Sunday, July 22, 2007

Yes, Virginia, there is a Harry Potter

I finished the whole book. Amazing, awesome, wonderful writing, loved it so much I am now rereading all of them 1 through 7. Much angst doing this for the last few days because I had to pay attention to my relatives and everyone in Montreal at the exact same time and if we had been at home I would've just read until my eyeballs burst. I love seeing all my in-laws, they truly are the family I've never had, but trying to pay full attention to them while being riveted to this book was soooooo hard.

Since this is the no spoiler blog, I won't reveal anything in the post, but feel free to give me your impressions in the comments. All of you who haven't read it or are still reading it, DON'T click. It is so worth the wait to read it in the right order.

Oh, and to The New York Times editors who published reviews in advance and broke not only their word, but the hearts of millions of readers around the world?

Nice legacy guys.

A quick buck you may have made, but what you fail to understand is just how much your reputation has suffered. Not just with cranky me, but with so many people who read you now and the children who never ever will. When even my 10 year old now thinks the "New York Times paper are cheaters and liars", you know you have a problem. (No, I didn't coach him, he heard it on the radio, knew no one was supposed to be telling the big secret, and realized grownups were breaking the rules and were still getting dessert!! and not sent to their rooms!! in fact no punishment at all!! His sense of justice is deeply wounded.)

You know the kind of journalist I admire?

Francis Pharcellus Church, editor of the New York Sun, waaaaayy back in 1897. When confronted with the choices of ignoring a child's letter, destroying her innocence, or encouraging her faith in the unknown, he did the right thing. There is a wonderful sense of community in the shared experience of anticipation, of surprise, of being in unison, of wonder at all the amazing things that might be possible in the world, even if we have yet to discover them.

From the Newseum website:

"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

By spoiling the surprise, the NYTimes proved it never truly understood the story it was reviewing. It let the selfishness and greed of the Dark Arts take over its soul. And in the end, it will be the worse for it.


  1. I'm carefully not reading the comments, because I have to read 6 before I read 7, and 6 is not yet in my hands!!!

    I read the Times review last week - generally, the Times considers itself to be above such things as a press embargo, so I wasn't surprised. What I did think, though, was that the Times review revealed NOTHING about the finale. It heaped praise on the series as a whole, in generalities, without specific spoilers. So, I'm not as unhappy about it as you are.

  2. I'm not going to read any comments either. Just got the book yesterday and started it last night. Can't wait to be in the thick of it. I know I won't be able to put it down. I also agree about the New York Times and anyone else that didn't keep the secret before the book was released. Shame on them!

  3. Francis Church's response to Virginia's letter is one of my favorite pieces of journalism of all times. It is an especially interesting story when you read that he was known to be a very curmudgeonly man. Must have been a soft spot in there somewhere!

  4. Oooh so much to tak about!! I have to go to work, but there's a bit of HP talk at Thalia's blog!!

    I'll visit you when I get home! x

  5. The NYT review didn't bother me all that much. First, as Magpie said, it didn't have any really blatent spoilers; Second, I thought the embargo on reviews was just a marketing ploy by the author and the publisher (who, in my view, shouldn't be able to control what's written in the newspapers); Finally, if someone didn't want to know what happened in the book, s/he could have easily chosen not to read the review.

    But I certainly understand how someone could have a different opinion.