Saturday, July 16, 2005 | All is not well in the land of Muggles. Bombarded by continuous reports of governmental ineptitude and malfeasance, San Diegans are depressed and distrustful. The Muggle world appears full of incompetent boobs who lie and steal and abuse their power and authority, making escape from the daily deluge of dire deeds a distant dream.
With the pension fund debacle, the mayoral circus, the scandalous trial of two city council members, Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham under scrutiny, budget shortfalls, natural disasters, terrorist bombings and war, Muggles – those non-magical beings who live in this cheerless place called reality – are encountering calamity around every corner and finding it impossible to retreat from the onslaught.
But all is not lost. For today, magic once again enters the world, and the fantasy continues.
On Tuesday, four days before the book was released, online bookseller Amazon.com had recorded an astonishing 1.4 million orders … and climbing. Bookstores like Barnes and Noble, which stayed open until midnight Friday to sell the book to devoted fans, began celebrations at 8 p.m. with face-painting and games like “Pin the Tail on Dudley.”
Fun and games certainly, but the series has also been credited with enormous educational value as well. Besides being delightful entertainment, the Potter books have induced many formerly reluctant young readers to “drop everything and read” – or D.E.A.R., as they say in schools. With previous releases, children have stayed up all night reading the books, and rejected outdoor activities – even computer and video games – in favor of the compelling Harry Potter.
But don’t tell me this is just a children’s book. Retreating into the fantasyland of Harry Potter has never been reserved for kids. Although The New York Times caved in to pressure and removed Rowling’s wildly popular series from its bestseller list because the books refused to budge from the number-one spot for weeks and weeks and weeks, there’s still no denying the adult appeal. The Times can take it off its list and push it onto a separate children’s bestseller list if they want, but we Muggles know better. We know a good thing when we see it.
The character of Harry Potter reminds adults what fantasy was like. The captivating story gives us those childhood moments back, those days long ago when the world was alive with magic and wonder. When evil was clearly marked, and good was pure and unfettered. When friendships were bonds for life, and love ruled all.
My 15-year-old son has grown up with Harry Potter. Our copies of the first five books are worn at the edges, having been read by him at least five times each. Add to that my husband, me and now our 8-year-old, and you’ve got books that are literally falling apart from use. What better testament to Rowling’s power to bewitch and dazzle, than broken spines and loose pages?
In this next chapter of Harry’s extraordinary adventures, will Rowling kill another main character? If so, who will it be? How will the dastardly deed be done? What will Malfoy be up to this time? Will Harry find love in the corridors of Hogwarts castle? What will become of Ron and Hermione? Will Hagrid stay out of trouble? What evil will Voldemort be plotting? How will Harry escape?
How many dragons will circle, cauldrons bubble, wands duel and broomsticks fly? As we sink into the comfort of Rowling’s enchanted universe of magic mirrors, invisibility cloaks, owls, potions and Quidditch, look for spirits to brighten and imaginations to soar.
For a few days, we Muggles can suspend our civic worries and lose ourselves in a land of goblins and wizards, castles and dungeons, spells that harm, charm, protect and transform – a place where a three-headed dog named Fluffy, a phoenix named Fawkes and a host of other magical creatures, including hippogriffs and blast-ended screwts, are part of a rich, vibrant landscape filled with limitless possibilities for good and evil.
As Harry enters London’s Kings Cross Station and takes off at full speed running straight into the solid brick barrier leading to Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, I’ll be right there alongside him, transfixed and ready for another great ride on the Hogwarts Express.
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