29 June 2007

A Word on Harry Potter

An excerpt from a recent Time magazine article:

"On June 18 a hacker calling himself "Gabriel" announced on a website that he had done exactly what the Harry Potter brain trust most feared: stolen the text of Deathly Hallows. Explaining that he had gained access to a Bloomsbury employee's computer using an e-mail-borne Trojan-horse program, he posted what he claimed were key plot points from the book (which won't be repeated here). He framed his actions as a Christian counterattack against a work that promoted the "Neo-Paganism faith." Quoth Gabriel: "We make this spoiler to make reading of the upcoming book useless and boring."

The spoilers are almost certainly fake. Gabriel didn't offer a shred of evidence supporting their authenticity, and anyway, boasting about things that you haven't actually done is pretty much what hacker culture is all about. But even if the spoilers were genuine, it wouldn't matter.

On this point, both hacker and publisher share a key misunderstanding of what reading is all about. People read books for any number of reasons; finding out how the story ends is one among many and not even the most important. If it were otherwise, nobody would ever bother to read a book twice. Reading is about spending time with characters and entering a fictional world and playing with words and living through a story page by page. The idea that someone could ruin a novel by revealing its ending is like saying you could ruin the Mona Lisa by revealing that it's a picture of a woman with a center part. Spoilers are a myth: they don't spoil. No elaborate secrecy campaign is going to make Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows any better than it already is, and no website could possibly make it useless and boring."

I can't wait for July 21st, and no hackers can ever ruin the experience for me (anyway I'm one of those readers who gets impatient and starts flipping through the book to glance at what happens at the end--but I keep reading anyway).

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