Thursday, July 19, 2007

Harry Potter Meets the Starfish Phenomenon

It would take a lot, admittedly, for me to reach a saturation point re. Mr. Potter of Little Whinging. After all, I've written a book about it, which still isn't done yet (by the way, the pdf file of the entire text is now back, at my other site).

What may be conspicuous to the reader is what we've overlooked—specifically, the news that's being reported about scanned pages of Book 7 appearing on the web (though Kakutani of the Times has already read it and given it a respectful, nearly reverent review, and Barack Obama's waiting his turn).

The point of this omission is not to avoid "spoilers," because I don't think that knowing what will happen will spoil anything: as I wrote last month, plot is so small a factor in a work of literature. Character, setting, dialogue, and all those other indefinable aspects join with plot to create meaning in a novel; and that's what matters, if a work is to endure.

So I actually have an objection with the cult of secrecy that has grown around this body of work: the whole stupid drama comprises a petty act of Cheney-fication. Rowling (to the extent that she was actually involved in this chicanery) and her publishers should be ashamed of themselves for creating hype and then scolding people for getting excited. It's the old feed-the-kids-sugar-and-then-spank-them-for-acting-out scenario. Total bullshit, especially when you factor in the oppression involved in forcing printshop workers to labor in the dark and be basically strip-searched on every shift.

Guess what, then? The workers rebelled in the only way they knew how—by finding a way around the Orwellian crap being visited on them. There is also a lesson in this for all institutions that would punish people for their enthusiasm. The RIAA could tell you all about it, because they're making lawyers rich and themselves silly by chasing after housewives, students, and grandmothers for downloading music illegally. That book I reviewed last month, The Starfish and the Spider, talks about this side of the issue: when you enforce obedience, you inspire the creativity of rebellion. The creator of "Dumbledore's Army" should know this better than anyone.

So if you're reading along here, Ms. Rowling (yeah, that's likely), my advice is this: let go and move on. You're done; it's been a massive, marvelous accomplishment, and your place in literary history is already assured, if that matters to you. Put this behind you now, and grow. But if you go on playing policewoman to your first creation, you will find yourself under the oppressive weight of writer's block, and we will have a very long wait to see anything fresh and new from you. For now, spend time with your family, take a break from the typewriter, and let Harry fade into your past. That way, the next great story will arise within you as naturally and easily as this one did, on a train ride from Manchester to London some 17 years ago.

As we near the end-point of the Potter tales, I am reminded that we're also near the end for this blog. In about two weeks, we'll be done. The archives will be moved to a blogspot URL (hosted, that is, by Google), and the original domain name is now officially up for sale. If you could do something with, and you can make a reasonable offer, it's yours—write or give me a call.

As for The Tao of Hogwarts, I'm hoping that its audience will soon arrive. It has been my experience in life that real inquiry and true discovery only happen after everything has been revealed. We see this principle in government, in legal affairs, and I hope it applies in literature as well. Perhaps once the end to the Potter story is known, people will begin to ask themselves, "what does it mean—to me?" That may be the time when some editor for a publishing house will see the potential in a book like The Tao of Hogwarts.

Meanwhile, it will soon be time for me to take the advice I'm so quick to offer others, and move on.

If you're in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn Friday night, you can find me and my daughter at the Community Bookstore on 7th Ave. (about eight blocks north of where the really big crowds in that neighborhood will be, at the B&N store by Methodist Hospital).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't want to romanticize JK Rowling, but I suspect that she had little to do with the hype. The hype is not doubt the creation of marketers, and its not the first time its happened. Years ago, on the movie Psycho, you were not allowed in after the first few minutes, that was totally unknown at the time. (Terry)