It’s true. I idolize Scottish author J.K. Rowling, who conjured up not just the bespectacled and thatch-haired Harry Potter, but with him an entire magical universe peopled with so many other incredible characters, including the most notorious evil figure in 20th Century literature.
Ok, maybe “crush” isn’t quite right. Uh, there’s absolutely no need for restraining orders, nor for posting photos of me doctored to resemble Pennywise, the killer clown from Steven King’s “It,” on some international “Creepy Stalkers” website.
What I mean is Ms. Rowling (pronounced “rolling”) is my idol. My admiration is pure, and chaste, not “chased.” Can you blame me? After a life in newspaper work (i.e. an “ink-stained wretch,”) how could I not admire to the umpteenth degree the work of a writer whose imagination and work captured the imagination of the whole flippin’ planet?
It’s Halloween, all day, every day. Witches, wands, wizards, potions, spells, the works. What’s cooler than that?
She begat a complex, totally grounded, often befuddled, yet completely accessible hero in Harry. And unless you’ve been living in a mud hut in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province for the past two decades, you’ve probably heard of Lord Voldemort – usually referred to as “he who must not be named” – the most powerful evil wizard of all time, who tried, but failed, to kill Harry Potter in his crib and throughout seven best-selling books and eight blockbuster movies.
Ms. Rowling gave us muggles, as non-magic folk are known, flying cars, talking spiders, easily offended ghosts, three-headed dogs, love potions, death potions, liquid luck, dementors (soul-sucking flying monsters), chocolate frogs, vomit- and earwax-flavored candy, plus giants, centaurs, mountain trolls and unicorns.
Can’t say the same for “50 Shades of Grey,” right? Not that I ever read it, of course.
This magic world includes a shopping district (Diagon Alley), a bank (Gringotts) and its own monetary system. The kids at Hogwarts buy wands or cauldrons with gold Galleons, silver Sickles and bronze Knuts. That magical money comes in handy when ordering a round of Butterbeer at pubs and inns, such as The Leaky Cauldron in London or The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade, the village just outside Hogwarts.
As far as I know, there’s no website posting daily Dollar-to-Galleons exchange rates.
To top it off, she willed into existence a new sport called Quidditch. Think of a far more complex version of hockey, up in air rather than on ice, with flying brooms instead of sticks.
Am I envious of Ms. Rowling? You betcha. But I applaud her for creating a completely electronics-free society.
The kids in the Gryffindor common room sit by the fire reading or – gasp! talking face-to-face. No one wears earbuds while staring into a smartphone or laptop.
Harry Potter doesn’t have Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts, nor does Voldemort or his acolytes, the “Death Eaters.”
Merlin’s beard, Harry! Did you actually “unfriend” you-know-who?
Wow. I know you sent him a friend request just to keep tabs on him, but still… Plus he tweets more crap about you than Donald Trump does about Kim Jong-un.
Got homework? Can’t do a Google search. Research involves a trip to the library and opening real books printed on real paper! Ok, the books can float on an off the shelves with the wave of a wand, but they’re still books.
Texting? Emails? Uh-uh.
Call me old-fashioned or out of touch, but I’ll have you know The Mrs. chides me for the hours I spend on my smartphone, and this is written on a laptop. Still, I like to think that Ms. Rowling shares my opinion that technology should serve, not ensnare, mankind.
And then there’s the business side of HP, Inc. (Not Hewlett Packard.)
In the 20 years since the release of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” the first book, sales have topped 400 million copies with the story translated into over 70 languages, one of which is Latin, for cryin’ out loud.
Last year Ms. Rowling and two other writers released “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” the script of a play that first ran in London’s West End theater district and is now on Broadway. She also penned “Magical Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the first of five spin-off movies.
Does the woman ever sleep?
Add all that to the two “Harry Potter” theme parks and merchandise sales and the value of the Harry Potter brand rises to an estimated $25 billion.
Anybody whose job once included changing a typewriter ribbon – Yeah, I’m dating myself – couldn’t help but be wowed in the knowledge that J.K Rowling became the first author ever to earn a billion dollars.
To be fair, she’s earned every penny, under what I imagine was crushing, relentless pressure. She also donates huge sums to charity. I like to think that if the publishing gods smile upon me thusly I, too, would adopt a philanthropic mien.
It’s more likely my phone number and email address would vanish like Lord Voldemort himself in Book 7, just before yours truly secured temporary, perhaps, accommodations in the Cayman Islands. And I’d need a saber-sharp accountant to investigate the tax consequences of acquiring a castle in Ireland. Not quite as big as Hogwarts, necessarily.
An indoor swimming pool, full-sized Irish pub in the basement, billiards room, classic pinball machine room and a home theater would be just some of the many, varied amenities.
Much of my time would be taken up not answering the phone in the oak-paneled study, two Irish wolfhounds slumbering by the immense marble fireplace flanked by floor to ceiling books (including autographed first editions of everything Ms. Rowling has written), a collection of antique globes, a desk the size of a helicopter landing pad and French doors leading out to the formal walled gardens.
I know what you’re thinking, and trust me, The Mrs. has given voice to it all every time I’ve mentioned this… scenario. First, I’m questioned on whether I’ve partaken of some non-legal substance. Then: “Who’s going to clean, dust and vacuum this pipedream palace of yours?”
That, I say, is where Yvonne and Yvette come in.
I thought it clever and funny. Others, however, employ words such as “sad” and “pathetic.”
And that, dear friends, is where Ms. Rowling and I part company, for now, anyway.
She didn’t dwell on personal, and wholly unrealistic, fantasies. She had an idea, “the boy who lived,” and worked to develop the not-as-simple-as-it-sounds concept into wonderful works of fiction enjoyed by muggles of all ages.
I hope to profit from her example someday.
But for now, as I’ve fallen under the influence of the Green-Eyed Monster, (Gee, there are actually some she did not brew up?) I’d say I despise her, but who wants to be turned into a toad?
Tim Kelly is a former congressional press secretary and award-winning reporter, editor, columnist and photographer. He has lived on the North Fork for 30 years. For his mid-life crisis, he became a bagpiper.