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Why is this woman smiling? Maybe she read the Harry Potter books and saw the movie, as Austin librarians suggest.
Why is this woman smiling? Maybe she read the Harry Potter books and saw the movie, as Austin librarians suggest.

'Harry Potter': The Librarians' Take

Last Friday at 10am, seven Austin librarians made it to the first screening of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone at Lakeline Mall, though racing to catch the first screening was not necessarily their intention. They just wanted to see it while children were in school. On Monday, I caught up with four of them at the Howson Branch, in Tarrytown, because I got a message that they had something to say. They piped up right away with the verdict that the book and the movie are just too different to even compare, really. But since these librarians are not entrenched in the belief that the book is always better than the movie, one of them, Elizabeth Murphy, a youth librarian in the northwest part of town, offered the opinion that "some things were better" in the movie. Then again, the "colorful names and language" of the book "flood at you so fast" in the movie -- which clocks in at two and a half hours -- that "you don't get a chance to absorb" everything that's going on, she pointed out. Certain things that she thought would be difficult to visualize, like the invisibility cloak, were rendered with magnificent specificity and credulity. Same goes for the way Quidditch, a sporting event for wizards, was depicted. "It's like Rollerball, the James Caan movie, but with broomsticks," Murphy said. Devo Carpenter, a children's programming technician in East Austin, said that the chess matches, which were popular among the readers of the book, weren't as impressive in the movie. She also noted that Harry Potter does not get in trouble in the movie as much as he does in the book. Everyone agreed that John Cleese, who plays Nearly Headless Nick, doesn't have enough screen time.

But the differences between the movie and the book aren't so important, according to Nancy Tays, who says that people make too much of that. The four librarians and the parents they know had worried that children who haven't read the Harry Potter books might just see the movie, but now they think that the opposite may happen. The movie is so entrancing, say the librarians I spoke to, that they can't imagine that a child who sees the movie but hasn't read the book wouldn't want to also read the book after seeing the movie. There is even a chance, Murphy said, that the 10- and 11-year-olds who refuse to read the Harry Potter books because everyone else is (they read Harold Bloom's article in the Wall Street Journal, one presumes) will reconsider.

Rising Talents

BookPeople display manager Jinn Nagoaka is steadily becoming one of the best book display artists in the nation. In March, she attended the Oscars as a guest of Vanity Fair for winning a nationwide contest among booksellers for the store that had the best display of Vanity Fair's Hollywood. Now she's recently heard that she won Knopf's summer reading promotion. The prize? Rick Bragg. He's coming to the store on Tuesday, December 4, at 7pm, to read from Ava's Man, his new memoir... Christopher Cook, author of the noirish, high-octane novel Robbers (2000), is emerging as one of the state's most inventive interpreters -- he has a new book, Screen Door Jesus & Other Stories (Host Publications, $15), and there's a party to celebrate its release at El Sol y La Luna (1224 S. Congress) on Thursday, November 29, from 6-9pm. Music by Jon Dee Graham.

Dobie-Paisano Fellowships

The Texas Institute of Letters is accepting applications for the Dobie-Paisano fellowships until January 25, 2002. Every year, the fellowships offer two writers six months in residence at J. Frank Dobie's former 254-acre ranch outside of Austin. At the time of application, one of the following requirements must be met: The applicant must be a native Texan, have lived in Texas at some time for at least two years, or have published writing that has a Texas subject. Information about the fellowships including applicant information and an application that can be filled out and printed can be found on the Web at To receive information and the application, contact: Dobie-Paisano Project, J. Frank Dobie House, 702 E. Dean Keeton, Austin, Texas 78705. 471-8542; 471-9997(fax). aslate@ UT-Austin co-sponsors the fellowships.

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More Postscripts
The last time we heard about Karla Faye Tucker, she was being executed; now, almost four years later, there's a new novel about her. Or about someone very like her. And Beverly Lowry's classic Crossed Over, a memoir about getting to know Karla Faye Tucker, gets a reissue.

Clay Smith, Jan. 18, 2002

Not one day back from vacation and the growing list of noble souls who need to be congratulated is making Books Editor Clay Smith uneasy.

Clay Smith, Jan. 11, 2002


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Christopher Cook, John Cleese, Jon Dee Graham, J. Frank Dobie

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