The ''Harry Potter'' craze
On Mockingbird Lane, in a two-story red brick building, is Dallas’ Enchanted Forest bookstore. Walk in and turn left, past the bathroom, and you’ll find yourself in a dingy, cluttered storeroom. It is packed and poorly lit. Tolkien sits next to Twain, who sits next to bright yellow milk crates marked ”pooh,” ”DINOSAURS,” and ”MADELINE.” The tables are piled with crumpled construction paper and Elmer’s glue.
It’s an unremarkable place — one that resembles an untidy kindergarten classroom. But at the back, brightened by light filtering through high dirty windows, 51 white boxes with bright green lettering are carefully stacked. And if you were to wind back the clock, just a week, maybe two, there is nowhere else any right-thinking 11-year-old would want to be. Because those boxes read:
HARRY POTTER IV
NOT TO BE SOLD BEFORE JULY 8, 2000
Has there ever been anything quite like Harry? At midnight on July 8, lines at New York City’s Lincoln Center Barnes & Noble stretched two city blocks — baffling late-night strollers and surrounding shopkeepers. In San Francisco, at Cover to Cover — a tiny nook of a bookstore — staffers bedecked themselves in pajamas for 400 caped and costumed revelers. In Coral Gables, Fla., Books & Books threw a party with magic tricks, actors dressed as Potter characters, and a fortune-teller. In just one predawn hour, they sold 200 books. And at the Enchanted Forest, a puny Dallas indie facing off against big chains, the owner stocked a full 600 copies — one of their highest orders ever. The books were gone within two days.
It all adds up to a moment of astonishing pop convergence. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, a 734-page, 2.7-pound behemoth, marks nothing less than a watershed: the embodiment of that moment when a phenomenon — previously merely wonderful — transforms into something larger, maybe even lasting.
”This is the biggest story of the year. It is Star Wars for this generation,” says Enchanted Forest owner Jennifer Anglin, loopily exhausted from planning a Potter party for hundreds of children. ”Every generation has its events, maybe a loss of innocence or something that is just…Omigod! This is theirs. It will be ‘I know where I was when Goblet of Fire was released.”’
Or as 11-year-old Dalia Yedidia says over the chants of ”Open the door! Open the door!” outside Cover to Cover on Friday night: ”If it’s Harry Potter, of course I’m going to read it. How could you not?”
The staggering numbers — a natural result of such synchronicity — have been widely reported. But what the hell, they’re fun, so here we go: 9,000 FedEx trucks were deployed strictly to carry the books. Amazon presold 350,000 copies; Barnes & Noble, 360,000. Thirty million Potter books were sold internationally before Goblet of Fire, and that number will skyrocket with Goblet‘s record first printings of 3.8 million in the U.S. and a million in the U.K. The books have been translated into 35 languages, and Rowling stands to make $10 million from Goblet‘s first-run printing alone. And the figure $1 billion has been mentioned in connection with the potential revenues from Warner Bros.’ film adaptation, planned for November 2001, and the flood of merchandise that will support it.