We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

“My name is Potter … Harry Potter …”

Personally I read the first Harry Potter, then started the second one and said: enough, I am too old for this. Nor are Harry Potter movies the kind of movies I now like and I have seen none of them. So, I am a Muggle and proud of it. But for all that, I am very impressed by this:

The sixth book in the hugely successful Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, is already among the bestsellers on the Internet more than six months before its publication.

US online retailer Amazon says advanced orders for the book, written by British author JK Rowling, have propelled it to number one on its list of 100 bestsellers.

It is the sheer economic scale of the phenomenon that I find so amazing. How many people, I wonder, now make a permanent living from the Harry Potter books, and associated industries?

This is the sixth book, and there is another one due, plus there have already been three movies, right? So, four more to come? And will they then just carry on making HP movies with their own made-up stories? It would make sense. (Not that the JK Rowling ones are un-made-up, but you get my point.)

It reminds me of an earlier British cultural export-stroke-industry, as I am surely not the first to have observed.

Seriously, there must be interesting parallels between the Harry Potter phenomenon and the James Bond phenomenon. Both use magical toys. Both battle against evil, set in architecturally impressive surroundings. Both were made into mega-successful movies. But, what do I know? Or care? I leave all that sort of chatter to those who have read it and seen it.

Of whom there are, as I say, quite a few.

Maybe, when JKR has ceased her labours and has simply parked herself in a deck chair under her personal banknote Niagara, I will even give the books another go myself.

Okay that was originally the end, but here is another thought. JK Rowling should build herself a gigantic castle, made of huge lumps of stone, with turrets and battlements and flying buttresses and bridges high up in the sky, like they used to build in Scotland and like Mad King Ludwig used to build in Bavaria. It really is about time the construction of places like that was resumed, and for real rather than just in Disneyworlds and such places. And she is just the woman to do it. God knows, she can afford it.

14 comments to “My name is Potter … Harry Potter …”

  • The first book is nothing to go by. The greatest thing about the series is that the books are getting better and better, that is to say more “grown-up”. It is nice, because the kids who read them are growing up, too, so the books don’t stay behind their readers. But if, as an adult, the first book did not hook you up, maybe you will not like the other books either. I cannot wait for July, though.

  • I hope I never outgrow a good story. And that is all the Harry Potter books are, good stories built around good vs evil, the need for acceptance among your peers, growing up as the “different” kid, etc.

  • Rachel

    There must be something specially English to this global success – going backwards to Alice, Three Men in a Boat, the Rings etc. (back to Shakespeare?). I don’t recall the parallel of other english speaking countries. Could it be the english sense of humor and fantasy? I use english only for reading and internet, and once started studying french for it’s literature. I won’t have time to read french anyway.

    I have a special connection with Harry Potter, as my grandson looked exactly like him in the movie. Suddenly everyone noticed him.

  • Hank Scorpio

    Until Harry Potter bangs Hermione your James Bond analogy is dead in the water. =D

  • I was reading a piece in the Hollywood Trade paper Variety a few weeks back, which was discussing the outlook for the various Hollywood studios. About Warner Bros, it simply said that “As long as nothing goes wrong with the Harry Potter movies, Warners remains in good shape regardless of what it does” and pretty much left it at that. So the Harry Potter business is carrying one of the two largest Hollywood studios pretty much by itself. The merchandising that goes with the films is enormous, DVD sales are gigantic, and most importantly there are no “first dollar gross participants” (ie people entitled to large amounts of the money) other than JK Rowling herself. (Directors, producers and actors can eat up a large portion of the profits on many movies). The films are being made by directors who are other in the second tier of Hollywoods pecking order or who are talented but relatively inexperienced presumably to keep profit share down and because they will likely do what they are told.

    (In this way the Potter movies resemble the Bond movies quite a lot. The Bond movies are also directed by second tier or young and talented directors for exactly the same reason, and Pierce Brosnan has recently been sacked from the title role presumably because he had been in it for sufficiently long that he was becoming too expensive and was starting to do things like ask for particular directors).

    And there is very little chance indeed of there being any more Harry Potter movies once the seven books are filmed. JK Rowling apparently has an unusual amount of creative control written into here contract with Warners, and she certainly has a veto over such things. And she has been pretty clear about seven books being the end of the story.

  • Tony H

    Good luck to Rowling, and I’m further impressed by M.Jennings’s revelations about her shrewd deal with Warners. But although I’ve taken my son to see two of the movies, and enjoyed them moderately (albeit with Nabokovian mixed feelings about the budding Hermione) I find the books unreadable.
    I’ve read some children’s literature as an adult with great applause: Philip Reeve springs to mind, author of Mortal Engines and Predator’s Gold. But Rowling is turgid stuff indeed, leaden, hackneyed, utterly uninspiring. And to anyone brought up on the traditional British children’s literature of boarding school adventures, it’s entirely predictable too – but still nowhere as good as Stalky & Co, say, and without the lightness of touch & good humour of the Jennings series. Sorry to be a killjoy – but then, it is Christmas.

  • D Anghelone

    As I recall, the James Bond books were without magical toys and a good read. As for being a battler against evil, Bond earned his ’00’ as an assassin.

  • God knows, she can afford it.

    …until NuLabor introduces a “super-duper tax” on people who make gazillions of dollars, and she flees to Monaco as a tax exile.

    Of course, she could always build her castle there… less chance of it being confiscated by the Scots, too.

  • Eric Jablow

    I don’t like James Bond. He cheats at bridge.

    Seriously, I’m hoping that another author does with the HP books what George MacDonald Fraser did to Tom Brown’s Schooldays with his Flashman novels. Draco Malfoy and the Second Iranian Revolution perhaps?

  • Shawn

    I havent read any of the books myself, but my wife has and is a huge fan. The first two films were ok, but I’m sure much better if your a child. I was rather impressed with the third film though, which was seemed much darker than the others, and therefore more to my own taste.

    If your looking for a truly above average fantasy/magic read then try the recent ‘Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell’ by Susanna Clarke, which I have just finished. It makes JKR look facile by comparison. But dont give it to kids. Its far too dark and disturbing.

  • It’s worth noting that the HP books really get good with the third book, Prisoner of Azkaban. The first two were cute; PoA was gripping. It remains, in the opinion of many, the best book of the series.

    Books Four and Five are good as well.

  • kaj

    It should not be forgotten that Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond series, also wrote one very good tale for children, later adapted for the screen, namely Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
    Maybe J K Rowling will turn to writing for adults when she is throug with the Harry Potter books(whom, I at least thoroughly enjoys?)

  • A Rowling-ized Q Division could be quite fun.

  • I agree that Harry Potter series became much more interesting with ‘The Prisoner of Azkaban’. This is one of my favourite from series. The other is ‘The Goblet of Fire’. But I don’t say HP is going better with each next novel, as I find ‘The Order of the Phoenix’ a bit worse, and the sixth, ‘The Half-Blood Prince’ I finished a few days ago, seems to me significantly worse than previous parts. But may be I’ll change my mind after re-reading it.