Harry Potter is driving Books editor Clay Smith crazy. It's the publisher's fault.
Harry Potter and Me
It may tip me over the edge to hear any more news about Harry Potter. Enough with the wizards. I can't help it; Harry Potter has made me churlish. It shouldn't be that way, I know, since the only kind of news to come out of the Harry Potter story is good news but still, that's how it is for me. I'm a victim -- yes, a victim! -- of Scholastic's highly successful campaign with the fourth installment of the series. God himself couldn't have done any better: no advance copies to reviewers, no advance copies to the people at bookstores who decide how many copies of a particular title a bookstore is going to stock, only one U.S. interview with the author (Newsweek), carefully incremented leaks about the contents of the book as the release date approached, and a strictly enforced embargo on selling the book before the publisher said it could be sold. Voila! Harry Potter 3.8 million times over, and everywhere. (Of course, it doesn't hurt that the series is engaging, exciting, and, yes, magical, but don't try to tell that to Harold Bloom, who lays out why he thinks the Harry Potter books are awful in the July 12 Wall Street Journal.) At press time, BookPeople had sold 705 copies of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire compared to 487 copies of Me Talk Pretty One Day by perennial BookPeople favorite David Sedaris. (Other stores didn't want to release sales numbers.)
The other books being embargoed this summer seem lackluster by comparison: HarperCollins didn't release advance copies of Christopher Andersen's The Day John Died, the popular biographer's dissection of JFK Jr.'s death (it went on sale July 11). Screenwriter and former Rolling Stone reporter Joe Eszterhas' American Rhapsody, a nonfiction account of himself, his generation, and the Monica Lewinsky scandal, will go on sale July 18 (and is already excerpted in Talk magazine), with no advance copies sent to reviewers, and former Nixon lawyer Leonard Garment's analysis of Deep Throat is coming sometime from Basic Books in a hush-hush manner. But all those books are potentially provocative; Harry Potter isn't. As Sara Nelson of Inside.com writes, "Harry Potter -- a children's novel! -- was kept under wraps not because what it has to say is so provocative; it was kept under wraps to provoke provocation."
Austin Public Library patrons can now access eBooks: To sign up, go to a library location and register at www.netlibrary.com. Once you've completed the registration process, eBooks can be accessed from any computer... Let's say you're a hippie, old school or new, who is going to be in Taos this weekend. The perfect place for you is a party at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House (240 Mardo Lane) on Sunday, July 16 from 5-9pm to celebrate the publication of Scrapbook of a Taos Hippie: Tribal Tales From the Heart of a Cultural Revolution by Iris Keltz. El Paso's Cinco Puntos Press is the publisher... Kathy Hepinstall (The House of Gentle Men) will speak to the Austin Writers' League during their July meeting on Thursday, July 20 at 7pm. Open and free to the public. Her talk is titled "In Bed With Mr. Whipple"; she's going to teach you how to unabashedly sell your writing... Next weekend, on Saturday, July 22, the first-ever SlamAmerica bus tour will be stopping through Austin at Jazz (214 E. Sixth) at 7pm. Fifteen to 25 of the best performance poets in the U.S. will be on the bus.