M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Tuesday, June 17, 2003  

Harry Potter vs. the Baudelaire Orphans

The fifth Harry Potter book comes out on Saturday, and for any of you to whom that is news, I’m curious as to why you’ve chosen this site as your only point of contact with the outside world. Let me know, hey?

In any case, with people all over the world renting U-Hauls and adding rooms onto their houses to accommodate the 900-page tome, you might think our household would be one of them. You would be correct. Trash pre-ordered our copy on Amazon months ago and shortly a “young adult” book the size of a cinder block will leave a crater in our front yard. Whereupon Trash will breeze through it in a matter of hours and get down to the business of waiting for Book Six, a pulped sequoia which should keep her entertained during her first few days of retirement.

Trash first discovered Harry Potter a couple of years ago. I don’t remember if it was in connection with her librarian training or just cultural osmosis, but reading the first book got her hooked. Not that it takes a great deal to hook a woman who never has to invest more than an afternoon in a full-length novel, but she was an instant fan. She bought the second and third books, and the fourth when it came out a couple of months later. When she got to Goblet of Fire’s famous cliffhanger ending, she had this to say: “AAARGH!”

“You have to read these books,” she told me almost immediately, distraught.

“So I can be as pissed off as you are right now? No thank you,” I said.

Cliffhangers make me crazy. They’re bad enough at the end of a TV season, or in the second part of a film trilogy, but when one wraps up a book whose sequel isn’t due for at least a year, why would I want to let myself in for that kind of grief and heartache?

“You only have to wait until next spring,” Trash pointed out.

I refused. In fact, I planned to wait until all seven novels were out. I’d waited until four or five seasons into The X-Files to start watching that show’s early cliffhanger episodes on video, and that had worked out pretty well for me. I saw no reason why that shouldn’t be the case here.

Trash saw lots of reasons, most of them traceable to the fact that she wanted someone to share her frustrations with. I wasn’t playing, though. I’m kind of a bastard that way. But she wasn’t completely foiled. She targeted other people in our peer group, and she lent her Harry Potter books out to them one after another, and then waited for them to call her in the middle of the night going, “AAARGH!” so she could go “I KNOW!

As we well know, J. K. Rowling made a liar out of my wife as the wait for Book Five accordioned out to a quarter-decade or so. In that time, Trash has actually prevailed upon me to read the first two books in the series, which I found very enjoyable and quite cliffhanger-free. I even saw both movies willingly. I’ll probably see the next one. But this is as far as I’m willing to go until books One through Seven are safely in our house.

Instead, I recently got into Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events books. These slim volumes are much faster reading, are published more frequently, and are even more fun than Harry Potter by virtue of being almost entirely evil. Recently Trash finished rereading her four Harry Potter novels in preparation for receiving our airlift delivery next week. She got to the end, said “AAARGH!” as always, asked me again to read them as always, expressed her irritation at my refusal as always, and asked me how I was enjoying my Lemony Snicket books.

“They’re great,” I said. “And I have several left.”

“Go to hell,” she suggested.

I was under the impression that A Series of Unfortunate Events had volumes up to the low teens. I only owned One through Nine, but I imagined that could be quickly remedied once I finished the last one in my collection. Book Nine, as it turns out, has a cliffhanger ending in a nearly literal sense.

“Wow,” I said as I finished it, complacently closing the book and setting it aside. “I’ll have to pick up Book Ten tomorrow.”

Book Nine, as it turns out, is the most recent one in print.

“AAARGH!” I said.

“What’s wrong?” Trash asked.

“You should read these books,” I said.

posted by M. Giant 3:34 PM 0 comments


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