Friday, July 20, 2007

Wake Me When The Madness Ends.....

I have the terrible affliction of having a job in the media. It has great benefits; I've met many of my heroes, interviewed people some would sell their kidney to be in the presence of, make decent money, whatever you want. The experience though has left me with, as Someone Living will vouch, a very cynical look at life and particularly the means through which people interact with media and the way various forms of media outlets manipulate public opinion and generate hysteria. I've been particularly taken by Operation Harry Potter over the past five days.

Maybe it's just me but is anyone else completely blown away with the hype that's been built up ahead of the release of the new book? You can't open a paper this morning without seeing ads for which supermarket chain is undercutting which other supermarket chain? What shop is having an owl keeper coming in to do a demonstration? Or how one other retailer is hiding a signed copy inside their store to giveaway to one of the people who queue up tonight.

Already this week on the BBC website Harry Potter stories relating to.......

  1. ASDA flogging the book cheap.
  2. The book being dispatched in error by some shops.
  3. JK Rowling suing someone who's reviewed the book ahead of embargo.
  4. Childline calling in extra staff over the weekend to cope for when the kids discover that X and Y have been killed off.

Have eclipsed in terms of prominence on the international site......

  1. Key technical information arising from the Chinese plane crash.
  2. The fact that the McCann family are now to reside permanently in Portugal for whatever. number of years or decades or whatever they have to wait for news on their daughter.
  3. Osama Bin Laden's lastest video.
  4. The discovery of viral marketing campaigns by fast food companies in the States targeting kids as young as 5 as a means of circumnavigating advertising laws.

Now they may not be the most earth shattering of stories to some but they have to have a hell of alot more importance than Harry Potter And The Deathly Hollows descending upon the world's markets. I was listening to Alastair Campbell on BBC Five Live talking about these types of phenomena during the week. How governments and big buisinesses will hold off on releasing bad news until fledgling stories like Harry Potter take over, people get swallowed up and BANG they don't realise that the central bank has increased interest rates or that the arse has fallen out of the house market because they're more interesting in reading about the fact that you now have to book six weeks in advance to get a table at the coffee shop in Edinburgh where Rowling wrote the first book in or that people are killing themselves to get to stay in room where the saga was completed.

I'm starting to think that I've turned into some 26-year-old fuddy dude type of character who's missing out on the magic of a journey that has taken whatever number of years to complete. Saying that I did have tickets to Rocky Balboa, Die Hard 4.0, Batman Begins, Superman and many other film previews booked weeks in advance so great was my desire to relive my youth through them. I recently rushed back to my hotel room in China to watch a bootleg of Transformers that some backstreet gouger was selling. You try and explain to your beloved that you might skip Mao's tomb for a date with Optimus Prime, "No darling, she's not the girl who works in the hostel".

I quite like the Harry Potter books, a member of this parish gave me the first three which I milled through. I'm not having a go at the series itself just more the way it's being built and protrayed as being the savour of the literary world but used as the biggest revenue generator visible over the past decade. I heard one bookseller say earlier how boys never read before Harry Potter. What a load of bollix, if the bastards stocked the books that they should be stocking then lads would read. You know you can't get The Hardy Boys anywhere outside of the States anymore. Not due to any literary licence or complex legal issue. Just because the shops won't stock them. About 4 years ago they were released in a boxset in the US. With my big nostalgic head on me I decided to invest with a great romantic image of myself in years to come guiding whatever young lads I may be blessed with through the books that had brought me so much entertainment. After no success I rang the Irish office of the publisher where their Head of Purchasing was quite damning of the retail sector who, he said, dismiss the classic books in favor of film spin offs and the like which are guarenteed to garner a quick buck. The same is the case with Roald Dahl. I spent a couple of mins in the kids section of one book shop earlier on. The only books being stocked were the Charlies, the rest I was told would have to be ordered in and would take 3 or 4 weeks unless I wanted to buy the audio version which I could "play to the kids".

I'm thinking of getting a one man operation going to get proper books back in the shops, maybe I should try and get get The Shamrogues licenced for some multi-million euro project with Spielberg or Bay at the helm. Tom Cruise has already snapped up The Hardy Boys. Don't suppose anyone has a number for Marita Conlon-McKenna or Morgan Llywelyn


  1. Awesome post...I agree completely. Case in point: in the local paper, on page A2 with other little headlines: "Harry Potter and the splitting headache". In two sentences they announce that researchers think Harry's headaches may be examples of adolescent migraines. BUT, and I hope it's the morons at the paper that paraphrased this, "Harry's headaches differ from the classic in that they're triggered by proximity to Lord Voldemort."

    How...Fucking...STUPID. Jesus CHRIST, all active brain activity has ceased. Alert the media (wink wink), human intelligence is officially dead.

  2. Wow TG where do I start? You, cynic? Not really, just a realist as am I.

    As a card carrying Harry Potter entheusiast (we take it so poorly being called anoraks, weirdos, people with poor social skills) I was part of the hype but I understand all too well how the media wets themselves over stories like this while other, far more inportant ones, slip under the radar.

    "Britney cuts her hair, AGAIN!"

    "In other news another 400 people killed in car bombs in Iraq...."

    Shame about the Hardy boys but might I suggest they're not really around anymore because they've dated? :) They might get a bump back after the Nancy Drew movie comes out.

    Think your experience of Dahl though might just be a crap bookstore - spending a fair amount of time myself in kids book sections they're always well stocked with everything from Matilda to James & The Giant Peach, The BFG and beyond.

    As for Harry sure Dark Materials is 100 times better.