"Harry Potter to Look at Death--and Kids Can't Wait"
(Reuters, July 6, 2000)
|LONDON (Reuters) - Harry Potter the schoolboy wizard is to take a long, hard look at death -- and the children of the world can hardly wait.
For author J.K. Rowling has captured young imaginations around the globe with her tales of a geeky teenager's adventures at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The first three books sold 30 million copies and have been translated into 31 languages.
Harry has graced the front of Time magazine, spent up to 100 weeks in the New York Times bestseller list and is going to star in a Hollywood film -- with up to 40,000 hopefuls applying to be the celluloid Potter.
He has even been banished from one English school because his magical powers go against the teachings of the bible.
Now the fourth book -- ``Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire'' -- is coming out Saturday with reader anticipation at fever pitch.
They will have plenty to get their teeth into -- Edinburgh-based Joanne Rowling wrote up to 10 hours a day so she could finish the latest saga which, at 640 pages, is one of the longest children's books ever written.
``I was shocked to see how long it was,'' she confessed after the magnum opus was complete. ``It is the central book. It is pivotal in every sense. I had to get it right.''
And in a rare pre-publication interview with The Times last month she confirmed that her young readers would have to grapple with the death of one of the main characters.
``This is the book in which the deaths start -- I always planned it this way. It has become a bit of an idee fixe with me. I have to follow it just the way I wanted to write it and no one is going to knock me off course,'' she said.
Forcefully defending the book, she said: ``If it is done right, I think it will be upsetting but it is not going to be damaging. I have said from the beginning that if you really are honestly going to examine evil actions then you have a moral obligation not to fudge the issue.''
So much of the teen-age wizard's life is interwoven with her own.
The Potters were the family who lived four doors from her when Rowling was a child. Aunt Marge is based on her grandmother who infinitely preferred her dogs to her human relatives.
And Rowling, garlanded with literary awards and hailed for reviving children's zest for reading, will never forget the day when Harry made it into the Peanuts cartoon: ``It was my finest hour.''
While children everywhere wait with bated breath to start plowing through the latest Potter, 8-year-old American fan Laura Cantwell has got a head start.
Despite fierce pre-publication security on both sides of the Atlantic, she found a copy in a local Virginia bookshop that was mistakenly displayed before the launch date.
And she refused to be tempted by a flood of media offers. Her copy is not up for sale because she says Potter ``is magical. He does things we can never do. He is just amazing.''