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Hard to believe, but not every book critic loves Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. San Francisco Chronicle critic David Kipen had the chutzpah to say that the new book wasn’t all that and a bag of Every Flavor Beans. (Whether or not his critique has merit, it’s certainly brave.) And what thanks does he get for daring to dis J.K. Rowling — or, as Kipen calls her, She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Panned? Irate letters and flaming e-mails from angry Muggles. How dare he tell readers that all those hours spent waiting in line last Friday night, and all those hours spent reading the nearly 700-page tome over the weekend, were spent in vain? Fifty million Potter fans can’t be wrong, can they?

Kipen will cop only to complaints that his pan of Half-Blood Prince isn’t as elegantly written as his pan of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Anyway, I’m sure he doesn’t mind being the most hated person in San Francisco, as long as readers ”keep those nonthreatening cards and letters coming.” At least he knows he’s being read.

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