The Magic of 'Staying Up Late to Read Books'
|Kevin Elliott at 57th St. Books|
"And thank you to @jk_rowling for once again reminding us of the magic of midnight and staying up late to read books!"
|Kevin Elliott at 57th St. Books|
"And thank you to @jk_rowling for once again reminding us of the magic of midnight and staying up late to read books!"
Harry Potter magic returned on Saturday night, as bookstores across the country and around the world reported busy midnight release parties for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts I and II. Some of the numbers were astounding: the Strand Book Store, New York City, hosted more than a thousand fans. Likewise, Joseph-Beth in Cincinnati, Ohio, reported that a thousand people came to the store "to make this one of the most amazing midnight releases ever." Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, Calif., drew 2,000 (more below). Amazingly, the Harry Potter festival-release party hosted by McNally Robinson in Winnipeg, Manitoba, drew nearly 20,000 people. (See story below.)
|BookTowne, Manasquan, N.J., hosted its event at the nearby Brielle Library|
For most stores, it was the first midnight release party since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007. Worries that the magic might have worn off and that people would not like reading a playscript instead of a novel were allayed. For example, "the Potter frenzy picked up right where it left off" at Chaucer's Bookstore, Santa Barbara, Calif., Ed Conklin wrote.
Many stores drew 20-somethings who were reliving the Harry Potter phenomenon they had experienced as teens. At the same time, younger fans, who weren't old enough to participate--or weren't alive yet--got to experience the magic of such events for the first time.
Bookstore events featured many elements from parties held a decade ago--but included many additions. Parties yesterday and early this morning included scavenger hunts, trivia contests, costume awards, photo booths, face painting, music, themed food and drink and a variety of games (including quidditch).
|Peter Glassman and Dick Robinson at Books of Wonder|
More than 800 people, including Scholastic chairman Dick Robinson, visited Books of Wonder, New York City, during the store's celebration during the day on Saturday and at midnight for Books of Wonder's Harry Potter Festival. More than 400 people received their books by 12:10 a.m. Owner Peter Glassman noted that many daytime visitors, especially those with younger children, didn't stay until midnight but went home with their vouchers, which they planned to redeem yesterday for the book. "Others arrived, enjoyed the festival, then went out for a bite to eat and returned in time for the midnight distribution of the books. So though it was certainly crowded, it never got unmanageable and everyone was in great spirits. The whole night went wonderfully well and everyone--our customers, our staff, and our entertainers--all had a great time!"
|Staffers in costume (including owner Kris Kleindienst, c.) at Left Bank Books, St. Louis, Mo.|
Powell's Books, Portland, Ore., hosted midnight release parties at three of its locations: Burnside, Cedar Hills Crossing and Hawthorne. During the day, activities included a scavenger hunt and tables for drawing a patronus or solving a potions riddle. Marketing coordinator, social media Britt Appleton said staff "went all out on their costumes. We had many Harry Potters, Dumbledores, Snapes, Hagrids, and Hermiones. We also had Viktor Krum, Moaning Myrtle, we even had a cashier at Hawthorne dressed as Mrs. Norris." At 10:30, Powell's closed for the release, and staff entertained those waiting with prophecies, performances from the books, trivia contests and a photo booth. When doors opened again, there was a stamp for each book. "We also had a lightning bolt stamp for foreheads," Appleton added. "It was so much fun!"
|Anna at Kona Stories' Muggle Wall.|
In Hawaii, Kona Stories Bookstore, Kailua-Kona, on the island of Hawaii, held a party during the day on Saturday, which drew fans of all ages. "Guests were greeted with popcorn and butter beer while playing many magical games" that include wizard charades, a wizard drawing challenge and a trivia tournament, according to owner Brenda Lea McConnell. "Each person in costume was entered into a drawing for the illustrated Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." The winner was a young Kona resident, Anna Miller, who wrote on the Muggle Wall: "Harry Potter changed my life forever. When I had no friends in 3rd grade, the characters seemed to come out of the book and could cheer me up. They became my best friends."
On Saturday at the Doylestown Bookshop, Doylestown, Pa., the line of Harry Potter fans wrapped around the block, waiting for doors to open at 10 p.m. Then the bookshop transformed into "our idea of what an American Flourish & Blots would be," marketing and events manager Krisy Parades reported. The store was "full of candles, snitches flying around, an open mic reading of HP book 7, a costume contest and Owl & Newt trivia." Everyone counted down the seconds until midnight, and then "the book buying frenzy began," Parades added. She called it "an excellent night for all of us."
|The crowd at Book Passage, Corte Madera, Calif.|
At the first midnight release party hosted by Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, N.C., there was trivia, Quidditch Pong, potions, wands, a costume contest (two brothers who came as Harry and Voldemort took first and second place) and birthday cake for Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling, co-owner Dave Lucey wrote. "We had a great time, and the passion of Potter fans in full swing is something to behold, that was some of the most intense rounds of trivia I've ever seen!"
|Eleanor Roosevelt, the Book Beagle, in costume at Parnassus Books|
The midnight release party at Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn., sold out, although everyone who ordered a copy of the book got a spot in the midnight pickup line. (And the store opened early yesterday, at 9 a.m. rather than the usual noon.) Mary Laura Philpott called the party "a blast."
Vroman's, Pasadena, Calif., partnered with Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra for a party that drew 200 people. The gallery exhibited Harry Potter art prints; activities included a Luna Lovegood glasses decorating station, freebies, a photobooth, food (among other edibles, Magic Wands, Sorting Hat Cookies, Golden Snitch Cheese Balls and Butter Beer), flash trivia and a costume contest. Digital media coordinator Jess Dickieson said, "We're exhausted, but we had a blast! It was such a fun night and everyone was so excited to get their book and be a part of the evening."
|At Tattered Cover, Denver, Colo.: Hagrid & Harry (aka Charlie, son of owners Len Vlahos and Kristen Gilligan)|
WORD Bookstores held two wild parties. WORD's Jersey City, N.J., store was "jam packed and the butterbeer flowed all night long," according to events/PR director Michelle Chen, who added, "Two Slytherins partnered with two Hufflepuff children to conquer Triwizard Trivia (and prove that bipartisanship is actually possible). We had an adorable snafu when, after drinking three butterbeers, one child rushed the stage to tell operations manager Hannah Depp and bookseller Melody Osario that he was never leaving and 'could we please put out more chocolate frogs?' " More than 200 people attended.
In Brooklyn, N.Y., WORD threw a warehouse party with Villain in Williamsburg that drew 400 attendees that included a Triwizard Trivia Tournament and some Butterbeer Pong. "What a night of nostalgia," Chen commented. "We may be all grown up but we can still pull out our dress robes and spectrespecs and scream the countdown to midnight together."
At Bookshop West Portal, owners Neal "Mad-Eye Moody" Sofman and Anna "Minerva McGonnigal" Bullard with their son, an age-appropriate Harry Potter.
On Saturday, Bookshop West Portal, San Francisco, Calif., and neighboring stores transformed much of their immediate area into a Harry Potter festival. Event coordinator Susan Tunis said, "Visitors traveled up and down our block of West Portal Avenue, from the Platform 9/34 display at the West Portal Muni Station, to the Chase Bank that became Gringotts for the afternoon, handing out chocolate gold galleons to all who asked. Merchants up and down the block joined enthusiastically in the celebration, becoming various Diagon Alley shops." A highlight of the afternoon was a visit by Shane, a six-year-old barn owl, along with Nancy Ellis, curator of Wild Animals, from San Francisco's Randall Museum.
The evening featured a performance by the Word for Word Performing Arts Company, during which 10 actors read scenes from books 1 and 7. Then a film was screened, and eventually several hundred diehard fans counted down the hours until midnight with costume and trivia contests. Bookshop West Portal sold out of its copies of the new book.
"It was one of the most successful days in the store's 10-year history," Tunis said. "Not one unhappy face was seen all day. Bookstore staff were repeatedly thanked for hosting the event. One mother told me that this was a day she would never forget."
|Susan Novotny (c.), owner of the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, N.Y., with friends.|
57th Street Books, Chicago, Ill., had a "joyous" midnight release party, according to Colin McDonald, marketing and events coordinator for Seminary Co-op Bookstores. Some 150 attendees enjoyed trivia contests, a wand-making station and two local comedians. One of them, Hope Rehak, who helped plan bookstore release parties for previous Potter installments as a teenager, said, "I didn't have a boyfriend until my mid-20s, but that's okay because books are more important than boyfriends."
Open less than a year, Turn of the Corkscrew, Books & Wine, Rockville Centre, N.Y., is "making great strides," co-owner Carol Hoenig said, as shown by the store's Harry Potter party, a hit that featured games, costume contests and especially food, thanks to Hoenig's daughter, Natasha, who served Sorcerer's Stone Red Velvet Cupcakes, Fever Fudge, Golden Snitch, owl pellets, and much more. "Kids of all ages came and were overheard saying they were thrilled to have selected our party to attend!"
"We had a fantastic time at our midnight release party," Melissa Fox, children's event coordinator at Watermark Books & Café, Wichita, Kan., wrote. "We had several actors wandering around in character, ranging from a very dynamic Arthur Weasley to a spot-on Trelawny. We didn't have as many people dress up as I thought we would, but we had enough for a costume contest. The biggest hit was the trivia contests: we had adult and child divisions, and everyone really enjoyed testing their knowledge." Watermark also hid golden snitches around the store for people to find--with prizes for the finders.
Despite rain on Saturday night, One More Page, Arlington, Va., "was packed with fans outfitted as their favorite characters," Eileen McGervey wrote. "A fearsome, hard fought game of Harry Potter trivia ended with just one point separating each of the top three teams. Costume contest, selfie station (w/ Hermione and 'Have You Seen this Wizard'), cake, raffles and of course, books at 12:01 a.m. rounded out a wonderful evening."
King's Books, Tacoma, Wash., hosted a Midnight Release Block Party with its neighbor comic store and three nearby restaurant/bars. sweet pea Flaherty described the evening as "crazy busy. We had over 300 people come through the bookstore and well over that including the other venues." The party featured wand making, a Diagon Alley with local craft vendors, a Divination Station, wizard photos, and a costume contest. In addition, "We had a Great Hall with 'floating' candles, a papier-mache Hedwig with a letter wall. People had a seriously good time."
Likewise, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, Calif., joined with seven downtown vendors to create a Harry Potter Festival, transforming a city block into Diagon Alley, with performances, wand making, butterbeer, a photo booth and more. Between that and the midnight release party, more than 2,000 witches and wizards enjoyed the festivities.
RoscoeBooks, Chicago, Ill., held a Harry Potter party yesterday, and it included singing happy birthday to both J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter when the cake was cut as well as food, drink, crafts and magical merriment. Co-manager Kelsey Westenberg called it "one of the most successful Sundays we have ever had, and made us feel honored to be part of such a supportive and enthusiastic community."
More than 200 people came to the family-friendly day party organized by Gibson's Bookstore, Concord, N.H., with a focus on the many original Harry Potter fans who have grown up and are having new families of their own that they want to share Harry Potter with. Attendees were sorted into their Hogwarts House, had their wands choose them, enjoyed some magical treats and took their OWLs. There was also a photo booth and potion classes, which included two edible potions. Events coordinator Elisabeth A. Jewell said that Gibson's "sold so many books that we ran out of unreserved copies."
Mysterious Galaxy San Diego drew some 200 Harry Potter fans to its celebration, which was led by Potter fans (and booksellers) Ashley Loga and Kelly Orazi. The event included constructing decorations, crafting treats from between the pages of the books, and organizing activities from Muggle photos in front of the Dursley mantel to house team trivia (won by the Ravenclaw team, which eked out victory over the Hufflepuff team by a single point).
|At Savoy Bookshop and Cafe, Westerly, R.I.|
Bank Square Books, Mystic, Conn., and Savoy Bookshop and Café, Westerly, R.I., each drew more than a hundred people to their respective parties. The events included trivia, a raffle, butterbeer and potions, a basilisk, owl balloons, hanging candles and loads of amazing costumes, event coordinator Elissa Englund reported.
blue manatee children's bookstore, Cincinnati, Ohio, had "a huge crowd and sold out of our first shipment of books," events coordinator Page Seck wrote. The store approached the party as if customers were visiting each of the Hogwarts' courses, with Divination, Potions, Transfiguation, Herbology and Charms represented. Guests were invited to be sorted with the sorting hat, make snitches, make wands, create their patronus and floo powder. Every guest also had a personalized invitation from Hogwarts delivered via floo mail. Deeper Roots Coffee next door provided butterbeer to accompany the Harry Potter birthday cake. On arrival, guests were given a Marauder's Map to aid in finding all the store had to offer for the evening. "It was an absolutely perfect night and so much fun," Seck added.
|Co-owner Chris Hall as Dumbledore addresses the crowd at McNally Robinson's party in the park.|
In Canada, McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg, Manitoba, hosted the biggest weekend event that we've heard of: a Harry Potter in the Park festival that drew close to 20,000 people. (The store had expected a mere 10,000!) According to the guestbook, attendees came from as far away as Ukraine and South Korea. They enjoyed Quidditch lessons and scrimmages, arts and crafts in the Defence Against the Dark Arts tent, live animals at the Care of Magical Creatures tent, a Tri-Wizard tournament, Divination sessions as well as food and drink tents, a Diagon Alley merchandise tent, and free live entertainment from local bands.
Noting that "many of our booksellers are big Harry Potter fans," website & social media manager Tyler Vitt wrote that the party was "a lot of fun for us and, from what we've been told, a lot of fun for our guests."
A charming account of the midnight release party at the flagship Foyles Bookshop in London by RadioTimes, begins: "Travelling on the tube in central London just after midnight on July 31st, you'd be forgiven for thinking someone had stolen a time-turner and sent you travelling back a decade.
|Trivia quiz at Foyles|
"Watching a small child engrossed in a new Harry Potter book sitting happily among the throngs of late night revellers was surely something we did in the noughties, right? Right.
"But the Boy Who Lived is back--in script form this time--and he's brought the magic back with him.
"The little girl in a Hogwarts uniform, absent mindedly twirling a pigtail plait around her finger as she devours the eighth Potter story, isn't the only one on the Piccadilly Line with their nose firmly planted in a book. There's the twenty-something with the suitcase, who's already at least forty pages in, and the curious man sat next to her who’s trying to read over her shoulder."
Little, Brown CEO David Shelley, who was touring each floor of Waterstones Piccadilly with sales and marketing director Robert Manser, told the Bookseller: "It's wonderful to see people connecting with the spirit of Harry Potter again, getting back their childhoods. But there are new fans here too, just like there are at the play.... It's the biggest print-run Little, Brown has ever done--and we hope it will be the biggest selling play script ever."
Waterstones told the Bookseller that sales of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts I and II have been "incredible" and that launch parties "surpassed all expectations." Foyles call the title "the fastest selling book we've ever sold."
In Australia, "Potter fans eager to delve back into the magical world of Hogwarts, charms and spells queued for up to 2½ hours" at the Sydney Dymocks store, the Age reported. Dymocks' spokeswoman Sue Bobbermein said the store hadn't had such a massive lead-up to a new release since the last Harry Potter novel, with pre-orders reaching 15,000 in the week before its debut.
"It will be our biggest sales of a book on its first day in probably five years--maybe even in nine years, since The Deathly Hallows," she said. "A lot of the customers are in their 20s, and they're people who have grown up with Harry Potter and are really intrigued to find out where he has ended up."
|Crowds at Kinokuniya (photo: Gurveen Kaur/Straits Times)|
In Singapore, bookstores began selling Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts I and II, on Sunday at 7 a.m., local time. Books Kinokuniya's flagship Ngee Ann City store drew some 200 people, who began lining up as early as 5 a.m., according to the Straits-Times.
Popular opened all its 28 bookstores early but hosted only one party, at its Bras Basha store, which drew 120 Potter fans.
In Dubai, "Potterheads queued as early as 1 a.m. on Sunday at the entrance of Virgin Megastore in Mall of the Emirates to pick up their copies of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child," 7DAYS reported. Natacha Barghout, who was attending her first midnight book release, said, "I remember when the first book came out, I was in fourth grade. I'm really excited that it's still continuing and there's a huge fan base all over the world. It's weird to think that he's now 36 years old, so I'm excited to see what new adventures they have, how he's grown, and what his kids are up to."
|Happy fans at Crossword in Mumbai.|
In monsoon-hit Mumbai, India, "Potterheads queued up for their copy early," the Hindu reported, noting that "as soon as the stores opened, the book on Harry Potter in the world after Voldemort just flew off the shelves. Crossword and franchises sold over 8,000 copies across 93 stores nationwide.... In India's Silicon Valley there were many takers for the paper version, though there is a Kindle option. Bengalureans were hanging around Blossom Book House on Church Street at 7 a.m. A 45-minute delay in arrival of copies caused anxiety for fans."
In Portugal, Lello Bookshop, a 110-year old bookstore in Porto, held a Harry Potter festival this weekend to celebrate the Harry Potter release, Agence France-Press reported. In preparation for Saturday's festival, Lello ordered 5,000 copies of the English-language version of the book and unveiled renovations just in time for the festivities.
According to Jose Manuel Lello, owner and great-grandson of one of the store's founders, J.K. Rowling was a frequent customer at Lello while she lived in Porto from 1991 to 1993. The store includes a large, ornate staircase that many customers feel is straight out of Harry Potter. (Many people believe the store inspired her when she began writing about Harry Potter.)
Last year, Lello Bookshop began charging tourists an entrance fee of €3 (about $3.35) that is recouped with the purchase of a book. In part because of this added revenue, the store was able to renovate its Gothic-Revival interior. "We have done very good business out of Harry Potter," Lello told AFP.
In South Africa, "eager Harry Potter fans flocked to bookstores nationwide for the unveiling of the latest book in the magical franchise," News24 noted in featuring photos of fans "queued to get their hands on the much anticipated book at midnight. Fans were decked out in costumes from witches to wizards to magical creatures and the 'Hogwarts' school uniform."
Booksellers lit up social media over the weekend to showcase their Harry Potter and the Cursed Child midnight release celebrations and other activities. Here's just a sampling of the digital muggle and wizard mischief we noticed:
|Literati's Potter party|
Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, Mich.: "Thank you to all who came to our Harry Potter midnight release party, and thank you to my incredible, hard-working staff and the Espresso Bar staff!"
The Book Tavern, Augusta, Ga.: "Incredible night of memories. Thank you to all that came out and had fun with us! Until the next book..."
Inkwood Books, Haddonfield, N.J.: "Magical Night! We are temporarily sold out of the book but expect to have more in a couple days!" Earlier: "Inkwood books is closed. Kings' Cross station opening soon. Please check the departure schedule for details!"
Hearthside Books & Toys, Juneau, Alaska: "Our Harry Potter party last night was so fun! Thanks to all of you who braved the road construction to attend and make it a memorable night."
|Celebrating at Elliott Bay Book Company (photo: Steve Farrell)|
Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, Wash.: "Thank you to all the witches and wizards who joined us late last night to celebrate Harry's return!"
The Reading Bug, San Carlos, Calif.: "The party has begun! Butter beer, sorting into houses, making wands and running straight through the wall to platform 9 3/4!"
"Little Shop of Stories, Decatur, Ga.: "Thank you to all of the witches and wizards who came out to our #cursedchild midnight release party! We hope you had as much fun as we did! And congrats to Hufflepuff on winning the House Cup!"
Browseabout Books, Rehoboth Beach, Del.: "Are you involved in the Elf Rights community? We have an Ilvermony representative for S.P.E.W. here this evening!"
The Sequel Bookshop, Kearney, Neb.: "Great time last night! Thank you to everyone that attended! Special thanks to the awesome volunteer wizards!"
Cold Water Books, Tuscumbia, Ala.: "This young Harry Potter stole the show during last night's costume contest! Mad-Eye and Trelawney should be proud! :) Thank you so much to everyone that came out to celebrate with us! We sirius-ly had such a blast with all of you! Happy reading!"
|Potter fans: the staff at Schuler Books & Music|
Brazos Bookstore, Houston, Tex.: "The greatest Potterhead of us all (high praise, to be sure) with the photo booth she made for tonight's bash."
The Bookmark, Guaynabo, Puerto Rico: "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is here!!!" (Use cursor for 180-degree view)
Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, N.C.: "Potion master in the house."
Red Lodge Books & Tea, Red Lodge, Mont.: "Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Hagrid were among the celebrities at tonight's midnight Harry Potter party. We'll post more pictures in the morning--and yes, we have more books!"
Plot Twist Bookstore, Ankeny, Iowa: "Photos from the release party. Thank you to everyone for celebrating with us. The actors from ACT were awesome. We had a wonderful night visiting with all the witches, wizards and other magical friends."
Sonia Friedman and Colin Callender, the lead producers of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, "are ready to start thinking about a Broadway production," though no firm decisions are in place yet," the New York Times reported, adding that they expect to begin conversations in London this week and schedule meetings in New York in the fall.
"Our only immediate objective was to get to today, but Colin and I said that next week we're going to sit down, have a cappuccino and start talking about what's next," said Friedman during a break from the play's gala opening in London Saturday. "Of course, it would be disingenuous to think New York and Broadway weren't part of our thinking.... Harry Potter, the brand and the story, are as iconic over there as anywhere in the world, and, Colin and I being theater producers and Broadway producers, of course it's on our radar, but where, how, when and with whom, we have no idea."
Callender dismissed reports that the producers were considering a production in Toronto before New York: "I don't know where the Toronto gossip came from, but it's not based on anything."
Friedman also noted they "were particularly pleased that the play seemed to be appealing to new theater audiences--a constant struggle for producers," the Times wrote. During previews in London, in fact, an estimated 50% of ticket holders were new to theater, and much of the audience was 18 to 35 years old. "It's a dream--it's the holy grail for a producer. And they are respectful and incredibly engaged. Not one mobile phone has gone off in the auditorium."
Just in time for the beginning of the Rio Olympics, tomorrow evening PBS American Experience is airing The Boys of '36, a new documentary about the inspiring University of Washington rowing team that won a gold medal at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. The documentary is based on The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown (Penguin Books, $9.99, 9780143130833), which was originally published in 2013.
Good Morning America: RoseMarie Terenzio, author of Fairy Tale Interrupted: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Loss (Gallery, $15, 9781439187685).
Fresh Air: Jay McInerney, author of Bright, Precious Days: A Novel (Knopf, $27.95, 9781101948002).
The Talk: Chris Colfer, author of The Land of Stories: An Author's Odyssey (Little, Brown, $19.99, 9780316383295).
Also on the Talk: Bobby Bones, author of Bare Bones: I'm Not Lonely If You're Reading This Book (Dey Street, $26.99, 9780062417343).
Fox's On the Record with Greta Van Susteren: Phil Knight, author of Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike (Scribner, $29, 9781501135910).
Last Call with Carson Daly repeat: Moby, author of Porcelain: A Memoir (Penguin Press, $28, 9781594206429).
CNN's Anderson Cooper 360: Marc Lamont Hill, author of Nobody: Casualties of America's War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond (Atria, $26, 9781501124945). He will also appear tomorrow night on CNN Tonight.
Good Morning America: Penn Jillette, author of Presto!: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781501140181).
Today Show: James Andrew Miller, author of Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood's Creative Artists Agency (Custom House, $32.50, 9780062441379).
The View: Eric Bolling, author of Wake Up America: The Nine Virtues That Made Our Nation Great--and Why We Need Them More Than Ever (St. Martin's Press, $25.99, 9781250112507).
Fox's Kelly File: Glenn Beck, author of Liars: How Progressives Exploit Our Fears for Power and Control (Threshold Editions, $27, 9781476798851).
Diane Rehm: Jonathan Franzen, author of Purity: A Novel (Picador, $17, 9781250097101).
The Crime Writers Association has announced shortlists in nine categories for the 2016 Dagger Awards. The winners will be named October 11 in London at a gala dinner, during which Peter James will be awarded the Diamond Dagger, which recognizes a career "marked by sustained excellence" by someone who has "made a significant contribution to crime writing published in the English language, whether originally or in translation." Check out the complete Dagger shortlists here.
Stephen King's The Body: Bookmarked by Aaron Burch (Ig Publishing, $14.95 paperback, 176p., 9781632460301, September 6, 2016)
Ig Publishing's Bookmarked series features writers contemplating the literature that has made deep impressions on their lives and work. Aaron Burch's entry is Stephen King's The Body, a brief but incisive consideration of King's novella and Burch's life in ways that surprise the author and intrigue the reader.
"The Body" is one of four novellas in King's Different Seasons (which also includes "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption"). It is perhaps better known for the film adaptation, 1986's Stand by Me. Burch's lifelong fascination began with the movie; he writes here about coming later to King's written work as he becomes a reader, a writer and a teacher. King's protagonist, Gordie Lachance, is also a writer and very much resembles King himself. The layers of meta-awareness continue in Stephen King's The Body: Burch refers to his writing of the book and to its earlier drafts.
"The Body" is a Bildungsroman circling themes of friendship, nostalgia and loss as four childhood friends trek cross-country to view the dead body of a boy their age. Burch explores these themes with tenderness and sentiment, even as he resists the latter. Although "The Body" and Stand by Me provide the framework for Burch's contemplation, his work is at least as much self-reflective memoir or personal essay as it is literary criticism. As he writes, his marriage looks to be breaking apart--a parallel Burch forces himself to confront. The two processes, writing and considering a marriage, prompt a direct gaze into difficult truths, but as King writes (as Gordie Lachance): "The most important things are the hardest to say." This is a recurring sentiment in Burch's slim book, where he earnestly attempts to address those hard things.
Burch exposes himself as a striking character who has a complicated relationship with art--the art he produces (up until now, only fiction) and the art he enjoys. He is an unlikely writer of literary criticism, with his resistance to considering authorial intent, and purposefully avoids behind-the-scenes perspectives on his favorite works. "It can be fun to take apart a magic trick and figure out how it actually works, but it also ruins the magic of the trick." Having pushed himself, however, Burch is surprised to find his venture into literary criticism extraordinarily enlightening.
Burch elaborates on King's themes of loss and friendship with those of transitions, of firsts: first date, first kiss, first job, first road trip. As Gordie (or King) writes, "There's a high ritual to all fundamental events... the rites of passage, the magic corridor where the change happens." The beauty of Stephen King's The Body is in Burch entering that magic corridor, and splitting the experience wide open--uncomfortably, even--for the reader to study with him. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia
Shelf Talker: A writer's examination of the writing that shaped him--even reluctantly--yields layers of self-awareness.