Harry Potter: The last great phenomenon of the pre-internet era

At the time, it was just a book. There were no fans queuing up in front of bookstores, nor were there adults in character costumes waving wands. There were no feature film franchises, video games or action-themed theme parks in their design. This week, 25 years ago, the first Harry Potter book was published after 12 publishers rejected it. According to legend, Bloomsbury CEO Nigel Newton agreed to print the Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone because his daughter enjoyed reading the manuscript. Surely, after selling 500 million copies of it later, it should be worth a share of the profits.

No one can predict what the next big cultural phenomenon will be. What we do know, however, is that this will never happen again. Harry Potter was the last great collective mania of the “analog technology” era [ما قبل الرقمية]. It goes back to a time before you watched too many movies or series, respectively, before memes and before [منصة البث الرقمية] Amazon Prime. We did something called “wait”. The culture of instant online ordering has radically changed our habits to an extent that seems remarkable [مذهلاً] To think that many of those five hundred million readers actually went to a bookstore to get their copy of the book.

In fact, those visits to the library are what I actually remember. Readers’ appetites were so fierce that with the arrival of the fourth book, bookstores opened in the middle of the night so that fans could start reading within seconds of the work being released. There were no midnight reading parties before Potter and have not taken place since. Of course, no book has ever reached this level of anticipation, but now you also have to go nowhere to get what you want almost instantly.

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When I remember how my days as an 11-year-old sat in my bedroom in Maidstone, immersed in every detail of the book, it was this sense of the scene that stayed with me more than the stories themselves. The confusing conclusion I remember about what happened in Harry Potter is that it’s a story about three friends who had to go to school (which is an annoying thing) where they learn how to become wizards (it’s more interesting) . In doing so, they attempt to kill a man so viciously that no one utters his name (this factor was necessary, though melodramatic). I also remember that there was an owl in the story.

The first books came out when I was in the prime of reading Potter. Except that at first I was not interested in her at all. If any adult suggested I read those Harry Potter books, I would stare at him and say things like, “Oh, I’m not crazy!” I turned and left and went back to my room to look at Lee’s posters of the blue ribbon.

But one day I was at a friend’s house and suddenly things changed. We sat and watched the first movie. The graceful soundtrack kicked off. I frowned, muttered and turned my face to the wall. And then … my stubbornness started to wane. On the screen appears a giant man holding a magic umbrella in front of me. He told an 11-year-old that his uncle and aunt were lying to him. And he was charming. They’re going to buy magic wands! The challenge has come to an end. Of course, as a stubborn person, I had to make peace with the fact that Harry Potter … was very good. By the end of the week, I was reading the first three books and was eager to see the next one.

Like millions of my generation, books became an unexpected companion during adolescence. When the last book came out, I was 16. The day before he reached bookstore shelves, my first boyfriend cruelly downloaded me on MSN Messenger with an instant message. In pain of what had happened, I could not eat or sleep, I could only think of one thing: to have my father escort me to the bookstore in the middle of the night to claim my copy of the Holy of Holies. I woke up the next day and literally smelled the pages, and read until I felt pain in my eyes, which saved me from my torment for 24 hours. What happened at the end of the book? I do not remember at all.

The hysteria associated with the Harry Potter phenomenon now seems strange. JK Rowling’s editors spoke of secret meetings, in which manuscripts were handed out in plastic supermarket bags before being placed in a safe.

In 2000, critic Anthony Holden published an epic piece about the series entitled “Why Harry Potter Didn’t Enchant Me” in The Observer. My favorite part of the incident was when Jerry Hall and Imogen Stubbs, fellow jurors of a Children’s Fairy Tale Awards competition, told him that their children liked Potter. His response was, “You should read their Beowulf. ” [وهي ملحمة خيالية أيضاً]. It really blew me away. ”Messages then flooded into The Observer from young people telling Holden how wrong he was. One wrote: “Even though I may only be ten years old, my opinion is still counted, and there are many others who do not agree with you.” Rowling’s legacy may now be controversial, thanks to her habit of sharing controversial opinions and retroactively changing the characters she makes, but in 2011 she was named one of Britain’s national treasures along with Paul McCartney and David Attenborough.

By the time the last book came out in 2007, a blunt phenomenon had begun, with some young men filming themselves driving in rows of enthusiastic fans in front of bookstores and shouting phrases that spoiled their enjoyment of reading the book. , like “Snaps kill Dumbledore.!” [شخصيتان من الكتاب شريرة وخيّرة]One of the people standing there replied, “Oh, you hybrids!” Then another fan starts running behind the car, ready to attack. The expression of the phenomenon was radical, fanatical and unprecedented.

None of the above means that our collective cultural obsessions are no longer enjoyable. There are memes that accompanied Game of Thrones that still make me laugh. The words directed at the character of Hamilton were planted in my mind even before I watched the program. There is no point in watching the reality TV show Love Island if you are not reading the tweets about it.

But it’s different: these are phenomena that are much louder and louder and focus more on light irony. I long for Potter because he is the last pre-internet phenomenon we will ever see again. Not only was there a feeling of partying, anticipation and going to bookstores, but it was a phenomenon that was missing in the noise. [خشوع الصمت]. The experience was quieter [أقل جلبة] And more personality. It was not shown on the screens, and there were no people to spoil the fun for you (if we exclude the foolish people). The author did not constantly post his comments online. The works may have been read by five hundred million people, but most of the time it was an intimate experience just between you and your book.

Posted in The Independent on June 25, 2022

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