By Sarah Norris
At the end of the 10-second countdown to midnight last Friday night, the estimated 2,000-strong crowd outside of Scholastic publishers in Soho erupted in cheers. Confetti streamed through the air along Mercer Street, cordoned off by police. Im going to save this confetti until I die! screamed one girl as she scrambled to pick up strands of the brightly colored paper from the pavement.
A giant inflated Whomping Willow competed with a purple Hogwarts Express night bus for attention from the masses who began gathering outside the building at dusk. All across Manhattan, bookstores remained open late to welcome the seventh and final Harry Potter hardback into the world. Borders bookstore, in the Time Warner Center, was decorated to look like Hogwarts, the fictitious boarding school attended by Harry and his magical crew. Replete with an appropriately costumed rabble, people of all ages donned conical witch hats, ankle-length robes, and Hogwarts neckties to await the return of the magicians who arrived on the literary scene a decade ago. The nearby Sephora cosmetics store was busy painting faces to eerily resemble Harry, or one of the rotating cast of characters who may or may not be in cahoots with Voldemort. A debate between two middle-aged men about Severus Snape, and his dubious dealings with the Dark One, became so heated, a passerby stepped between them with an abrupt, Break it up!
Back at Scholastic, books from the series were displayed in a pensieve, along with highlighted passages about the world of wizadry that has become the fastest-selling novel of all time. When the first book owner emerged from the doorway in the early seconds of Saturday morning, she held the 759-page tome above her head triumphantly. In a cape and gloves, the woman was greeted by an uproar of applause and fanatical hoots. Its like shes carrying the gospels, said Bronwen Jervis, a senior at NYU, who was joined by two friends, all of whom have been following Harry Potters travails since they, like the protagonist when we met him, were in the sixth grade. This is almost too exciting, Jervis went on. Its better than the millennium!
At Prince Streets McNally Robinson bookstore, the line of people waiting to trade their pre-purchased coupons for the book itself trailed all the way around the block. Youngsters carrying wands and sippy cups of magic punch were wide-eyed with enthusiasm. When asked whether or not her seven-year-old daughter, Lucy, has actually read the books, Rowenna Fairchild laughed. Well, we do enjoy read-aloud time in our house, and her older brothers tastes have certainly influenced the cool factor of Harry Potter, she said. But her daughter was probably more excited about staying up late than getting the last installment of the Potter series. I think she cant believe that the whole world doesnt go to sleep at her bedtime.
Behind them, a middle-aged man standing alone interrupted to address Lucy, I cant believe it either. He motioned to the parade of revelers. Who are these crazy people and how did I become one them?
One cant help but wonder if all this build-up is worth it. It is possible to reward a 10-year relationship not with a wheezing fade-out, but with a spectacular, adrenaline-racing-till-the-very-last-page boom? As someone who spent the past three days with her nose in the book, Id say the answer is a very emphatic Kind of. There are surprises (obvious from the first chapter, in which Dudley acknowledges Harry with gratitude and respect) and there are a couple of letdowns plotlines and revelations that could have been stronger. Like the Sopranos finale on HBO, the end of Harry Potter as we knew him is sure to spark some fiery conversations, and its always easier to second-guess and coach from the sidelines than it is to be in the (Quidditch) game.
For pure enjoyment and imagination, I cant recommend this series highly enough, and the questions laid out in the first book have now been answered. And frankly, this may have been the most satisfying summer fling Ive had since the sixth grade. Can you forgive me, or the millions of other bewitched readers across the globe for not wanting to let go?