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Jin Shei Cover from sgreer

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July 21st, 2007

Jin Shei Cover from sgreer

So - the morning after Potterdammerung...

...and we went out to breakfast, and wandered into the local indy bookstore, and when we got there they were just opening and there were some 34 or 35 HP VII books set out at the front of the store. We came back by there about two hours later, after having breakfast with a friend in Fairhaven, and there were maybe 12 or 13 of them left - and all the way back to the store from the restaurant we kept meeting them, the Potterers, wandering past clutching a book or three (I kid you not, one woman was carrying two paper versions and an audio book) and wearing this dazed "I GOT MINE" smile painted on their face. Twenty books. They sold twenty books in less than three hours, and that's just ONE small bookstore in ONE small town in America. It's scary.

I have to wonder, what will these people do once they have finished this book? Will they sink into catatonia, unable to deal with anything else in their lives now that HP is done? Will they sign petitions in their thousands, begging JK ROwling to write something else, anything else, which they will then buy on the principle of the thing because it has her name on it? Will there be a "Son of Potter" series? Will these readers simply finish the book, say, oh well, that's done, toss it aside, and go back to Nintendo?

Or is there really a groundswell of readership out there that Potter has led and inspired?

When it comes time for the Oscars in the movie industry, it often seems to me that there is one movie that everyone focuses on to the exclusion of everything else, no matter how good, and it just gets nominated and nominated and nominated, even in categories where it doesn't seem to have any business being - it's as though the human mind is incapable of holding more than ONE idea, more than ONE work of art, at any one time. Apparently a similar thing has happened to the publishing industry when it comes to Harry Potter - there's a juggernaut coming, and you'd better get out of the way... For most other contenders, there's precious little room left at the inn, as it were, with what little space at the top remains unoccupied being mobbed by well-known also-rans, as it were, like Lemony Snicket and Christopher Paolini. And there are now - inevitably - lists about what to read after Harry Potter being bandied about - and guess who's on them? the neo-contenders like Lemony Snicket and Christopher Paolini, and the tried and true classics like Lloyd Alexander and Madeleine L'Engle. ALL OF WHICH IS COOL, particularly with respect to folks like L'Engle and Alexander, whose works really have stood the test of time and have been known and beloved for good reason for years. But there are glaring omissions from at least one list that I've seen. Ysabeau Wilce. Melissa Marr. Holly Black. I know they can't pick EVERYONE, but it's as though it's almost too dangerous to pick names which the booksellers DON'T think will have universal name recognition, will have guaranteed sales - because without the Harry Potter volume all coming down at once, they have to be looking at things they know they'll be able to describe as "a classic" and chalk up a chaching at the cash register. In the meantime a new generation of younger writers languish in the wings, their names not recognised because they are not promoted, and because they are not recognised are not purchased, and because they don't sell well NOW the next book by that author tanks, and thus are careers made or broken.

J K Rowling was in the right place at the right time when lightning struck, and she was turned to gold. It is unlikely that any ONE writer will, as one newspaper article I've seen recently puts it, "inherit her crown", if you want to put it that way. This kind of thing rarely, if ever happens twice in a lifetime. But I sure do hope the rumours are true and Harry Potter has taught a new generation to read BOOKS, and not just to read Harry Potter. Because without that, all of us who tell stories are kind of out on a plank, and the sharks are circling below us.

I'm going to write up an essay or an article or something along those lines on the HP phenom - it probably won't get posted in the blog, for this and that reason, but I'll screen comments to this post, and if you want to have a read, once I'm done, leave me an email address below and I'll put together a little mailing list.

That's all for now. I"m going upstairs to watch a movie now. Cheerio.