I believe in the magic of Harry Potter. I don’t mean the spells and potions wizards like Harry and his friends use. The magic I’m referring to is the magic that makes us mere muggles get together around the world and spend a weekend reading the same book. It’s magic the way people come together from time to time and become more than the sum of the parts. This magic brought the Greeks together to build the Acropolis. It brought students around the world together in 1968 to change the way we think about war and civil rights. And it happens over and over when Tsunamis, hurricanes and other natural disasters call on people to help each other.
The same magic happens standing in line outside a bookstore at midnight. It’s not world peace or a solution to hunger, but something fascinating is going on there. Like the two young children reading Anna Karenina and the Scarlett letter I met in line at the local Barnes and Noble. Or the coincidence of meeting a mother and daughter from my home town outside Blackwell’s in Edinburgh. Or simply the sheer numbers of kids eager to get their hands on a book in an age where illiteracy is a major problem.
In Tanner’s Bookstore in Sidney British Columbia, a woman asked impertinently, “What’s the big deal?” as people lined up six hours in advance to buy the seventh book. “They’re good books,” answered the busy clerk excited at the prospect of staying at work all night handing out books and serving punch and cookies. I am not convinced that the clerk had the right answer. The big deal is – that it is a big deal, and we all get to participate. If what was in the books mattered, every novelist in the world would put that in every book, make millions and retire to Scotland. No, the big deal is what we have made of the book. It’s the satisfaction we get when there is something bigger than us to be part of. It is talking about what happens to Harry and his friends around the dinner table or over the water cooler. It is having something in common with people all over the world.
Maybe there is something in our DNA that makes us pull together. Maybe with the troubles of the world, it is natural to turn to escapist stories. Maybe the media has manufactured a fad no more interesting than pet rocks or following the antics of Paris Hilton. I prefer to believe in the magic that is in us all.
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