Monday, July 23, 2007

Observations while you're still reading Harry Potter

I read the book Saturday -- but I won't give anything away in this post, I promise.

I was talking to my friend Steve Friday about it and he told me how his son had pre-ordered the book and how they were looking forward to getting it Saturday. Without having to wait in line.

Me, too, I told him -- but I hadn't pre-ordered. Long Suffering Spouse figured this out several books ago: The local supermarket puts them out, steeply discounted, the day they're released. So, I told Steve, we'd probably have the book before he did.

"You mean we didn't have to do the pre-order or anything?" he asked, slightly incredulous. No, I told him, but by doing it his way he could feel a part of the worldwide publishing phenomenon.

I think that's when he hung up on me.


Harry Potter was the lead story on both evening news shows I watched Friday. Reporters were dispatched to bookstores where people were dressed in costume -- some of them waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too old to be doing this in public. Or even in private.

The interesting thing was that the reporters on both stations that I watched clearly had no clue about the books or the movies or anything, lending further support for the theory that TV reporters spring, fully-grown, from beneath cabbage leaves in the garden. And just as intelligent.

I can understand that the typical 20-something TV reporter might not have any interest in reading the books -- but wouldn't you think that they could look up, say, reviews of the movies, just to figure out the character names and who's supposed to be good or evil? That would take -- what? -- five or 10 minutes of research on line?

And here's the truly scary part: These same reporters, tomorrow night, will be providing us with information about the Presidential elections, or the War in Iraq, or the state budget.... The Harry Potter story could have been painlessly researched. How much research do you think the typical reporter has done, then, on a "hard news" story -- where figuring out the background might require some actual thought? This may be scarier than anything J.K. Rowling has imagined.


Youngest Son pressed me for details about the last book all day yesterday: He doesn't actually want to take the time or trouble to read it for himself. The books are so looooooooooong, he whines.

And this is from an incoming high school freshman -- and a decent student, supposedly, to boot.

So, finally, last night, I broke down. I told him about the plot twists:
  • I told him that Lord Voldemort revealed that the Death Star was fully operational by opening fire on the Rebel fleet;
  • Then I told him that Voldemort revealed that he, not James, was Harry's father -- and that Harry had a twin sister, Leia;
  • And then, when Youngest Son didn't like those revelations, I told him that that the book consisted mostly of ticking noises....
Youngest Son got so frustrated with my disclosures that he called his older sister to see if she'd let him in on how it all turns out. (Older Daughter was one of those people in line at midnight, in Indianapolis. I don't think she went in costume. And if she did I don't want to know about it....)

Anyway, judging by Youngest Son's growing frustration, Older Daughter was apparently as helpful as I'd been.

Oh, I forgot. I promised not to give away anything here. I really hope that these few revelations didn't ruin anything for anyone....


Jean-Luc Picard said...

Big stores in Britain heavily discounted it as well.

landgirl said...

In fairness to the reporters, I think they are reporting on the phenomenon of Potter-itis or whatever you want to call it, which really has nothing much to do with the content of the book. So much of our news is on the meta-event. People talking about who's talking about what someone thought about what was happening. I remember years ago reading a book that I hated at the time about what the author called pseudo-events, like a grand opening of a store that takes place two weeks after the store has been opened. I wish I coudl recall the author or title. I'd like to read it now.

may said...

i have not been rubbed with the harry potter fever. i have read a few chapters of the firts one when i was asked to read while babysittinga 7 year old boy who was so into it it was a bit scary.

it could be the weird person in me. sometimes, i don't want to be one of the crowd. when the fever sort of subsides, i might end up getting all the books and reading it for days on end. that way, i don't miss out on good writing and story telling, but i still don't belong.

whew. to be sick in the head is not easy :(

Barb said...

I'm waiting on my book to arrive from Amazon. Thanks for not giving any spoilers. :)

The TOP news about this book was almost as stupid as the night Paris went back to jail.

I've given you an award. Drop by to pick it up. :)

Linda said...

Darn, I thought Snape was Harry's father - not Voldemort!

Actually, I haven't read any of the HP series, I leave that to Amanda. She was a bit worried that I hadn't pre-ordered the book either but I figured that's what Wal-Mart was for and I had a copy in my hand around 1:00 a.m. Friday morning with nary a problem or a line. I suppose it takes some fun out of the whole thing but I'm old so what the heck!

Dave said...

I'll leave Harry Potter to you and the rest of the Western World, not my cup of tea.

Regarding the fresh faced reporters, it isn't an absolute, but much, much too often, when I know something, anything about a news story, I'm struck by how much a reporter gets wrong, blythly, in the report.

I know reporters for the most part are necessarily generalists; but, gee, there are some basics that are not that hard to get right, that they without research, get wrong, badly wrong.

The Curmudgeon said...

Sharon -- I agree with you entirely that the "news" angle of the Potter book release was the "phenomenon" and not the content of the book. But the reporters asking... and you're dressed up as... who? to a kid who obviously is dressed as Harry Potter shows that they know nothing about the phenomenon on which they've been assigned to report.

Dave's experience, I think, mirrors my own: The more I know about a story, the more I'm amazed at how much the reporters get flat out wrong.

May -- You've given me an idea....

sari said...

I took Nine to a book party Friday night. We were there for three hours and got our book at midnight.

Here are the reasons:

1 - it's the last book, and I thought that Nine would enjoy the party (he did).

2 - there were a lot of people dressed up, which he loved, and the adults had the best costumes (the Lupins and the Mad-Eyes had realistic scars and wonderful props) and it's fun looking at all the homemade tshirts.

3 - I was supporting my local independant bookstore by preordering the book from them instead of buying it at some big box for half off the next day. My bookstore offered a substantial donation to a local charity (choose from four) of the purchase price if you preordered the book, which I thought was another community benefit.

I will say, I usually just go to Target the day it comes out and they have loads of books and I never have a problem getting it. But this was the last one, and we wanted to enjoy the fun so we paid a bit more and stayed up late.

My sister Cari went to a book party where she lives and we both called each other at 12:05 am, cackling that we had our books, it was kind of funny.

The Curmudgeon said...

Sari -- be honest, now: Would you let Nine alone with any of the adults in costume?

But full marks for supporting your friendly neighborhood non-big-box bookstore.

Experimental Mania said...

fantastic post..
i bought mine from an online store..
and it was cheaper..
but heck..
i got it just today..
had to wait for 3 whole days..

well ur plot giveaway could not have been more apt..
i wonder what would have happened if they actually made a Harry Potter Star Wars rehash!

sari said...

Oh, for the love of Pete, no. Leave him *alone*?

But the costumes, they were good. It's kind of like Comic Book Guy on the Simpsons, you just go with it, right?

katherine. said...

I feel for your youngest son. My oldest (25) finished hers on Sat. My youngest (17) says he is almost finished. My in the middle.

I can't get them to tell me what happens. I helped pay for two of these books...they should tell me!