back the earlier books in a series of seven because I couldn't get the old ones anymore and the new ones were much prettier.

    Re watching the movies -- I'm glad I haven't read the books (beyond the first couple) yet. Like you I watch too critically when I've read the book. I'm usually disappointed. But I always get more out of a book, so going the other way is fine. This Christmas I'm planning on sitting down and reading the whole series. Should be fun.