By now, the whole world knows about the spectacular success of the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling (Joanne Rowling), so let’s take a brief look at the writer’s personal history and then move on to an update.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
English author Rowling was born on July 31, 1965. She graduated from the University of Exeter in 1986 with a BA in French and the Classics. In 1990 she began writing the first Harry Potter book and kept pounding away on her typewriter for the next five years. After she found an agent, the book was submitted to twelve publishers.
They all rejected the manuscript, but in 1996, a small British publisher named Bloomsbury accepted it. The author was told not to use “Joanne” because “boys don’t read books by female writers.” Rowling is now married to her second husband and has one son, 14 and two daughters, 24 and 12.
200 COUNTRIES, 79 LANGUAGES, 450 MILLION COPIES SOLD
The Harry Potter books are now celebrating their 20th anniversary and the Financial Times has done a great job of summing up the whole Potter saga in a write-up that appeared on July 2, 2017 titled, JK Rowling and the Pot of Gold by Emma Jacobs, a FT features writer.
Rowling’s creation has been responsible for spawning a vast cultural empire that includes: books, films, theme parks, tours, theatre shows and toys. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone hit England’s bookstores on June 26, 1997 with an initial print run of 500 hardback copies.
Ten years later, as the final book in the series landed, it was estimated that more than 250,000 fans across Britain lined up outside bookstores at midnight to buy it.
”SEQUELS? WE HAVE TO BE CAREFUL.”
When Rowling first raised the idea of sequels, Barry Cunningham (who first saw the manuscript for The Philosopher’s Stone as it was known in England) on his desk at Bloomsbury in 1996) urged caution. “I said, ‘Let’s see how this goes first’,” he recalls wryly.
Today, following the original seven books and eight film adaptations, there are now:
One of the most remarkable aspects of Harry Potter’s success is its appeal to adults, who are apparently reminded of the classics of their own childhoods.
New book launches, known as “denial marketing” were used for the simultaneous United Kingdom and United States launches in the year 2000 of the fourth book Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire. “It was important to keep the story secret so that children would not have it ruined by reading a headline in the paper saying, “Dumbledore dies,” according to Cunningham.
CAN’T KEEP THEM STRAIGHT IN YOUR HEAD? TRY THIS
#1 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, published September 1, 1998
#2 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, June 2, 1999
#3 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, September 9, 1999
#4 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, July 8, 2000
#5 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, June 21, 2003
#6 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, July 16, 2005
#7 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, July 21, 2007
Okay, it’s time to start reading – no matter how old you are!
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In the May 2020 issue of Smithsonian magazine I came across an intriguing article titled, “A Half-Century of Trips,” written by Ted Scheinman, (a writer and scholar based in Southern California). This features a subhead that reads, “Americans have steadily become more dedicated travelers, despite historic setbacks.”
This is the first thing I saw when perusing the 50th anniversary issue of the Smithsonian magazine for April 2020. This eye-opening 10-page article (with spectacular photos) is titled, “The Ship in the Ice” and concerns a topic we’ve all been hearing about for years, e.g., global warming.
The pandemic this year has affected all of us in many ways. Two things that stand out in my mind: people definitely need people (to paraphrase the song “People” sung by Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl). The phone, email, computer, TV and all the other digital creations we use DO NOT take the place of human interaction. We all need to see and talk to each other. That said we have also learned that we can work at home very efficiently and handle our normal workload if necessary. Never commute again? I don’t think that will happen, but perhaps we’ll find a happy medium – time will tell.
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