Isabelle Roughol – The J junkie

The tribulations of a young journalist and writer looking for work

Early reviews of the Deathly Hallows spoil the fun, but news people can’t be blamed

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As I was listening this morning, like every morning, to my Front Page podcast from the New York Times, I was shocked to hear a brief review of the book I have most awaited in my life, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. (Do NOT press this link, which I’ve only copied and not read, if you don’t want your Saturday reading day spoiled.) I didn’t even get a warning. No time to hit pause, I was already hearing the spoilers I have been carefully avoiding for weeks. Granted, the NYT’s review didn’t reveal much in the way of details of the story, and I was only listening to a summary of it. But, it did tell me a couple things about the construction of the book and the general mood of its ending, both of which I didn’t want to know until I opened my book Saturday morning.

Lord knows how they got their hands on the book, given the Gulf war-like embargo on it. Apparently, several U.S. booksellers and online stores haven’t had the strength to abide by the official release date and started selling early. Quite foolish of them, for a) the midnight release is a HP tradition which most fans really enjoy. There’s nothing quite like the anticipation. And b) everyone knows that J.K. Rowling, UK publisher Bloomsbury and US publisher Scholastic couldn’t be more deadly serious about the embargo and will sue these bookstores to bankruptcy.

Unlike many, many HP fans, I’m not mad at the Times, the Baltimore Sun, or anyone else who might have posted reviews. J.K. Rowling is understandably quite mad, too. But she should take it out on the retailers who didn’t respect their contract, not the news people.

“I am staggered that some American newspapers have decided to publish purported spoilers in the form of reviews in complete disregard of the wishes of literally millions of readers, particularly children,” she said.

It’s news, they got it, they published it. End of the story. The NYT book editor Rick Lyman put it quite simply and rightly in an interview to the BBC.

“It’s our policy that once a book has been offered up for sale, it’s fair game to be reviewed.

“It’s not our business to help book publishers market their books. We tried very, very hard to give away the absolute bare minimum of the plot.”

Nevertheless, I would have appreciated a little more warning before they spilled the beans so I could leap to my computer and press the space bar. None the matter, I’ll know it all by Saturday night anyway.


Written by Isabelle Roughol

Thursday, 19 July, 2007 at 15:52

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