Okay, so it’s not exactly Harry Potter. It’s his son, Albus Severus, which is possibly the worst name to give a child, but hey, it’s not my kid.
Aurora and I enjoyed what might conceivably be the most epic night in all of date nights. We shared a terrific dinner at an upscale Chinese restaurant (Margaret Kuo’s, in case you care), replete with sake and saketinis, then sauntered to the movie theater down the block for the last show of Star Trek Beyond, which let out at ten minutes to midnight, plenty of time to meander around the corner to the local bookshop for the midnight release of the latest Harry Potter adventure (or, really, Albus Severus Potter adventure).
Let’s back up a minute, because while I’m all for midnight book releases, we were also supporting Main Point Books, which moved locations from Bryn Mawr to Wayne last week. They officially opened their doors a few days before Albus Potter Day, but it was more of a soft opening. The party on Saturday night was the jam.
We’d visited the local Border’s several times over the last decade to buy our Harry Potter books at midnight release parties. Sure, I enjoyed them. And, yes, I was particularly interested in buying Deathly Hallows as soon as possible so as to minimize the possibility of someone ruining it on me. But mostly it was about the party. I mean, come on…a book series that makes kids want to line up at a bookstore at midnight? That kicks ass. And while I still weep over the implosion of Border’s, I am grateful for my neighborhood independent bookstore.
The crowd at Main Point Books was not as impressive as the one I recall from Border’s, but Kathy attracted at least fifty customers, mostly teenagers, some dressed up. Aurora and I patiently waited in some comfy chairs in back, so all the kids could get their books first. It didn’t take long. When a group of teenagers had fulfilled their mission, their leader cried out “House members, to me!” and they all filed out, onto the street. It was delightfully geeky.
So, the skinny on the book: I enjoyed it. First off, it’s not a novel, it’s a play (two plays, actually). Second off, it’s not written by Rowling, but by some bloke named Jack Thorne. I knew both of these things before I bought the book because I researched it beforehand and, well, it says both of these things on the cover. I mention this because there seems to be some moral outrage on the Internet. I read one person exhort, “Your fans deserve a Harry Potter novel!”, and I know she was serious because she used all-caps. Not sure what the fans have done, exactly, to deserve another novel from Rowling. Give her money? We all do that to novelists, to playwrights, to movie producers…hell, to plumbers. And we get what we pay for: a novel, a play, a movie, and a working toilet. It’s a transaction. Not sure why the fans think they were cheated. If they don’t want a Harry Potter play written by someone who isn’t Rowling, then don’t buy the book. It really is pretty clear on the cover. Oh, well.
The characters are great, although the plot is crap. Don’t get me wrong…I found the setup very savvy. Harry’s son is an asshole, and, to a great extent, Harry is an asshole. Being the son of a great wizard doesn’t make you great, and being a great wizard doesn’t make you a great father. Loved it. Before I cracked the book, I wondered where the hell they could even take this story, and I was thrilled to see that they went somewhere new and unexpected. They shook things up. As I read, I imagined throngs of Potter fans crying out, in unison, with indignation, “How DARE you make Harry Potter a bad father!” And I laughed. And continued reading.
I won’t get into the plot, other than to repeat that it was largely crap. It’s derivative not only of the Potter novels but of several time-travel-fueled stories. Yes, there are time travel shenanigans, which, if you know anything about me, you know I dislike. Paradoxes are ignored. Opportunities are taken to sappily revisit old, cherished characters who have perished along the way. Blah.
The impressive stuff, for me, was the character work. Some really nice interactions, some unexpected (but logical) relationships, and some solid writing. Fans have been decrying the dialogue as akin to “fan fiction,” which I chalk up to crushed feelings. I write plays. I read plays (a lot). And I’ve read all the Potter novels, and I’m telling you, there are lines in here that I thought were the equal of the very best of Rowling. That doesn’t forgive the plot, mind you, but then, the plots of the novels weren’t exactly Dostoyevsky, either.
It’s a fun play. If you like fun plays, you’ll like this (unless you have absolutely no knowledge of Harry Potter, then don’t bother, because you really will be lost).
Quick shout-out to B.J. Burton, whose book, The Philadelphia Connection, was published almost a year ago and was sitting, prominently, on a shelf at Main Point Books!