Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Dear Joanne

I have very clear memories of the night Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released. It was July 2007, and I was home for the summer. My mother had pre-ordered a copy from Border's (RIP), and she sent me and my father to pick it up. Being a big-box store, there was a ton of floor space. Yet no more of it was available, and bodies spilled out into the lamp-lit parking lot.

Dad stared at the crowd, confused by the spectacle before him. "What is going on here?" he asked me.

I swept my hand around, indicating the throng engulfing us. "This is pop culture."

The moment was an important one, I think, both for me and Dad. As far as I was concerned, it was unspeakably exciting to be present for a historical literary moment. Meanwhile, Dad finally had some insight into what I had been doing with my life (both as a creative writing major and a pop culture semi-scholar). It was tinged with sadness, though, as THE TIME had come: that instant where every devoted fan realized that this was the last time we would tear through the pages of a Harry Potter book in unbridled anticipation of how his story would turn out.

Or was it?

Since that night, the series' author, J.K. Rowling, has been expanding the Hogwarts universe at a regular clip. We've witnessed the arrival of Pottermore, her interactive online community; although the book itself was released in 2001, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is coming to a theater near you this November; The Tales of Beedle the Bard, an important piece of the Deathly Hallows puzzle, was given its own standalone book in 2008; Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, not written by Rowling but based on a story she wrote, lands on the West End stage this week to be followed the next day by a published version of the script; and revelations about Ilvermorny, Hogwarts' North American sister school, have come to light via Pottermore in the past month. 

I understand that Ms. Rowling has spent a great deal of her life immersed in the world of Harry Potter. (She is hardly alone in that, as her rabid fan base has proven.) But I also understand that she is in danger of failing to move on to other artistic endeavors, which we know she is capable of doing--witness The Casual Vacancy, as well as the Robert Galbraith/Cormoran Strike novels. And this is one of the deadliest activities in which an artist of any variety can engage.

Leaving aside the appropriative issues surrounding Ilvermorny and North American wizardry (I am looking in your direction, stereotypical assumptions about "mystical" Native Americans), which are distinct from the ongoing additions to the Potterverse, I think it would behoove Rowling to take a break from Harry James and his friends. There are so many other stories to tell, and I for one am interested to see what else she can give us.


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