Harry Friggin’ Potter

New York City is mental tonight. In addition to all the usual crowds around bars and nightclubs and street performances, there are all these huge lines in front of . . . bookstores.

Justine and I were walking home from seeing the Liberty at Madison Square Garden, and stopped at out usual post-game restaurant at about 10PM. Already, there were families out with their hyped-up kids, lightning bolts on foreheads and big geeky glasses on. The buzz was already in the air.

After dinner, we decided to visit the Union Square Barnes and Noble. It had all the usual signs of NYC madness. There were rented searchlights sweeping the sky, giant lines and gianter bouncers, and that all-important symbol of more demand than supply: a wristband system. Folks with yellow wristbands were the lordly pre-buyers. Lesser minions were assigned orange bands, with numbers scribbled on each one showing the order of arrival.

Over at the fabulous Books of Wonder was an even vaster line. Two lines, actually, stretching in both directions to either end of 18th Street between 5th and 6th. There were wizards, bouncers, snipers, all the usual elemants of a book-release party.

We wanted to see our pals who work at the store, just to get the business-end vibe of all this madness. Also, I figured that this was probably the only overcrowded NYC event where YA-writer status was a red-velvet-rope-cutting superpower. Justine was like, “Don’t embarrass me.” But I went to the front of the line and spotted friends, who waved us in all official-like.

Whoa, those were some tired faces. The BOW crew had all been up since dawn organizing and strategizing and lugging vast quantities of books up from the basement. And here they were some 18 hours later, wearing pointy hats and facing a mob that would be surging into the store in only ten minutes . . .

But actually, they kind of looked like they were having fun.

Whatever you think of JKR, tonight was really amazing. Here were thousands of people within a few city blocks all having a genuine cultural event. And it wasn’t about a movie star or a politician or a sporting hero . . . it was about a book. (Hey, any night on which mid-list young adult writers magically obtain line-cutting powers is okay by me.)

It reminded me of a story about Charles Dickens’ popularity. When he was serializing The Old Curiosity Shop in 1840-1, the US was a week or so behind in the narrative, because the magazines had to be brought here by sea. One of the characters, Little Nell, got sick in that Dickensian way where you can die at any moment. So reporters used to hang around the docks when cruise ships arrived from England, and shout up at the passengers before the gang planks had even been lowered: “What news of Little Nell?”

That was probably the last time people got so exercised about a fictional character, you know?

Of course, Justine and I got the heck out of Books of Wonder before the appointed hour arrived, letting the people who’d waited in line have their due, and letting those brave souls at the cash register do their jobs.

My heart goes out to bookstore employees everywhere. I hope you all survived.

8 thoughts on “Harry Friggin’ Potter

  1. Who doesn’t love a good party, and about a book! I went to one at Barnes and Noble, and I felt so bad for everyone at the cash register. My friend’s mom works at Barnes and Noble, and didn’t get home until 3 or 4 am. Tis a great time though, all my friends were there, having a great time dressing up (I love any reason to get into costume). My friend Kelsey was going as Ginny, so I told her, of course “die your hair red.” So she did. And she didn’t like how it turned out and was furious at me, until she got a ton of compliments and won the cotume contest. My costume was fabulous, the exact uniform minus the cliche wizard hat, but no one votes for a girl dressed as a Slytherin. Next year I’m just wearing a sign that says ‘Severus Snape’s Love Slave.’ But yea, I’m done with the book. I finished yesterday, and now I’m sick today. I got like, no sleep, have a major headach, dehydrated myself, starved myself, have crumbly stuff in my eyes from not washing off my bad slytherin girl make-up (well, then I cried it all off), and finally, loosing my voice at the stroke of midnight. What a great day.

  2. no one votes for a girl dressed as a Slytherin

    Which just shows how much more progress we, as a society, need to make.

    no sleep, have a major headach, dehydrated myself, starved myself, have crumbly stuff in my eyes from not washing off my bad slytherin girl make-up . . . loosing my voice at the stroke of midnight

    Clearly a case of Potteritis Ubiquitous.
    Any more out there?

  3. Well, I did get pushed into the asphault knee-first while trying to obtain my own copy. My best friend works at a Borders, and she said that she got a HUGE bonus plus a copy of the book for staying until 5 AM. Plus she got to skip her next shift. It’s actually sort of a coveted prize to get picked to work while the Harry Potter books are selling. BTW- I’m reading the book right now, and I’m getting very pissed at Snape. I’ll just have to wait and see if he’s as bad is it sounds right now. Still haven’t found out who the half-blood prince is though…

  4. Also BTW- I think JKR sneaks some kind of drug into the paper of the books. That’s why they’re so addicting. Maybe we need to start an investigation on this…?

  5. *Reads what Mary says about Snape*
    Grrrrrrrrrrrr! I hate not being able to give spoilers! Okay, I just need to stop talking…. er, typing.

    I agree, the drugs in the paper is a very convincing theory. We should get the police on this right away.

    Oh. And I’ve also been thinking that I must have a frappuccino hangover (I mean, I was at Barnes and Noble, and the do have a Starbucks. How could resists having….. oh, four or so). I still have such a bad headache, and am majorly pale. I still think it’s the outcome of the book, and maybe a small frap hangover, heehee.

  6. Hmmmm….

    You know, I didn’t stand in line at the bookstore waiting for midnight in order to get the new HP. And as I was walking through Sam’s Club yesterday they had about 100 on display, from which I secured my copy (well, actually a copy for my roommate).

    Of course I didn’t get to read it overnight. But then I have yet to read any in the series, so that didn’t bother me.

    Besides, I was too busy finishing So Yesterday – nice read with about 300 fewer pages…

  7. Ya know what annoys me? Those people who make a big deal about things and read too much into the books. Satanic ideals in Potter? Potter is a FAMILY story if they hadn’t noticed.

  8. Ok, reading is what keep me alive– and I mean that nearly litterally. I love reading to the point that I could not live in a world without books– I may just kill myself! So for the night of the 15TH I was one of the first in line to get the a copy of HBP at the stroke of midnight- and I will admit it. I’ll even tell you that some of my friends, my sister, and I all made shirts to commemorate the occation. My sister even won $5 from the book store with her “Harry Potter isn’t everything…Weasly is our King too!” (I fell somewhere at the end of the line with my shirt; “Harry Potter isn’t everything…Snape is just so diabolically Brittish he’s sexy too!”) I read the book overnight- and then reread it. It amazes me how much I am addicted to this story- it’s like a drug!

    And Slytherin is the only house I would fit in– btw!

    I just felt like saying if our world can be taken over by a women who was just tring to make a buck (not millions and millions of dollars!) who’s to say that the next perosn can’t do it? Isn’t it a mark of society that there is this retreat from reality into the fantastic qualities that is fantacy? I think that there is alo a lot to be said for those lines in NY — Kids actually turned off the TV, the Gamboys, and anything else they might be doing/using right then, to wait for a few HOURS in line to get a BOOK??! Anything that can do that definatly should be put on into the world.

    Food for thought.

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