The first time I encountered it was while riding in a van in England with my fellow college classmates. Someone had bought a British-version copy of The Chamber of Secrets and began reading it aloud in a badly faked English accent, not having anything better to do on our long drive. (I believe we were heading to the Cotswolds, or someplace with sheep, which pretty much narrows it down to all of England.) By the time she got to Professor Lockhart's grand appearance, I was hooked.
But it took a few more years before I realized how fantastic the series was, and it wasn't until Book 6 that I actually went to a release party and read something hot off the presses. (My usual tactic has been to borrow a friend's book several months after publication.) Thank goodness I caught up with the Harry Potter phenomenon when I did, because this next release is going to be amazing, and woe to anyone who misses out on it.
I was thinking about this the other day. Since when have millions of people all around the world been so excited about the same book? The thought that so many people will be reading the same thing at the same time is staggering. And since when has anyone even paid attention to a book's release date? It beats out any movie by far. Hooray for J.K. Rowling, who has managed to elevate the simple act of reading to such prominence despite our age of media and hype!
This surely must be one of the greatest literary events of all time, as far as the number of people eagerly awaiting it. The closest thing I can compare it to is Charles Dickens, one of my favorite authors, who serialized his novels, publishing one chapter at a time. The anticipating public devoured each new chapter with excitement, (the Americans lined the docks to greet the ship carrying them), and fans would write in to plea for case of a favorite character before the next chapter came out. Dickens actually tailored his writing to the voice of the fans, blossoming popular characters and quickly disposing of lesser ones, whatever earned readership.
But in a Dickens novel, there's not much mystery as to what will happen in the end. I don't think he ever finished anything, so much as let it wind down to a good stopping point. (And few of his novels are lesser for losing the last chapter or so.) That, beside sheer scale, is what separates his literary events from this one. Despite the millions of people debating it, absolutely no one knows how the saga will turn out, who will win, who is on what side, whether blast-ended skrewts make good pets. (Okay, maybe not many people are debating that last one.) I shake my head. No obvious endings and no blatant clues... It takes a dang fine storyteller to keep the whole world guessing even after six books.
Me, I have my money on a few theories of my own. For instance, Snape is definitely good. Are you kidding me? He has to be. He's one of my favorite characters, and I don't really want to find that in the end I've been cheering for the bad guy all along.
And the entire series will end in a parade of rainbows and unicorns and dancing elves, so there.
Well... so far this post has helped me kill a few minutes waiting for the book. If anyone else out there is getting sick of waiting, let me offer a few of my favorite Harry Potter fun sites to help pass the time:
In the way of artwork, Simply Potterific has several hilarious and quite random comics, although best avoided if you can't stomach the thought of Hagrid in pink knickers...
AccioBrain is the artwork of the witty Makani, including her current project to illustrate The Half Blood Prince. If you are anything like me, after perusing her site for a while you will
A) think the Malfoys are way better than that, whatsisname, Potter kid
B) wish you were in Slytherin, and
C) wonder how hard it would be to get Makani to illustrate all of the books...
In the way of video, these are all just plain dumb, but the make me laugh. Potter Puppet Pals has two lovely cartoons, "Bothering Snape" and "Trouble at Hogwarts." (I really think this is how it will all end, a cornucopia of love...)
And then, finally, this flash cartoon shows a terrifying depiction of The Flaw with Apparition. Oh... so wrong... and yet I think I giggle every time I watch it.
Anyway, there you go. A lot of time-wasting. Let's see, how long do we have to wait now... ?