Carole has asked us for our 10 Awesome Things about Harry Potter I can’t complete this with ten awesome things, but thought I’d just write on the HP Phenomenon instead – apologies for breaking the rules.
I was late to the Harry Potter bandwagon. I worked in the children’s section of a bookshop for just over a year, and would be forever referring parents whose older children who had read and loved HP, but wanted something more challenging for them to read towards other books and authors. Children loved them as they had grown up with the books, indeed there is a whole generation who did that, started reading the Philosopher’s Stone when they were about 10 years old, and the release of the final film is the end of an era to them. Certainly the door firmly closing on their childhood.
When HP and the Order of The Phoenix came out, I was away from home, helping with my now ex-mother-in-law who was seriously ill in hospital with MRSA. My then BIL brought the book the day it came out, I can remember the Saturday clearly, as there were 100s of people dressed as wizards in Bromley High Street. The Manager of WH Smiths looked worn out, having had to open his store at midnight. This was probably the first time I saw Potter-itis in full flow, it had passed me by until then. I watched in amazement
The next book to be released was when I was working in the bookshop. I was asked if I would help open at midnight, and gave a small, polite ‘No’. Children’s section or not, they did not pay me enough to work from 12-8am, then start my normal shift straight after. Talking to one of the girls in the shop, she confessed she hoped HP and the Half Blood Prince would be better than the Order of The Phoenix, which was clunky and badly edited. In two days, she reported back, book 6 was miles better than book 5. Still I didn’t start to read them. I was more than a bit pissed off with having to constantly rearrange my shelves to fit in all the merchandise with HP all over it.
Ah, the merchandise. This is where JK Rowling got smart, and where she’s made her money. Everything with HP written on it, (including the pancake mix we found in the supermarkado last week) gives her a little bit of money. As most are aware, writing is something people do, but don’t necessarily make any money on, particularly with books being sold alongside cans of beans and treated as ‘goods’. It was a sad day for me when the mainstream supermarkets in the UK were allowed to sell books at whatever price they wanted, because they had the buying power to leverage huge discounts out the publishing houses. But signing a contract to include a percentage on merchandising, now that was smart.
Having worked within the book industry twice, once at a wholesaler, once in a bookshop, I know far too much about the deals, the discounts and indeed the dodgy charts to actually have a whole lot of respect for the industry – at one end. The end that is seeing Borders et al, being closed all over the world as creditors move in, because they (Private Equity and Franchises) thought books could be piled high and sold cheap. At the other end, the independents, who treat books and readers as friends, but who are also struggling because they can’t discount books like cans of beans have my admiration. Even with the e-readers on the market, independents are still out there, using service and knowledge as their calling cards, their point of difference.
I finally brought HP 1 in Portsmouth; and read it in one sitting. Before we left the UK, I brought the hardback set of adult covers. They aren’t fantastic books, most start the same, Harry at home, isn’t it awful! Harry at school, isn’t it great! His blinkeredness and prejudice annoys me at times, but I do love the world she created. I read them back-to-back and started dreaming of spells.
The least awesome thing was the first film, Chris Columbus only seems to direct child actors to respond with ‘shock!’ ‘awe!’ or ‘angry!’ faces. It’s 2 hours out of my life I won’t get back, and won’t repeat view. The most awesome thing about them? That children all over the world read them. Full stop.