Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Handle with care

A book is a fragile creature. It suffers the wear of time, it fears rodents, the elements, clumsy hands.
~ Umberto Eco

Thursday, July 19, 2007

First review - final episode

Some lucky bugger at the New York Times just walked out and bought a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at a bookshop - two days before the embargo is lifted.
And must have inhaled it in order to write a review so fast:
With this volume, the reader realizes that small incidents and asides in earlier installments (hidden among a huge number of red herrings) create a breadcrumb trail of clues to the plot, that Ms. Rowling has fitted together the jigsaw-puzzle pieces of this long undertaking with Dickensian ingenuity and ardor.

Mirror Mirror

How remiss of me. I should have mentioned this earlier: the State Library of Victoria's new website tracing the history of books through examples from its own collection: The Mirror of the World.
I'm rather keen on the Puss in Boots interactive (page turning, zooming and audio) and the incredible resolution on the Matthew Flinders map that lets you zoom up uncannily close.
It includes some of the finest and most remarkable books of all time - from cuneiform to Caxton, from manuscripts to William Morris to Nelson Mandela, via Shakespeare, Piranesi, Einstein, and the crazy old Hypnerotomachia Poliphili.
Book porn.

(Disclosure - I work there. So consider this as shameless promotion. But it's still a damn fine thing.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Huzzah for Hazza

In children’s literature circles it’s not all that cool to admit a genuine fascination for young Harry Potter.
One is supposed to point out that there are many hundreds – thousands – millions – of fantastic books for young readers that are equal to or better than Harry.
I suppose, one might grudgingly admit, that they have encouraged one or two boys to read.
One is supposed to sniff slightly at JK Rowling’s bringing together of several different genres and time-honoured themes into one package. Some fellow authors can get downright snitty about the whole thing, like Sonya Hartnett speaking to Rosemary Neill in The Weekend Australian:
“The celebration of the mediocre we have in this country is dispiriting,” she says. She objects to “this sort of rabid support of Harry Potter to the exclusion of so many other good books for children. It was fine for a couple of years until it crossed the line and became really sickening and stupid.”
A couple of months ago I was reading in a children’s bookshop and asked the audience who was looking forward to the release of Book Seven – and what they thought would happen. “This is not a Harry Potter bookshop,” the proprietor gently chided.
Told off good and proper.
But really – does Harry exclude other good books? There still seem to be bookshops filled with titles of all sorts including fantasy series of significant impact like Deltora; movies of The Bridge to Terabithia and His Dark Materials are block-busters; publishers are churning out more and more books every year and kids are lapping them up.
Don’t start me on the mediocrity of Eragon – book and movie – but Harry? It’s hardly flawless but the series is funny, and scary and complex and compelling, and it combines the best of so many possible and impossible worlds it’s a delight.
And millions of children around the world are truly and madly delighted. They are having so much fun – reading, debating, dressing up, fantasising, theorising, imagining, enjoying.
Would you really rather they weren’t?

Anyway I don’t care about the debate.
I am beside myself with suspense wondering what’s going to happen to Harry and Hermione. (My favourite plot spoiler is from Maureen Johnson.)
I’m booked to see The Order of the Phoenix at the weekend with two kids who seem slightly less enthusiastic than me.
I am desperate to know whether Snape is truly evil or part of a master plan, and whether my own personal theory about the mysterious initials RB will prove to be true.
If only I could remember what it was.

See you on the 21st, Hal.