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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Happy Birthday J.K. Rowling!

Happy Birthday J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter!

Anyone remember where they were when they first heard about the Boy Who Lived? I do. I was in the back of a car going to a meeting of Aussiecon 3, the third Australian Word Science Fiction Convention. I was one of two people running the children's program, which was a mini version of the con itself, so I was a committee member. The lady sitting next to me was Alison Goodman, who has since gone on to bestseller status, but at the time had done one novel, a YA called Singing The Dogstar Blues.

Anyway, we chatted about this, that and the other and she asked me if I'd heard of Harry Potter. I hadn't; the series was fairly new at the time, maybe only the first or first and second were out. She recommended it and at the next Children's Book Week Fair I bought a copy of Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone. I'd like to say I thought, "Wow!Classic in the making!" but all I thought was, "That was fun!" and got the next one as soon as I found it.

By the time I got to the third novel, Prisoner Of Azkaban, I had come to realise that there was more to this than just another entertaining children's series. The world building had developed, the wizarding world had become a place where an innocent man could go to  prison just because the unelected head of state wanted to be seen to be doing something (I'm talking Hagrid here, not Sirius, who developed this theme further) and in POS we found out that the prison was not merely bars and concrete but torture. I also noticed that the author was following Chekhov's idea that a gun on the mantelpiece in the first scene should go off by the end. I wondered what guns would go off in future. Another thing: it was the last book in which no one died.

By the time of the final novel, I had read the entire series several times. I remember that day too. I remember the bookshop queues(as a reviewer I just had to queue at the Allen and Unwin offices in East Melbourne). I remember walking down Collins Street in the city, where people were sitting everywhere reading h Potter. There were brass bands at one bookshop and a choir singing Hogwarts songs at another and people at all the table in the food court where I took my book reading the same book.

I rejoiced. All this fuss was being made about a book! Better still,suddenly it was cool to read a children's book, though there were many still reading books with the  adult  covers. I suppose some people just can't handle being seen with something obviously not written for adults.

 I get so tired of people sneering when you tell them you're reading a children's book. But on line there are entire groups of adults discussing this universe in their forums (fora?), being passionate about it, having to be moderated, even. There are academic conferences with papers read. Personally, I just like to enjoy the books and discuss them with fellow fans, but I can understand why people make so much of it, with all the cultural background from a woman who is well educated in history, folklore and languages.

Anyway, raise your virtual glasses to J.K. Rowling and her creation Harry Potter, in thanks for introducing adults to children's literature!

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