Posted by: The Amoeba | July 22, 2007

Harry Pooper – or, What Was That About Football Widows?

    Five foot three, eyes of green,
    Tried out for the Quidditch team,
    Has anybody seen my girl …?

Ayup. You heard right. Quilly has gone missing. Popped into a bookstore in Friday Harbor early this morning (21 July 2007), hasn’t been seen since.

I will say this about Friday Harbor. It must be about the only place in the English-speaking world that has a bookstore, and there wasn’t a line in front of it all night last night, a line of people desperate for a chance to blow US$32 on the seventh and last Harry Potter book. Place opened up at the usual time (9 AM), Quilly walked in, bought the book, walked away. Normalcy.

Well, almost. There was this couple whom Quilly met on the way out of the shop. The dialogue went something like this. The lady sees the Harry Potter copy under Q’s arm:

“Oh, George, I’ve got to go in! The Potter book is here!!”

“Mabel, we’ve ordered one online. We should have it today or Monday. I’m not shelling out for two copies!”

“I don’t want to buy it, George. I just want to see the last page!!”

[Incidentally – you know all that stuff that usually shows up on the dust jacket of the book, the stuff that usually summarizes the plot, quotes some favorable reviews, all of that? Uh uh. Not on this pile of sacrificed trees, all seven hundred something something pages of it, there ain’t. No hints what’s happening here, you gotta open the book …]

At this point Quilly, charitable person that she is, and not yet having crossed into that dimension where Muggles would fear to tread if they had any clue about it, offers to let Mabel see her copy. Which brings a sharp retort from George:

Don’t encourage her!”

George? I’m with you, pal. ‘Course, any time I get wind of one of these cultural feeding frenzies, like Pound Puppies a few hundred years ago, or the Wii craze last year, or the current Harry Potter insanity, I’m heading the opposite direction. Maybe ’cause I have to get my ears checked. I don’t hear “Gotta have it!” when that’s what everyone’s saying. All I hear is ka-CHING!! ka-CHING!! Loud and clear. And plenty loud and clear enough to know that, hell, that ain’t my cash machine that’s ringing. OK, maybe Rowling was a single mom on welfare when she managed to sell the first Harry Potter book. But I read that, today, she’s a billionaire and ranked 48th on the 100 most powerful celebrities list of 2007. Thanks, honey, but you can point that vacuum cleaner nozzle someplace else than at my wallet.

It might be different if I actually liked the Harry Potter books. I’ve tried to read them, really I have. I got about half way through volume 3 and stopped. Couldn’t bring myself to go any further. That was more than a year ago.

For me, reading Rowling is like listening to music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Cliché piled on cliché piled on cliché. At least with Webber, it’s a smooth ride. But there are places in the Potter books (especially the second and, I’m told, the fourth) that read like snarled rush hour traffic.

I remember a school teacher I met in a supermarket checkout line back in Maine, with whom I was discussing the relative merits of Rowling and J. R. R. Tolkien. She summed up the difference in one word.

“Adjectives.”

Tolkien’s got ’em – not to mention a whole lot of intellectual depth in the development and use of his characters and plots. Rowling ain’t got ’em.

I also ain’t got Quilly. She vanished hours ago onto Platform 9 3/4 of King’s Cross Station, tracking Snape and Voldemort and the Weasleys, and she will learn the fates of the likes of Harry P. and Dumbledore long before I will.

Y’know, once upon a time, it was actually considered acceptable for a man to curl up in front of the television on a Sunday afternoon and disappear into the fantasy land of American football …?

  – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2007 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.

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Responses

  1. I have a very different take on it, of course. I am quite pleased to see these lines outside a bookstore. Lately, people have been lining up outside of electronics stores, trying to find the latest gaming system to keep them entertained. Or toys stores, trying to find the latest Slap me Stupid Elmo doll. No matter how simple the Potter books may be, they require at least a little participation. I was not joking when I told my husband that the last time a book release got this much fanfare was when Gutenberg tried out his little invention. My kids stayed up past midnight for the first time in their life because of a book.

    As for the cost, I’m sorry, but I’m not going to subscribe to this Argumentum ad lazarum. Whether Rowling is rich or poor has very little to do with the books. In fact, I will argue that if anything, they made the books better. She could sit and write without worrying about the financial questions. She has been claiming all along that the seventh book was already outlined before she began the first. The plots have not changed simply because she became successful. Furthermore, if it was about the money, you would have seen an enormous number of books that are spin-offs of the original. Bestiaries, spell books, and such. And sure, you can walk into any bookstore and see those, but not with her name on it. Why? Because that’s not the story she wanted to tell. If it was all about the dollar, she would not have hesitated in publishing books such as these. But beyond that, my kids probably don’t even know her name. They didn’t want this because they wanted to make her rich.

    And on the chance that you are talking about the bookstores making money, actually, most lost money on the sale of this book. The vast majority of stores sold them below what they paid for them. They had to in order to remain competitive. There’s a reason they came on the intercom every five minutes, encouraging you to buy coffee. That’s the only money they made that night, and I guarantee they did not make enough to pay for the party. What’s so competitive about a Borders store selling a book at a $2 loss? What’s competitive about spending even more money on labor, overhead, prizes, and shrinkage? Simple. It makes people remember the store and the fun party, and they will shop there in the future. Besides, would anyone honestly shop at a bookstore that didn’t push the biggest book in decades? One that treated it as if it was just any other book on the shelves?

    As for the writing itself, well, no argument. I’ve got a longer explanation for why I read these books that aren’t all that well-written. But that explanation could take up too much space, and I’ve already written enough. Let’s leave it at what another friend of mine said (she doesn’t like the writing style either). “I wish my writing was that bad. I could use the money.”

  2. Don’t worry, OC, she’ll be back. She’s a fast reader – and way too social to stay awol for very long.

    I read – constantly. A book a day when we are traveling. Several a week, while home. Two things I’ve just never been able to get into — fantasy and sci fi.

    I sort of envy everyone their excitement about this book – can’t remember the last time I was excited about a book being published, (never mind the last time, any time, for that matter). And it’s fun for them to be able to share with other fans – so let the good times roll. I think we’ll probably be hearing ALOT more about this book, when everyone is through reading it!

  3. Love, just because I let the soup boil dry while I was reading, doesn’t mean I abandoned you. And if memory serves, I put down my book and went to bed alone last night because you were all busy writing this post. (But thank you for doing the dishes so I could read.)

  4. i don’t really care whether i read this one next week or in 6 months. i’ll do it eventually but only when i feel like doing so and that is so not now.

  5. You guys really are fun together. I laughed at the post and then laughed harder at Quilly’s retort. Do you guys solve crimes?

  6. Doug — well, we never did track down that missing carrot.

  7. Its a real quick read OC, 700+ pages or not, so Quilly will be back soon. And as fads go, I have to give credit where credit is due: the book stores discounted HP 40% right off the bat, and didn’t even pretend to act like there wouldn’t be enough copies for everyone that wanted one.

  8. My granddaughters have it finished already, and my daughter 3D will soon be done I know. Of course the twins each have a copy, so I get to read one as soon as I get myself over there.

    I love Potter and completely understand the reason folks want to read the books. Harry is the same age as my grandkids. They grew up with him. Kids in that age group will have this bond for life.

    On another note: Guess what? Both Doug and the Penquin came to see us over the weekend. We love them both and had a wonderful time with them.

  9. […] diving into bookstores after Harry Potter was an early clue. Another was the complete works of urban fantasy writer Ilona Andrews on the […]


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