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The Cult of Harry Potter

When J.K. Rowling penned the Harry Potter books, she did not create an original work of children’s literature, what she created was a massive publicity machine based around highly derivative but heavily marketed children literature that at their peak created the kind of mass hype that all but suppresses criticism and common sense. With the last Harry Potter book shoveled out on a dim reading public that actually believes that a weak fusion of The Books of Magic and a hundred British boarding school novels along with possible chunks of Sabrina the Teenage Witch is some kind of literary achievement and Harry Potter devolving to the backlist and to a bunch of amusement park rides, even as Warner Brothers works to milk the last book of the series for as many movies as possible, the cult of Harry Potter is in trouble.

From the Brothers Grim to Walt Disney it seems that almost every fantasy kingdom has a dark and ugly underside to it. The Brothers Grim were refreshingly open about that dark side, Walt Disney just threw cute and cuddly at the screen, while robbing and abusing his animators, supporting fascism and lying compulsively about everything. That really isn’t anything new. Look at an adult who successfully creates a magical fantasy kingdom and half the time you wind up with a hack who takes credit for other people’s work, maximizes his own profits and wages war on anyone who gets in his way. Or you could just call him Georgie Lucas.

J.K. Rowling has become notorious for her lawsuits, for the ruthless way her marketing behemoth has gone after readers who bought the book a day early or authors who wrote something she considered derivative, this coming from a woman whose own work is rather derivative to say the least. But for too long claims like that could not get a hearing for the Cult of Harry Potter, the use of Muggles a typical cult positioning of outsiders and true believers is a dead giveaway, but the JK Rowling lawsuit that shut down Steven Van der Ark’s lexicon may mark a turning point.

As Orson Scott Card put it in his ultimate takedown of Rowling

People who hear about this suit will have a sour taste in their mouth about Rowling from now on. Her Cinderella story once charmed us. Her greedy evil-witch behavior now disgusts us. And her next book will be perceived as the work of that evil witch.

Anyone got any water?

Why eBooks are a Dead End

With Kindle still wearing some of the residual hype, Gizmodo took a look at the DRM issues involving the Sony Reader and the Kindle. Broken down it basically points out that thanks to DRM and restrictive licensing you don’t have a lot of rights when it comes to your ebooks on the Reader or Kindle. But then again you don’t have a lot of legal rights when it comes to your physical books either. As customers who had bought Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows early found out when J.K. Rowlings machine hunted them down and demanded that they return the copies unread.

Customers don’t have a lot of rights with entertainment media these days. Book publishers are just less likely to go all Ming the Merciless on them, because there’s no reason for it and it doesn’t pay. Move books to ebooks though and the paranoia really takes off once they’re in the business of selling a product that can be copied with ease. But ebooks themselves are a dead end. The Kindle is a very chance and expensive way to digitally reproduce something that doesn’t need to be reproduced.

The only advantage of the Kindle is that it allows you to access a large number of books with a click. Its advantages are that it is quite expensive and pointless. Most people read one or two books at a time and there is a romance to owning books that a piece of plastic can’t capture, something that even the writers pumping the Kindle know quite well. An ebook is no substitute for a book and never will be.

J.K. Rowling Hides Her Books

Well in more pointless Harry Potter news, J.K. Rowling is doing a book that links into the Harry Potter mythos (I shudder with shame to even dignify it with that term but I’m too lazy to find the appropriately condescending one) called Beedle the Bard, but only creating seven copies, six to hand out to her friends and one to auction off for sick children.

Now it’s nice that J.K. Rowling is going all Thomas Kinkade on this (as least she’s not marking her territory at parties one hopes) and it’s for a “good cause” and all. As if printing 20 million copies of the bloody thing and selling them to everyone wouldn’t have earned far more money. I suppose the children will have to comfort themselves with reading either the scanned in PDF versions online or the fake invented Chinese copies of it.

Come to think of it, with only seven people in possession of Beedle the Bard, how will anyone be able to tell real from fake?

Dumbledore was Gay, Everyone Else in Harry Potter Less Gay

Millions of Harry Potter fans suspected it, but now they can be in no doubt — Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts, is gay. JK Rowling, author of the bestselling series, outed the character on Friday at Carnegie Hall, in New York.

Taking questions on a promotional tour for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final book,
she was asked if Dumbledore, played in the latest Potter film by Sir Michael Gambon, had found “true love”. To gasps, she replied: “Dumbledore is gay.”

I’m sure this will shock people who assumed everyone male in Harry Potter was already gay because this implies that besides Dumbledore, Harry and the rest of the gang were not gay. Maybe they were just less gay.

But seriously it seems like J.K. Rowling did make a Harry Potter character gay but then lacked the guts to actually write it in in the novel, which is a pretty pathetic cop out. I mean if J.K. Rowling, who became a titan of kids publishing by ripping off Neil Gaiman (no pun intended) and some other people, couldn’t write that Dumbledore was gay in her last Harry Potter novel, who could?

Clearly she felt fine with suing readers who got the book a day early and threatening them with the police and now in NYC, she delivered the final cop out for a sham series. Dumbledore is gay.

Fanfic is Forgery?

Well if there’s one thing that J.K. Rowling produces aside from mediocre and derivative children’s fantasy books, it’s lawsuits. In the Harry Potter books, power is gained through magic. In the real world J.K. Rowling’s publishers gain it by suing the hell out of everyone who even breathes the wrong way on a Harry Potter novel or presumes to think about it a day before its official release.

To wit.

“Police arrested a teenager suspected of posting his own translation of the latest Harry Potter novel on the Internet weeks before the official French release, the book’s publishers said on Wednesday.

The 16-year-old schoolboy, from the Aix-en-Provence region in southern France, was taken into custody by a police anti-counterfeiting unit and later released, said a spokeswoman for the Gallimard publishing house, which handles the French editions of the novels.”

Of all the dogs to sic on him, the anti-counterfeiting law enforcement unit is one of the stranger ones. Counterfeiting requires consciously trying to make money by passing off something as the original. Much like the Chinese freelance translations this appears to be a case of a kid translating the book on his own and putting it up for others to enjoy. A charge of pirating the book might have stuck, a charge of counterfeiting it? I doubt anyone was confusing his translation with an actual paid copy of the book.

“It is not a young person or a fan we are talking about here — these are organized networks that use young people,” she told Reuters by telephone.

Like drug networks? Some massive evil conspiracy to post free translations of books online? Funny how you can make anything seem like a vast evil conspiracy.

The Harry Potter Money Train Keeps on Rolling

For booksellers weeping at the thought that the Harry Potter publishing bonanza was going to end after so many productive or non-productive years in which booksellers had to cut prices on copies of Harry Potter to below cost in order to draw shoppers in while bleeding green from their own veins (capitalist Vulcan style) can now be overjoyed that there’s more Harry Potter coming their way as J.K. Rowling plans to do her own version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lost Tales or Simmarillion or some such thing. Granted J.R.R. Tolkien was the creator of a grandiose and truly epic fantasy world and J.K. Rowling had thrown together some bits of fantasy lifted from other authors and rode the marketing machine to bestsellerdom, but once you’ve begun imitating the man for profit, you might as well keep going all the way.

Of course once the encyclopedia is out and selling, though in somewhat diminished fashion, J.K. Rowling will no doubt figure out some new book related ways to cash in on Harry Potter. With an amusement park and films still on the way, there’s always room for a Harry Potter sketchbook, perhaps a collection of abridged Harry Potter tales for toddlers and the younger tweens and perhaps a next generation of students and their tales, something J.K. Rowling had already effectively set up with the ending of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Either way this is only one more step in the endless cash bonanza for everyone involved.

The Potter Whine Begins over the New York Times Deathly Hallows Reviews

In a note of desperation the New York Times illegitimately obtained a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and rushed it on to Michiko Kakutani who spent most of the night in a frenzy inducted my metamphetamines and herbal tea trying to read through the whole bloody thing, before giving up around page 300, skipping ahead to the end and in a daze threw together a rambling review comparing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens, Kafka, Tolkien, the Wizard of Oz, Milton, Star Wars and Spiderman among others. I used to do the same thing when I was a Freshman but I was never a respected New York Times book reviewer. Also I was usually writing about something at least vaguely on the level of Kafka, Milton or Dickens rather than a popular kiddie book.

But this sloppy wet kiss from the formerly respected Michiko Kakutani did not abate the fury of Harry Potter fans who on the command of their billionaire mistress over across the pond began baying with fury at the thought that anyone had read and reviewed the book early?

Why? After all no one was forcing them to read it. They were free to skip past the review. After all it’s not as if Michiko Katakuni had put up spoilers in all caps bright red in the middle of the review. But when dealing with wacky cults, you’re dealing with people who believe that their wishes have priority over yours and that respect for their beliefs trumps everyone else’s rights.

And that’s how this ensued with whiny adult Harry Potter fans registering their whiny outrage.

That does NOT give you right to be so disrespectful to Jo Rowling or her fans. I would have thought that a paper, like the New York Times, would have been able to use their common sense to realise how big this is; you’re doing nothing but embarrass yourselves. You’re proving that you’re no different from the vermin out there, trying to get their name in the headlines for selling the book early.

What in the world does this even mean? Why should a newspaper be respectful of a writer and her fans? I mean more so than the slobbery review the Times had already penned. In fact papers have not only the right but the obligation to be disrespectful of people like this. I would not want to read any paper that treated J.K. Rowling’s insane demands for censorship of the press or that of her fans with respect.

I think that the New York Times could have respected the excitement of their (former) future readers and waited until Saturday to publish the review.

Now we’re required to respect people’s excitement? What does that even mean? Now I’m obligated to respect excitement? This sounds like a Seinfeld episode waiting to happen.

Sorry… much BS…..I ain’t buying your self-serving justification. Details is what the book is all about. I’m even now more disappointed in you than I was before. You just couldn’t let it be….its all about the $$ screw the kids!

Yeah because everyone knows the kids rush right off and read the Times book review.

Now, the New York Times should be included along with The Daily News and The Post as not just a blatant but also a singular, shameful example of a newspaper exploding the muggles’ agreement by which we respect both Rowling’s and her readers’ desire to let Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows unfold its mysteries as we read it.

I’m sorry but the only agreement we recognize is that of the United States Constitution not a bunch of adults trying to act like 5 year olds and leaving their children to cry themselves to sleep at home while they camp out in front of Barnes and Nobles’. Muggles? Yes they should be mugged. And mugged hard.

This isn’t just any book, this isn’t just any book release – this is the conclusion of ten years of imagination, mystery, and simply put – pure fun! And you’ve had a hand in trying to ruin it.

I pledge allegiance to the Scholastic Books marketing campaign and its artificially generated pretense at pure fun and mystery. One deluded readership under J.K. Rowling indivisibly stupid with high book prices for all.

I also see that both Mr. Lyman and Mr. Hoyt have taken care to emphasize that Katutani’s review was highly positive and “praised the HP series”. Puh-lease! J. K. Rowling – and all of us HP fans – don’t need someone else to praise this book. We certainly don’t need a writer like Katutani to stamp it approved! We know the series, we know Rowling’s work, and we love it all. And because we do, we want to get it straight from the source – this Saturday!

Who’s stopping you, you overgrown dingbat? You’ve clearly stated that you have no interest in reading reviews because you have absolute faith in the greatness of a book you haven’t read yet. So take your cult over to the bookstore and stop complaining because book reviews are not for you. They’re for people who actually want to know something about a book before embracing it senselessly.

Now let me be clear. I hate spoilers. I hate people who deliberately spoil things for you ahead of time. Normally.

On the other hand between J.K. Rowling’s lawsuits against everyone, the corporate fascist clampdown on stores and her fandom’s shrieking hysteria and sense of entitlement, I personally hope everyone one of these sad examples of the human spaces has someone shove the last page of the book in their faces before they buy it. That would be poetic justice.

Harry Potter Barred by the Times

Over at the Huffington Post, home to whatever celebs, semi-celebs and random friends of Larry David, Arianne Huffington could talk into occasionally writing a column, Michael Giltz has a rambling piece arguing that the New York Times is committing war crimes by separating children’s and adult’s books on separate lists.

It happened in 2000. The Harry Potter books — a once in a lifetime publishing phenomenon — were dominating the bestseller lists, with three titles ensconced in the Top 15 at the same time. It just wasn’t fair, moaned publishers of more “serious” fiction. It kept more deserving titles off the list, titles that people would never hear about, said bookstore owners. And so in a rash, indefensible decision, the New York Times decided to banish children’s books solely to their own separate list.

Of course ‘banish’ implies that this was somehow destructive and discriminatory. In point of fact there already were soft cover and hard cover bestseller lists. Does Glitz feel that ‘banishing’ soft cover books to their own list was unfair? In fact having separate adult and children’s bestseller lists makes perfect sense. They are different segments of the industry and children’s books should be featured in their own list. This would also give non-harry potter books a chance to be featured in the children’s bestseller lists too.

A major contributory factor to this move was the success of Harry Potter books because it demonstrated the strength of the children’s publishing market.

Imagine if the people behind the Nielsen Top 10 TV show listings decided that reality shows were “taking away” valuable attention from dramas and sitcoms. Let reality shows get their own list and the official Top 10 only include “genuine” TV shows, like CSI and House and Grey’s Anatomy.

Why not? We could have ratings listings for dramas and reality shows and game shows. But this makes less sense because all these shows do compete with each other. By contrast a children’s cartoon series isn’t going to be listed in the same space. They’re simply not competing with each other. No more than Michael Chabon is competing with Harry Potter and the Stylus of Doom.

Imagine if Variety decided animated movies were just for kids and didn’t belong on the box office Top Ten list, when more adult films like Knocked Up and Ocean’s 13 needed the space.

You mean like the way Oscars now recognized animated films separately?

This isn’t just about bragging rights for J.K. Rowling. This is about accuracy and fairness…and about the next Harry Potter. One major reason the books became a phenomenon in the first place was because they broke onto the New York Times bestseller list. At many bookstores, any title that does so automatically gets placed in a prominent position and receives a hefty discount.

And the next Harry Potter will find it even easier because it can now break into the children’s bestseller list which will have more spaces in it and after the success of harry potter, booksellers will be paying close attention to that list.

Adults who read about the success of the books didn’t have to skulk into the children’s section to buy a copy. They found it right there in the front of the store next to new releases by Stephen King and John Grisham.

And why is that a good thing? If adults are going to embarrass themselves by reading kiddy lit, they should be forced to go into the kids department for it. That or download some of PWOT’s covers.

Quite simply, if this idiotic rule banning kid’s books from the charts had been in effect before Harry Potter, there might never have been Harry Potter in the first place — and certainly not to the level of sales we’ve seen today.

Boo hoo. If Harry Potter was doomed to become popular, it would have anyway. Harry Potter as a marketing machine would not have been slowed down by the bestseller list and stores would have responded to sales regardless of the times. This fearmongering is just silly.

Philip Pullman’s brilliant fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials was a big hit — and should draw even more fans when The Golden Compass, the film version of the first book in that trilogy hits theaters this December. But if it hadn’t been banned from The New York Times bestseller list, this mature, sophisticated work might very well have broken out to a much wider audience.

What wider audience? His Dark Materials was reasonably popular but its appeal was limited and the third book was a whopping disaster. The Dark Materials trilogy lacked the marketing push that Harry Potter had.

Michiko Kakutani Slobbers Over Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

You almost have to feel sorry for the New York Times. The Times got hold of an early copy of the latest Harry Potter novel, already a sign of desperation, and rolled no one less than Michiko Kakutani herself out to give Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows a sloppy kiss of a review. Forget sloppy kisses, the woman who once boasted about having to kill babies, all but slobbered over the latest and last Harry Potter installment.

J.K. Rowling’s monumental, spell-binding epic, 10 years in the making, is deeply rooted in traditional literature and Hollywood sagas — from the Greek myths to Dickens and Tolkien to Star Wars — and true to its roots, it ends not with modernist, Soprano-esque equivocation, but with good old-fashioned closure: a big screen, heart-racing, bone-chilling confrontation and an epilogue that clearly lays out people’s fates.

Seriously did Michiko Kakutani write that review sitting down or on her knees? In one sentence she’s managed to compare the mediocre scribblings of J.K. Rowling to greek myths, Dickens, Tolkien and Star Wars, itself a hodgepodge of nonsense analogies. Heart racing and bone-chilling? Harry pretends to be dead. Harry isn’t dead. Harry tricks Voldemort into blah blah blah some stuff with a wand and its proper owner. Harry lives happily ever after. Consider my heart slowly paced and my bones unchilled.

And no I didn’t read the book. But Michiko Kakutani isn’t done slopping over Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows yet.

in this volume he is clearly more Henry V than Prince Hal, more King Arthur than young Wart

Just because no pretentious review of a kid’s book would be enough without gratitious Shakespeare references.

coping with the banal frustrations of school and dating — and an epic hero, kin to everyone from the young King Arthur to Spiderman and Luke Skywalker. This same magpie talent has enabled her to create a narrative that effortlessly mixes up allusions to Homer, Milton, Shakespeare and Kafka, with silly kid jokes about vomit-flavored candies, a narrative that fuses a plethora of genres (from the boarding school novel to the detective story to the epic quest) into a story that could be Exhibit A in a Joseph Campbell survey of mythic archetypes.

Now we’ve got Spiderman and King Arthur and Luke Skywalker and Homer and Milton and Kafka, who would be wishing he had been turned into a roach out of humiliation of even being mentioned here and of course to top off the absolutely hollow and pretentious attempts to link mythology to popular works, Joseph Campbell himself. Well done, Michiko, well done. Do you even have a soul left after that recitation?

n doing so, J.K. Rowling has created a world as fully detailed as L. Frank Baum’s “Oz” or J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Middle Earth,”

Now we’ve got a returning appearance by Tolkien and one by the Wizard of Oz. I was halfway hoping Michiko Kakutani would top herself by invoking the bible or maybe Gor but somehow she restrained herself or perhaps she was restrained once the shock therapy kicked in. I don’t any writer who gets savaged by Michiko Kakutani can worry about it after this. It’s like getting criticism from Babawa Walters. She threw away whatever credibility she had with this review, not only rushing to get a review out ahead before the books were in stores but delivering something that would require as an obscenity as its proper metaphor to Harry Potter.

Harry Potter Mania Drags to a Close

With the release of the latest Harry Potter movie and the upcoming release of the seventh and last Harry Potter novel, the long international nightmare is nearly over.

While the brilliantly calculated hype rolls on, newspaper writers offer their dribs of purple prose in defense of the premise that J.K. Rowling is a brilliant children’s writer and Harry Potter is a beloved childhood classic that will live on for generations. They are wrong on both points.

J.K. Rowling is a strictly mediocre writer. Her characters and her descriptive abilities rank somewhere in the middle half of the sort of children’s books that are regularly put out. Her writing relies heavily on raiding and looting earlier books and boiling the mess down into the lowest common denominator volumes of Harry Potter. Neil Gaiman did it better and earlier with Books of Magic, featuring a bespectacled English boy discovering his magical abilities. The comparison between Books of Magic and Harry Potter is pretty much a comparison between a genius and the studious boy who tries very hard, isn’t very bright but who is taken under the wing by a wealthy patron.

Harry Potter is a triumph of marketing over storytelling and to the end it represents the merger between the kind of marketing micromanaged hype seen in movies and the music industry attached to children’s books. The result has generated billions of dollars. It is an impressive achievement, not in literature but in marketing. J.K. Rowling has produced nothing worthwhile and nothing that will endure when the hype machine begins to slumber. There are genuine works of the fantastic imagination that lives on through the decades long after Harry Potter has become an obscure reference.

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