Friday, July 15, 2005

Harry Potter and the Unprecedented Marketing Phenomenon

I have been binging on Harry Potter lately. I bought the fourth and fifth books ("and the Goblet of Fire," "and the Order of the Phoenix," respectively) in anticipation of the arrival tonight at midnight of the sixth ("and the Half-Blood Prince"). I hadn't planned on buying the new book in hardback and being sucked into the frenzy, but I have decided to succumb to it.

I do enjoy these books. Rowling is so thorough when it comes to creating and populating her world, with generations of characters, histories, products, traditions. In all of the books you have children grappling with the legacies and losses of their parents. Rowling understands that simultaneous devotion to and revolt from one's parents is the basic tension of childhood, and I think you see it a lot in these books. (Like Roald Dahl, too, celebrating the joy of overthrowing one's nasty and vile elders.) I love the fourth book because it turns dark and lays out a basic sketch of how things will be. I just finished it here at work, after reading it at home and carting it on the train. I feel that clutching a Harry Potter book is somewhat emasculating - the cartoonish cover fonts, the forcefully whimsical checkered pattern on the spine, the red letters announcing "SCHOLASTIC," the comically shitty binding and paper quality that screams "This is only children's literature!" - but I carry it around anyway.

I do wonder, though, how Rowling will wrap this up. She can't just let the kiddies graduate from Hogwarts and fade off into a sunset of "Harry Potter: The College Years." In a grim way I would like to see it end in an apocalyptic battle of good vs. evil. The author spent the first four books creating a world, and now she changes it, or destroys it. In Newsweek they were speculating that perhaps Dumbledore is really Potter himself, travelling back in time as an old man. What an idea! Maybe there will be some kind of violent synthesis of the Muggle and magic worlds, maybe Harry Potter will Apparate into a Toys 'R' Us featuring an in-store promotional event with the precocious moppet who plays him in the movies. I don't know. All I do know is that these days every time I pass by a mirror I get a weird scowl on my face and try saying "'Arry Pottah" in every kind of British accent I can muster. It's a magical time.

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