Happy Birthday, Harry Potter

Catching up on the world, I just realized the first Harry Potter novel was published on June 26, 1997 in Great Britain.   The British title was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone; we know it as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  I never understood the reason for the change, but we and the British are divided by a common language, as the saying goes.

I do remember some controversy about the series due to the magical theme.  In my opinion, the magic is simply a storytelling device, just as space is a storytelling device for Star Wars.  Reduced to the essentials, both are simply good-versus-evil confrontations.  (If I ever get a chance, I want to ask George Lucas what he thinks of Harry Potter.)  The big difference is Star Wars was introduced as a film.  After the original (now Episode 4) became so popular, I thought movies were our storytelling future.  We would get to the point where children would no longer pick up a book, but pop a VCR into the player for story time.

Fortunately, I was wrong.  The Harry Potter series restored the book as a primary storytelling vehicle.  Personally, I think the books are much better than the movies, and so telling a story in print will be with us for many more years to come.  Especially since I was doubly wrong — VCRs are obsolete technology anyway.

Incidentally, The Writer’s Almanac described Joanne  (J. K.) Rowling as

an unemployed, single mother waiting for a delayed train, when an idea suddenly came to her. “I did not have a functioning pen with me,” she said. “I simply sat and thought for four hours, while all the details bubbled up in my brain, and this scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn’t know he was a wizard became more and more real to me … I began to write that very evening.” The seven Harry Potter books have sold 450 million copies worldwide and spawned a successful movie franchise. The character of Harry Potter earns J.K. Rowling, as she is now known, an estimated $10,000 every hour.

Why can’t I have an idea like that?

The quotation is from The Writer’s Almanac of June 26, 2016, writersalmanac.org/

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