Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rowling Determined to Wring Every Red Cent From Harry Potter...

... no matter what.

I'll be the first to admit I'm a little biased. I've never been a big fan of Rowling for various reasons, though I do understand the appeal of the Harry Potter stories. (My God, though, has the woman ever heard of editing? If I really wanted to read an epic, I'd get around to finishing The Iliad. I mean, really.)

So while the Harry Potter series is okay (not great, especially considering Harry's adolescent whining through books 5-7, but okay), my real beef is with its prima donna author. Rowling's attitude about the world and her place in it is mind-boggling--for someone who revels in the "I was so poor I had to write my rough draft on a napkin" story, she seems quite indifferent toward her fan base, to the point of just being a bitch.

Take, for example, the copyright lawsuit Rowling filed against Steve Vander Ark and the Harry Potter Lexicon earlier this year. Rowling has said in the past that she intended to end the Harry Potter series with Deathly Hallows--oh, except for an encyclopedia, but she only mentioned that later. The Lexicon stood as a fan-created website that explored plot details, traced story arks, etc. It was a tribute toward what fans of Rowling see as her genius. When there was talk of publishing the Lexicon as a book, however, Rowling was all over it like white on rice, claiming that

"'the book would be a 'significant' threat to JKR’s market for her book, citing a court decision that said, “once purchased, the consumer is unlikely to purchase a second can opener.' It says the RDR marketing materials show that it is positioning the book as more comprehensive than others, and that publication would 'signal that others may also free ride off Ms. Rowling’s works, flooding the market with copycat works.'"[1]

While there might be some truth to the argument that it's the precedent the book sets rather than the book itself that is the problem, I find that I have a hard time buying it.

First off, in my opinion, only real fans of the series would give a rat's ass about the website or the book. No one who buys the books in the first place is a casual Harry Potter reader--the books are too long and convoluted to hold any interest for someone interested in a quick, light read. I've read the series, but I do not own it. I've never been to the Lexicon or any other fan website before I began poking around to write this post. Therefore, I think it's safe to say anyone who would actually buy the Lexicon in the first place would not pass up the chance to buy another book written by the author of the series.

(Rowling, of course, "feels the premise that fans will buy both encyclopedias is 'presumptuous and insensitive,' owing the first to an assumption that everyone would want to have two encyclopedias and the second to assuming they could afford both. ' is obvious to me that many people do not have money to buy every book that appeals to them.'" [1] Blah blah blah. Yeah, all right, but it's somehow okay to have the series stretch for seven books, even though some people can't afford to buy them all, despite the fact that sells them at a 49% discount, which would (probably) be applied to any other book Rowling ever writes? That seems a little "presumptuous and insensitive" to me.)

What is interesting to me about the case is that she completely discount's the Lexicon's status as a fan site. “(JKR) feels frustrated that a 'former fan' has tried to 'co-opt my work for financial gain. The Harry Potter books are full of moral choices and ethical dilemmas, and, ironically, Mr. Vander Ark’s actions tend to demonstrate that he is woefully unfit to represent himself as either a "fan of" or "expert on"books whose spirits he seems entirely to have missed.'" [1] Ouch. I think it's safe to say that he's definitely a "former fan" as of this statement.

Whatever. The courts ruled in Rowling's favor and she has won her case against money-hungry, crazed former fans. If anything, Vander Ark was just following Rowling's example as she first promised to close the magical world of Hogwarts after the seventh book, then said she might write an encyclopedia some day, and then published a "A Wizarding Classic From the World of Harry Potter." WTF? She's the richest woman in the UK! Why must she insist on beating this dog until it's really, really, really dead? Seven books, seven movies, and millions of dollars in retail merchandise just weren't enough? She's richer than the queen, for God's sake.

Really, she's just a big attention whore. Remember the frenzy around the 7th book last summer? She wouldn't allow advanced readings for reviewers; a truck of books was stolen; she was on the news what seemed like every day begging people not to "spoil" the end, all the while egging on speculation about what that end might be, etc. etc. etc. (Side note: what could possibly spoil the end of that book? It was the biggest anti-climax I've ever read, especially considering the ending of The Half-Blood Prince.) She even "outed" Dumbledore after the initial buying spree in a pitiable attempt to stir up controversy. Between this shameless display and the multiple "nip slip" photos of her available on the web, I guess it just goes to show that money definitely can't buy class.

Anyway, if anyone gets around to reading the "Wizarding Classic," let me know how it is. I don't see myself putting in the time or effort.

/ End rant. I feel much better now.

Works Cited:

[1] "JKR/WB Respond in Lexicon Suit." The Leaky Cauldron.


Homero said...

Holy crap, what spurred this tirade? (Not that I don't agree with you, I do, practically down to the letter...)

Lindsay-with-an-A said...

Nothing much. I happened to see this book listed on the NY Times "New Fiction" list.

I'm like a volcano waiting to erupt AT ANY MOMENT! BEWARE!!

nishitak said...

Check out my review of Beedle the Bard here:

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