Someone a long time ago gave me a button, "Read, I write." I still have it in my office, a reminder that without readers, being a writer is... well... pointless.
Last night there was a Harry Potter celebration in bookstores all over this country. Readers. Young readers staying up till midnight to get a new book. A book. Not a video game, not a movie -- although there will be a movie, of course -- but a hardcover book, filled with fantastical images and familiar characters.
A friend emailed me this morning and said she had hope. A fellow book lover, she saw crowds of people all milling about peacefully, happily waiting for midnight to strike. In a city where violence marked the first World Series won in decades, where even the familiarity of the Patriots victories are not enough to stop fans from running wild, people stood and waited calmly for a good book to read.
My kids are not huge Potter fans. They liked the idea of staying up till midnight but were not especially interested in getting the book itself. Needless to say, we didn't go. Personally, I read the first Harry Potter book, but none of the others. I'm not much of a science fiction or fantasy reader anymore. As a child, though, I was enthralled with Greek Mythology. I loved the image of Athena popping out of Zeus' head, fully formed, and Apollo gliding near the sun. There were Gods, Goddesses, half Gods, mortals, super mortals, spells and plots for revenge. It was like Dynasty meets Lord of the Rings. I loved it.
As all these young readers digest the last book, there is a worry they will have no others to turn to, nothing else that will spark the interest to read the way the Harry Potter series did. How do we create a new generation of readers? people are crying out.
Buy them books. Not just the ones made famous by dazzling movies and publicity tours, but the ones that have been around for a long time. Don't know any? Ask a librarian. We've lost the ability to get excited about reading because we are waiting for someone to tell us what to read. We've lost our way to the library.
J.K. Rowling did an amazing thing. She brought to life a crew of characters in such a way that captured the imagination of the whole world. The beauty of a book is that it lives forever. It's never the end, I told my kids. There might not be any more pages to read but the characters still live in your mind. After you read, the images stay with you, especially images rendered with a gift, and Ms. Rowling has that gift.
Everyone gathered last night to celebrate a book. A story. I agree with my friend, it gives one hope. It's not the end. Books don't disappear.
And regardless of what Rowling writes next, I'm sure she'd heartily agree -- "Read, I write."