Saturday, July 21, 2007

Welcome back, Potter

It's been unusually quiet today, except for the ghostly swoosh of turning pages, as millions of Potterites dig into the books they got hold of early this morning. It's easy for a hardened old cynic like me to make fun of people who stand in line for mass-produced consumer items, whether toys, telephones or books. Not as if this is the absolutely final farewell performance of Barbra Streisand or the Rolling Stones (hah!). If they run out, they'll make more. Extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds, right? Calvin Trillin used to make fun of the British and their willingness to join a queue, any queue. There's a joke in Moscow On the Hudson, too -- Robin Williams gets into a long, long line on a snowy Moscow street and only then asks what it's for (toilet paper, as it happens). But Americans? Accustomed to having every need instantly gratified out of the bounty of our fruited plain (for cash, of course)? Ask and we shall receive. Not so fast, says J.K.Rowling or Steve Jobs, so we line up meekly, like a Muscovite in an ill-fitting overcoat. We hate waiting for gas or stamps or the next teller at the bank, but we'll sit all night for an X-Box or a phone that stores every song ever recorded.

As I said, easy to make fun. But I think I understand the phenomenon of Americans seeking to form a community with strangers who seem to understand us and share our obsessions. Even if all you have in common is the willingness to wear a wizard hat in public, you're a family standing together against an indifferent world. It's especially poignant because the objects they covet are intended to be consumed in solitude. (Another joke: if you're in line to buy an iPhone, chances are you don't have anyone to call.) Shopping and consuming and shopping again no longer makes us happy. We're queuing for company.


Blogger Quacko said...

hi you- Potter- community- kids have nothing in common most of the time these days- I live in Kidland. It is a very odd controlled place- fear or abduction in the most sanitized neighborhoods, living in cars to get to pre-planned expected formulaic sports for the school resume more than being a sport, not being allowed to figure out the pecking order- everyone is "magical special" and the relentless being artificially "nice", "supportive" and the ilk that has trickled down from disfunctional pop mental health culture. In Harry Potter, there are creeps, there is real danger and grown ups have not a real clue about what is going on at their feet- just like real life with adults. Harry and company are flawed- just like real kids- which adults having their proscibed 2.0 kids will not accept in their children. The keepers of the suburban flame must be perfect to present to the world... I could go on about the culture of KidLand, but it is too depressing at times... "Setting a good example for your children takes all the fun out of middle age" William Feather

7:58 AM  

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