Despite the alleged on-sale time of 12.01am tomorrow, as someone who used to work in a bookshop, I know this means that as I post this, bookshops (and other locations including, oddly enough, petrol stations) around the country have received their copies of the final Harry Potter book, and they’re sitting waiting to be put on the shelves.
Now, I don’t really care for the Potter stuff – I read the first book and thought ‘eh’, and saw the first film, and thought the same. I’m partly jaded by the fact that the character reminds me of the comic character Tim Hunter, partly put off the hype around something that seems fairly unremarkable to me, and certainly far from convinced by the claims that it’s a series which both adults and children can enjoy; the one I read felt like I was dipping below my reading age, frankly.
That said, there are various things about the release of the final Potter book which I think are interesting:
1. The story of Joanne Rowling, and how her ideas went from ideas in her head to internationally recognised characters and films, etc. In my childish way, In think there’s something vaguely magical about turning ideas into food on the table, like a kind of alchemy; transforming airy nothingness into grub.
2. The way she’s kept the rights to the books separate from the films; as I understand it, all the merchandise that’s available is related to the film incarnation (though I stand to be corrected). A wise move, I think, as that allows her to do what it’s said Raymond Chandler did when people suggested the film adaptations had in some way diminished the books; apparently, he pointed at the books on a nearby shelf and said ‘no, they’re over there, and they’re still the same’ or words to that effect.
3. In reference to the books being stored in bookshops, the publishers have done pretty well in keeping the events in the book secret, though some of the publicity (and I do think a lot of it is made up to keep interest levels up) does rather remind me of a story I heard about the release of ‘Free As A Bird’, the ‘new Beatles single’ back in 1995. The story goes that at the press event to mark its release, as the boxes containing the copies of the record were carried to the front of the room, the assembled journalists were asked to turn away, and they started to comply, but one of them shouted ‘For crying out loud, it’s only a record!’, which broke the spell, and I’m rather inclined to feel that there may be a touch of this about the end of the Potter series. By this time tomorrow, of course, I’m pretty sure that the interweb will be awash with spoilers about who lives and who dies etc.
4. Waterstones, I gather, have started an online petition to try to convince Joanne R to consider writing more books in the series. Nice demonstration of commercial concerns over creative integrity there, though I can understand why they’re worried, as the Potter books, especially when launched, are a big earner. Waterstone’s e-mail alludes to the Return of Sherlock Holmes, which seems a rather premature comparison to me. Let’s give it some time, eh ?
*Well, that should bring in a few new readers via Google and Yahoo.