Last night at 11:30 or so I was in a parking lot that was completely full. I’m sure if you’re imagining the lot in your mind’s eye you are seeing it properly. It is enormous. It caters to a strip-mall that contains several small retail stores, four restaurants, a multiplex theater…and one other store. On any other day one would assume that at 11:30 on a Friday night the hundreds upon hundreds of cars in this parking lot would belong to customers of the theater and the restaurants. I’m only guessing, but last night I’d be surprised if more than 15% of the cars in that parking lot belonged to patrons of any but one store. That store, that one other store, is Chapters. Of course it is.
Last night at 11:30 I went to Chapters in south Calgary to pick up my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.* I was there a full half-hour before the book went on sale. Jinny and I had long-ago pre-purchased our copy, so I went to the pre-purchase line to get my bracelet and then they sent me to the queue to pick up my book. It took me a little while to find the end of the queue. It snaked down the main aisle, through the magazine section, and then in and out of every row of books in the children’s section. That’s where the end of the line was when I got there. Thirty minutes later when they finally started giving people books I was right around the middle of the line. I have no idea how many people there were, but lets just say lots. By “lots” I mean hundreds and not dozens. And this is to say nothing of the many, many people who had not pre-purchased the book and were waiting in a different line to buy their copy that night. While I was in line I heard more than a couple of people express shock and amazement, and even some amusement, at the fact that so many people had come to a store in the middle of the night just to pick up a book.
Why is it that people in our culture believe that this kind of attention is perfectly reasonable for a club or a new movie, but ridiculous for a book? Say what you want about Rowling’s books, but they have done one wonderful and incredible thing for an entire generation (or two, or three)…they have elevated reading. This isn’t to say that kids didn’t read in my day, but they sure as hell didn’t stand in line for an hour at midnight to pick up a book. Harry Potter is a massive, almost overwhelming, cultural phenomenon. In my mind that’s a good thing.
I got my copy at 12:36 AM and was reading about thirty minutes later. And for the record, the first 17 chapters are fantastic.
*This is normally where I’d insert a hyperlink to Amazon or HP.com or something, but today there will be no hyperlinks. Logging on to Blogger to post is the very most I’m willing to do online until I’ve finished reading the book on the off chance that some bastard out there is posting spoilers where I might read them. Such people should be drawn and quartered.