Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Early Review

For Harry Potter, Good Old-Fashioned Closure - New York Times

How I hate Michiko Kakutani right now.

No, she didn't pan the final volume of the Harry Potter series; she's seemingly liked them all along and while I sometimes disagree with her judgment, she gets what's great about the books as well as where Rowling occasionally errs.

But she reviewed it after reading it today. As in, she bought it at a bookstore in New York and read it. As in, someone--other than the Web sellers who have already shipped it to a few customers, and the amateur photographers who have already posted the book online--broke the heavy-handed embargo and sold the book early.

I wish we could do away with this midnight party stuff. Yes, it's all well and good to have a big debut for something, but this isn't a movie; it needn't be consumed en masse. It's a product, something we can each carry away from the store to enjoy in our own way and in our own time. And the copy you will read this weekend? It's probably already sitting in the back room of some store, from which you'll purchase it in a few days. Instead of reading it, you're reading this!


Victoria said...

That's sad.

But why'd you go read the review? Where's your willpower? ;)

Richard said...

I have plenty of willpower--you should see the mountains of desserts I pass each day at work without taking a bite. I do not, however, have any interest in waiting to find out what happens.

The outcry the last few days from people whining that their experience has been ruined makes me laugh. I routinely flip to the last page of a book before I read it. If we don't have time to watch one of our shows the night it airs, that doesn't stop me from reading the recap in the morning. If suspense is the only thing that makes a story worth telling, it isn't a very good story, is it?

But Harry Potter IS a good story. That's why I reread book six in two days earlier this month; the story is interesting, and well-written, and set in a world that's a delight to inhabit. It doesn't matter that I know whether Harry lives or dies, whether Ron and Hermione end up together, or any of the other various plot details I already know despite not having the book yet. Reading the book will still be a pleasure for me. People who can't enjoy a book or a movie or a show once they know the ending only appreciate those arts on a superficial level. And that's fine. But seeing all the complaining this week has made me just a little embarrassed to be a Harry Potter fan.

Victoria said...


I didn't start reading the books until after the third movie, and I started the habit of reading the books after the movie, so I've been just a wee bit spoiled over the years - either from Mom forgetting that I haven't read the books or friends blurting out things after I just told them I hadn't read the books or yet seen the movie. But it also makes it more exciting when I actually get to a part that I didn't know about or is different than my initial impression of it. (And I also tend to be less upset with the movie when I do it that way.)

That being said, I don't think I'll be able to wait until 2010 to read the final installment, because I doubt I'll be able to remain unspoiled beyond the end of the month. I just hope Mom is done with the book by the time I'm ready to read it; otherwise there might be some in-house fighting.

I probably won't flip to the end, because I like the surprises as much as I do the journey and the style, and the imagery and all that, but I will admit I've been pretty bad about looking ahead as I've been reading the His Dark Materials trilogy to find out what happens next.

Just please give me fair warning if you post any direct spoilers. It's not that I *won't* enjoy the book if I know the ending, but I just like discovering things for myself. I will need a little time after the Bar is over to catch up on everything. :)

Michele said...

It makes me upset that people are spoiling the ending. And, I'm surprised by you--reading the last page first! I would have thought someone who appreciates a good book, a good story, good literature would have some self-control.

I have seen the many posts about spoilers on the Net and heard about this review earlier today, but I am choosing to ignore them. I would rather find out in my own time. I was a fan of the books well before any movie was even a thought, and I prefer finding out the fate of Harry for myself, NOT from some ass who tries to ruin it for others. (Not you, but the reviewer and anyone else posting material on the internet).

Still, I'm saddened to hear that you actually read the review.

Richard said...

I actually find that my last-page-first strategy helps me appreciate books more. Instead of spending the whole book being caught up in wondering what will happen, I can pay attention to the art of the book: how it's written, how it's structured, how it's paced, and how it builds to its conclusion. You can't do any of that if you're trying to get to the end to find out what's going to happen.

Would I read the last page of a trashy mystery first? No--because the point of a trashy mystery is not the writing, but the suspense of the story. But Harry Potter is better than that, and bears rereading; I can pick up any one of the books right now and get sucked back into it. Knowing whether Harry lives or dies won't change that for this book any more than knowing about the death of Dumbledore made Half-Blood Prince less entertaining.

But I'm sure that won't convince you. Just don't call what I do a lack of self-control. I know exactly what I'm doing. And for me, at least, knowing where I'm headed allows me to savor the journey more than wondering where I'm going to end up.

Michele said...

Ok, I get that. I just don't agree with it. I don't read these books with fervor trying to figure out the end--only a tiny part of my brain thinks about that. I do the same as you--enjoy the journey. I just don't like knowing the end before I've gotten there.

I apologize for saying you have no self-control. I just see things differently.