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Friday, July 20, 2007
Harry Potter Fans and the Very Long Wait...
...for the conclusion of the Harry Potter series. Oh yes, in case I've never mentioned it, I am a big fan of the Boy Who Lived and I have been waiting eagerly for quite some time for the conclusion to the series.

Who lives, who dies, what happens? It's better than a drama being played out in the press. Then again, it *is* a drama that's been played out in the press since the very beginning. The lucky first time author, a single mom in a cafe writing ideas down on napkins - who wouldn't fall for a story like that?

I'm not knocking J.K. Rowling here. It's the stuff that dreams are made of, and we've all had dreams where something fantastic and unbelievable happens to us. Hers came true, but it's given some people license to whack on her.

Most of the whacking, however, has been coming in recent days with reviews of her writing style for the entire series. One article that I read wondered why someone as highly educated as Rowling writes like a 9 year old. I don't think that the author carefully considered that Rowling may have been writing like that because that's her target audience.

After all, Dr Seuss' target audience is small children who are learning to read. I don't see words like 'emphatically', 'perspicacious' and 'malicious' in Seuss. Rowling doesn't have to write like Dickens or Tolstoy because her target audience is comprised of people who have just left Seuss on the bookshelf in favor of something more. I say 'is' instead of 'was' because the target audience is still children. There was no way to know in advance that the story of this little orphan boy was going to be a worldwide phenomenon and I think children prefer an engaging story over eloquent elegance in one's writing style.

Now, remember, the target audience for a series isn't going to change no matter who reads the book. The Harry Potter series was targeted at children and rightfully remained as such throughout the series. Oh sure, as Harry grew up his creator advanced his age and the situations that he was in because her original audience grew up too. But it's a logical progression. An 8 year old is going to read these and expect that Harry will grow up because they are growing up. An adult is going to expect the same thing because they know what it's like.

Why is it so engaging? Why are so many people in love with this good vs. evil story? Maybe because it's not quite as simple as good vs. evil. Maybe because there's some gray area, some mystery. She's built an entire world around this little boy - a fantastic world with characters, books, creatures. They all have backstory and reasons why things are done certain ways. The stories are funny and they make me smile. And they seem very real in the way she's aged Harry and what he has to face - as a child growing into a teenager, and as a young magician learning more about his world. And it's all told in a rather simple style.

I can forgive Rowling's prose as being simple because of the audience that she's writing for. She doesn't have to be elegant in her prose; she accomplished having engaging plots that suck the reader in. I can forgive simplicity of prose if the book is a complete page turner. That's not to say that I'll forgive anything as long as it's engaging - Robert Ludlum could have trimmed lots and lots of words from the Bourne sequels and they would have been just as good. Instead, in my opinion, they were longer and more tedious than they needed to be because he would use two or three sentences to describe a situation that could have been described in one. Rowling uses less words, more simple words and our imaginations soar.

Ah, there's the other part of the equation. She uses simple phrasing, simple words and our minds take over. She didn't just engage the reader on an enjoyment level. She's engaged us on an imaginative level, a thinking level, a desire to solve the mystery level. Think about it. Harry Potter fans around the world are talking about the series and what things they think will happen based on things they think are clues in the first 6 books. People have re-read the whole series (myself included) leading up to this last book to make sure that they didn't miss anything, or so that they don't have to go back to a book to check something that happens in the 7th book that may have happened two books ago.

It's a great easter egg hunt for lack of a better term. Who knows what awaits us in this upcoming book? I've been ignoring the spoilers (and I'd like my comments to remain spoiler free, thank you) which has proven to be a challenge, especially when US book critics have starting publishing reviews of the book two days ahead of release. The author is upset about that (and I would be too, considering the security that has surrounded this thing) and it's made it that much harder to avoid what *really* happens.

To that end, I've been ignoring the newspaper websites and the actual paper. I've been neglecting the printed paper that comes to my door for a while, but I'll have to continue that through Saturday - I can just imagine opening the paper Saturday morning (before my copy arrives from Amazon) and seeing a headline about what actually happens. I'm sure that the press will assume that people have been reading through the night or have already heard on the news from the U.K. or something.

So here we are, just hours from the release and I'm eagerly waiting for the 7th book to drop on my doorstep. A is valiantly working her way through the 5th book right now while I finish up the 6th book. B is steadily moving through the 3rd book still and has been spotted falling asleep with it next to her. We're hours from me having it in my hands to blow the day away by reading and reading. Hours from the internet flooding with the story of the books, the lines, the parties, and anything else related to Harry Potter to get that one last bit of news before we enter a post-Potter world...

...but as long as we keep a little magic in our lives, Harry will always be there.