The Wizard has Landed

It's 12:45, and I've just returned from the bookstore, where I obtained my copy of the fourth Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It wasn't quite a madhouse, but it was quite something. The line started at the cash registers, snaked around a bunch of shelves, cut a meandering way through most of the store, did some switchbacks in the cafe, and finally, in one final heroic spurt, made its way out through the other entrance to the store. There were kids of all ages (except the pre-literate ages) and a fair population of teens, both Harry Potter look-alikes with glasses and beefier types asking the employees whether the bookstore had copies of various tracts of WWF hero-worship. Mike and Louis and I got there around 11:25, in plenty of time to guarantee us copies, and spent the time until midnight hanging out and cracking various jokes about the situation with a fifteen-or-so-year-old fellow in front of us in line. Mike suggested that we grab extra hardcover copies of Angela's Ashes, slap on hastily-made color Xeroxes of the Harry Potter cover, and sell bootlegs outside, extracting a premium from those too harried to stand in line (or to check the insides of the books they buy). In keeping with the true spirit of cheap knockoffs the world over, the Fepsi sodas and the Lorex watches, I thought we should call ours "Harry Porter." Louis thought that it would be a pretty good joke if the book consisted of several hundred blank pages, followed by a mocking note from J.K. Rowling. We also wondered whether we should be looking out for mall pirates -- "Your Potter or your life!" -- looking to make a quick turnaround profit in the Harry Potter shortage we're anticipating over the next couple days. It was a zoo there, but it was a fun zoo -- the bookstore staff were going around wtih candies and offering juice and coffee, and the promise of immenent Potter meant, I guess, that all the kids were on amazingly good behavior. I wouldn't have thought you could put that many elementary s

choolers in a room together and not have any of them making a deafening racket for some reason or other.

The book itself is huge. It's as thick as my copies of 2 and 3 put together, and that's honest size -- same dimensions and font as the earlier entries in the series. It's a veritable tome. It's also green, which I'm having a little trouble adjusting to, but the thing's sheer weightiness is its most impressive feature. This is pretty damn neat, when you think about it: not only have America's kids gone wild over a book, they've gone wild over a 700-page book. Did you ever think to see this day? The scene at the bookstore was the sort of thing usually associated with World Series tickets and hotly-anticipated action movies, nd it was heartstirring to see the same frenzy -- albeit with a calmer, more family-oriented, friendlier vibe -- coming up in the book world. And how were America's kids dealing with that final half-hour wait? The teens behind us were reading a magazine -- and not in the "read a line, giggle about it for a minute, read another sentence" way either, they were actually reading it -- and all around kids were looking at the shelves carefully stocked with children's books in front of them, picking up books and looking at the back cover text, perusing the first chapter. About half the familes I noticed left with other books besides the Potter. It was such a heartening moment. And if the fourth book continues the geometrical increase in quality and maturity that the first three have demonstrated, we'll be witness to something even more astonishing: a literary event affecting millions of youths that lives up to the hype surrounding it. I really hope that the book justifies the wait, for the sake of the future readers of America and the world.

I knew, once I realized what would happen at midnight this past midnight, that I would have to be there, that I would need to be standing in line at the exact instant, that I'd need to be part of the mob mentality, to partake of the actual physical event. And I know now what my larger mission for the night is. I don't need to be anywhere until nine in the morning. It's time to start reading.