Soon it will be upon us, the phenomenon will be finished as quickly as it began and there will be no more Harry Potter book release parties (or books themselves). The whole world seems obsessed with how the series will end, and there’s an intriguing story of someone who knows, yet refuses to tell. To millions, it is perhaps one of the more coveted jobs imaginable, reading the Harry Potter books aloud to convert them to audiobooks, because you have advance access to the books months before they are released. Jim Dale, veteran Tony-winning actor, won’t say a word, believing people should discover the magic for themselves.
Dale has the right idea, because it’s all going to be over sooner than we think. It’s the reason to be torn between hopping over to extremely-close-big-bookstore-impersonal-release-party at my local Barnes & Noble or Borders or Apparating out to Brookline for Brookline Booksmith’s Potterpalooza for what promises to be very-cool-Brookline-turns-to-Hogsmeade, complete with stores and restaurants selling and serving Potter-themed-items. Every year the in-depth parties such as this seem more of a trek, but – sudden realization, folks – this is the last one!
So after the final word of the final page, then what? Every time you finish one of those books, there’s always the consolation as you put it down -- and the person in the apartment below you has a now-broken ceiling from the weight of the tome– that you can be consumed by another momentous installation in a couple years. Now the substitution is the last two movies. After such a supposedly big boon for both child and adult literacy, and its increasing popular caveat that some are afraid this is literacy’s downfall (here and here), the world needs to latch on to a new phenomenon, and there’s nothing like reigniting the fire of an older series than with a movie franchise.
Let the mania be reborn! Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” series surpasses even Potter in its propensity to engulf the reader, and the reader’s attachment to the characters, and tackles more gargantuan and complex issues than Potter – even taking a stab at organized religion, and makes you think in an engaging way that is more riveting than Potter for more sophisticated readers. Plus, the books are more portable. The upcoming movie has just started filming, so for giant bears, evil witches and wizards, many animals that talk and Lyra -- a heroINE for a change! – start reading “The Golden Compass” and get excited for December 7. (Second movie “The Subtle Knife” already scheduled to follow in 2009.) With a cast including Nicole Kidman and Kevin Bacon, and a new child star who, if she's lucky, may achieve the fan-obsessed status of Radcliffe by the end of the series (just don't follow in Lindsay and Paris' footsteps!), let the Compassmania begin! --Michelle Minkoff