Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Relunctant Potterhead

This children's book editor was a long time in coming to the Harry Potter fold. I distrust anything with a mass following. Call it elitism or snobbery or rank individualism but the only club I would ever be a member of would have Groucho Marx as its president. So I refused to watch 'Lost' or 'The Sopranos.' I refused to read 'The Da Vinci Code.' And of course, I went nowhere near a certain series of books about a boy wizard. For professional purposes, I eventually perused the first chapter of book one while kneeling in the aisle of a bookstore. It didn't grab me and, snobby-me, I didn't think it was all that well-written. When people would ask me what I thought of the books, I would respond that, as someone who cared about children's literacy, I was immensely grateful that the series was getting kids to put aside their video games, DVDs, and Ipods, and crack open 500 page tomes. But I didn't understand the phenomenon.

Until last summer.

Book six was just coming out and my boyfriend's mother had given me a copy of the book---bought at midnight of the launch day. I figured I couldn't just dive into the sixth book. And I'd seen the movies and they hadn't been bad. After all, I had a big crush on David Thewlis who'd played Professor Lupin in the third movie. And I was impressed by the significant health-enhancing power given to chocolate in that movie. I could identify with the need to eat a little block of chocolate when such things as the dementors---or, in Muggle world, the DMV---had sucked one's life force. So I found a Scholastic paperback edition of the first book at Moe's books and took it with me to Cape Cod, where Brian's parent's lived, for a bit of light summer reading.

I quickly became totally sucked in.

One thing about the Potter phenomena: the more books you read, the more fanatical you become. I remember seeing a guy in his twenties several years ago walking down a busy sidewalk in downtown San Francisco, nose deep in book three. At the time I thought, "poor deluded soul." But by the time I reached book three, I was calling in to work sick just to finish the darn thing. (It was professional development after all.) Over the course of two months, I read all six books, one right after the other. Now, most fans read one book and they have to wait six months to a year for the next one. It allows their poor fevered brains to cool down a bit. But I was piling on the Potter books one after another---not re-reading them, mind you: reading them each for the first time. So when I came to the end of 'The Half Blood Prince'---with all its awful revelations about Snape and, what I insist is a certain someone's FAKE death---I felt like I had just walked off a cliff.

I hit the ground back in Muggle world. Ouch.

But then the Goblet of Fire movie came out. For the first time I went to see one of the movies on opening night. I took my niece and nephew. I was actually giddy (though, sadly, Mr. Thewlis was not part of the cast). I remember as a kid going to see the second Indiana Jones movie and being so excited that I nearly hyperventilated and peed my pants at the same time. Twenty-five years later, this was a pretty close approximation. After the sad end of my 3150 page immersion, the movie was a chance to revisit a place which had become dear to my heart. It was a brief two-and-a-half hour visit and, of course, lacking in the intimacy that exists between page and reader, but it was all I would have until the next book.

Which took a year to get here.

Which will finally come out next Friday at midnight. And I'll have another Harry Potter first-time experience then: First time going to a midnight Harry Potter release party.

Just in time, too. There won't be another one.

AND the new movie has David Thewlis in it. Dreamy Prof. Lupin.

So have I learned my lesson about turning my nose up at mass phenomenons?

Hey, if they're as good as Ms. Rowling's creation, lay 'em on me.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Washington Post Article About Harry Potter Editor

Inside scoop about how he edits the biggest kids' book series ever.

Click here.