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Why we owe it to Harry

People who find reading fiction a pointless exercise have been curious to find what Pottermania is all about.
Hindustan Times | By HT Correspondent
UPDATED ON JUL 20, 2007 11:55 PM IST

First of all, thank you for sparing some time to read this editorial rather than gobble down more pages of the copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that should be in your vicinity. While our piece of delicate prose runs to a modest 412 words, JK Rowling’s final Potter novel sprawls across 608 pages. One would have thought that more people than the millions returning from, going to or at bookstores would find our humble offering more accessible. After all, getting a copy of the seventh Potter book means standing in line for at least the next few months, spending serious money, and — we don’t know yet, but some of you definitely do after flipping some 600-odd pages — facing the possibility of the end of the Potter Age. We say ‘possibility’ because Harry may — now hold our hands tightly — have died in the final sequence of the series.

That, of course, still doesn’t mean the end of the boy-wizard. For grown-ups who know their Sherlock Holmes, remember how Arthur Conan Doyle, under extreme pressure from a clamouring readership, had to concoct a plot-twisting resurrection of the super sleuth in The Adventure of the Empty House — this after Holmes had tumbled over the Reichenbach Falls to his death in The Final Problem before. Regardless of whether the nearest under-20 in your house has already started wailing ‘Nooooo!’ from his or her room or not, the fact that this is purported to be Ms Rowling’s last Potter adventure, that unprecedented security has been taken to protect the book’s contents from being known before its publication date, that worldwide countdowns a la Y2K and Armageddon were held a few hours back, all contribute to one of the most impressive demand-supply models in retail history.

People who find reading books — especially fiction — a pointless exercise have not only been interested enough in the books that lie at the centre of the ‘Potter phenom’, but have actually ventured to read the series. The mystique of a super-phenomenon coming to an end has its own seductive qualities. Which, of course, cannot take away from the amazing attribute of the Harry Potter books: making people, especially young people, in the age of gnat-attention spans and Blackberrys, get entwined in the world of the written word and giving it temporary supremacy over the real world. Now, if only we could do that with newspaper editorials that are only 412 words long.

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