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Ted Waddell | Democrat

ELI HECHT, 6, of Callicoon was among the swarms readers who flocked to Hamish & Henry in search of the final installment in the Harry Potter series.

'Hogwarts and hogwash' as Pottermania Strikes

By Ted Waddell
LIVINGSTON MANOR — July 27, 2007 — Like most wizards, Harry Potter wields a double edged sword.
On one hand, while J. K. Rowling’s international best selling series of children’s books chronicles the exciting adventures of a boy wizard at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, a lot of booksellers are crying “Hogwash!” at the restrictive nature of the recent media blitz surrounding release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the seventh and final volume of the series.
Collectively, since the publication of the first novel “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (retitled “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” for the U.S. market), the British author has gained immense worldwide popularity, raves from reviewers and huge commercial success.
After the July 21, 2007 release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows” at the precise stoke of midnight, publishers announced a record-breaking 12 million copies for the initial printing in the United States alone.
Collectively, the seven volumes have sold more than 325 million copies and has been translated into about 65 languages, making Rowling’s the high-earning novelist in the history of literature.
At bit closer to home, at 12:01 p.m. last Friday, scores of folks lined up at Hamish & Henry Booksellers, the area’s premier bookstore, to snatch up one of the pre-ordered 100 copies of the latest book.
A lot of kids came dressed for the occasion in costumes depicting characters from the series, from six-year Eli Hecht of Callicoon as Harry Potter himself, to Harry Rosenblume, “six and three-quarters” of NYC/Callicoon as “Mimbutus Mimtonia” and nine-year old Sarah Danhorn in the guise of a yellow-beaked bird that defied adult classification.
Danhorn and Rosenblume were thrilled to be selected as the recipients of a couple of free books as they were judged to have the most original costumes.
And their parents were a bit richer as they didn’t have to shell out the list price of $34.99 to take a copy of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” back to the family library. (Hamish & Henry is selling them at a discounted $28.34).
Ralph Bressler of Manor was a lucky guy.
At twenty minutes past the witching hour, he bought the last copy to be had at the local bookstore until the next shipment arrives.
His take on the book buying frenzy?
“I really don’t care, I was buying it for my wife and daughter, but I’m considering selling it to someone else for a higher price,” replied Bressler.
According to Rowling in an account published on her website, the idea for Harry Potter popped into her head while riding on a train from Manchester to London in 1990.
“I had been writing almost continuously since the age of six, but I had never been so excited about an idea before. I simply sat and thought, for four hours and all the details bubbled up from my brain, and this scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn’t know he was a wizard became more and more real to me.”
The first book in the series, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” was published in 1997, and was soon followed by “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” (1998), “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (1999), “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” (2000), “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” (2003), “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” (2005) and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” (2007).
As the buzz about the books spread like words of wildfire, publishers capitalized on the excitement as readership grew around the world, as for kids turning into young adults, the books were a must read.
While the novels are firmly entrenched in the fantasy genre, in a lot of ways they are also considered bildungsromans, or coming of age tales.
The stories are for the most part, set in Hogwarts, a British boarding school for wizards.
But while Hogwarts is a great place to pick up a few tricks of the wizardry-biz, a lot of booksellers say the publishing world is full of “hogwash” when it comes to releasing the final volume.
“Sometimes midnight never comes soon enough,” said a laconic Jeff Christiansen, co-owner of main street’s Hamish & Henry Booksellers.
“The underlying thing is that in half the time it takes to leave the Bethel Woods parking lot, we sold out of Harry Potters,” he added.
What about the clamps put on booksellers by Warner Brothers (producers of the Harry Potter films) and restrictions imposed by the publishers.
“Warner Brothers does not like people to show older Harry Potter movies during promotional events [for new books],” said Christensen. “It’s a weird Warner Brother deal… the bean counters who make policies like that are just mean people. From a business point of view, can there be anything better than to combine a movie with the hottest book in the world?”
Sue Barnett, the other half of Hamish & Henry, said, “I thought it was a very successful event. I loved the kids and their costumes.”
“It was really intense, it was pretty incredible,” she added.
Getting the latest “Harry” wasn’t all that easy.
Barnett said they had to sign three affidavits a month in advance that they wouldn’t open up the boxes of books once they arrived, even to sneak a peek.
Then at 2 p.m. on the day of the release, a special UPS delivery van showed up at their doorstep with boxes of Harry Potters, boxes that were sealed with bands of security tape worthy of state secrets.
In the wake of all the hoopla, the boxes quickly became collector’s treasures, but a few folks were probably worried about being stopped by the book police on the way home.
“It’s a series of books that really talked to its time,” said Barnett. “For something to be this successful, it really has to hit some nerve. It’s something these kids were totally able to relate to.”
She likened the series’ as yet –to-be-defined impact on society to the Wizard of Oz’s of the 1920s-40s.
“It’ s something that speaks to the 1990s and 2000s, but I don’t think we’ll really understand how it affected our society for another ten or twenty years,” said Barnett.
“It’s so damn popular, it has to.”
As the series progressed, the young Harry Potter marched into young adulthood, the books got progressively longer and more complex as their readers comprehensive abilities grew with the seasons.
Carol Christensen, Jeff’s mom, is known for her wide-ranging literary tastes, home-baked cookies and a love of reading to children.
“What I find fascinating about it, is that the first book starts out with Harry Potter as a young boy - it talks to a younger audience, but as he grows up it talks to young adults,” she said.

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