But, please do imagine me squeeing.
My favorite book before this was PoA. I think HBP equals it and may even top it. JKR must have all of Joseph Campbell's books in her library. While I've always seen the influence, this is the first time it's slapped me in the face.
Plus, it seems this book showcases the most controlled writing I've ever seen from her. I admit, her technical writing style isn't the greatest, but the writing in this book is the tightest it's ever been. Where once she would've gone on for pages about this (already known) character or another, or even this incident or another, this time she gets information and characterization across using a few key scenes spread throughout the book.
It's probably her most confident book in the series. I think it's helped by the fact that I had zero quibbles with the characterizations or interactions. There really is nothing in this book that took me by surprise on that front since a lot of this stuff was built in from the beginning. Of course, it helps that I like all of the characters equally (even the bad ones, I like them for what they are). So no bitching from me. I didn't think anyone was treated unfairly.
And so ends my discussion of the book before I cross into spoiler territory.
Anyway, on to the "Book Seller's Eye-View of HP Madness."
I survived the Harry Potter tsunami. (Obviously.)
I think I got home somewhere around 3 a.m. after working in my Borders's Harry Potter Party. So, I tumbled into bed waaaaaay too exhausted to read more than the first chapter. Then I fell asleep with my nose in the book.
Needless to say, I read the whoooooole thing today. A task, I have to admit, that was not helped by George the Amazing lovebird, who spent the day trying to chew the book, lick me to death, sitting in my Jade tree and chirping at the birds outside at the top of his birdy lungs, and generally buzzing me because my nose was in a book when I wasn't making him happy by playing with him.
At any rate, I suspect I'll be re-reading it the rest of the week before I lend it to my darling brother on Saturday.
The atmosphere was very holiday-ish and it was (strangely) relaxing. As crowded as my Borders was, not too many people were shopping. Mostly they were doing activities with their kids or doing them themseles (by the way, the HP Bertie Botts Jellybeans are vile). There was mostly people in costume taking in the groove and chatting up the book sellers (like me) in a friendly-ish way or wandering around with their kids. As shocking as this must sound, the kids were uniformly well-behaved. I didn't come across a little brat in the bunch.
Anyway, it's probably the only time I've ever worked a shift at Borders where we basically stood around talking to each other and no supervisor was pointedly looking at their watch. Plus, the customers were digging the fact that they could have long coversations with us without having to ask for a book.
Coolest costume of the night #1: A kid came in with a white t-shirt. In magic marker, he wrote on the front: "Cedric Diggory." On the back: "I may be dead, but I'm still the coolest kid to ever go to Hogwarts and play quidditch." That pretty much had all of us laughing our asses off.
Coolest costume of the night #2: A kid was walking around covered from head-to-foot with this long sheet of material over his head (like a ghost). It was very silver and shiny. We all thought he was a dementor, but it turns out he was wearing an "invisibility cloak." From the outside, it looked opaque. On the reverse side, you could see right through it. So even though no one could see him, he could see perfectly well (albeit through a haze of black nylon). Very cool.
Coolest costume of the night #3: One of my co-workers got dressed in (artfully) ripped kahki pants, heavy boots, and a torn-up olive green shirt. Then she stencilled "Azerkaban Prison" across the front and a "prisoner number" across the back. She died her hair really, really black and put some stuff in her hair to make it look a little string-y. Then she put on some drab grey make-up under her eyes. If you asked her who she was, she'd answer in this dead voice: "I forgot how long I've been here." Then she'd wander off in a "daze" without answering your question.
Heeee! The customers dug it. I think some of them went up to ask for help just to get that answer. And they all walked away laughing.
Ahhhhhh, the passive-aggressiveness of bookstore employees played for laughs.
Fanfiction lurve in the bookstore aisles: I got to talking to a high school girl (she's going to be a senior in the fall) about, of all things, "Books I hate."
[Side note: If you ever want to send me into a flying rage, try buying Jacob I Have Loved. And no, I won't link to it. I don't want anyone to get tempted and buy it. Anyway, I've been known to spend upwards of 20 minutes talking people out of buying the book with my venom-spitting hate. I want the day back that I spent reading it. Okay, I was 12, but I want that day back, do you hear me! Even Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff don't inspire that much hate in me and I have a lot of hate for that book and character.]
Somehow that led to "scary adult fans of Harry Potter." Then this girl and her friend tentatively admitted they read fanfiction and some of the stuff scares the hell out of them. Not the subject matter, but that some adults write this stuff and (the biggest sin in their eyes) really suck at writing. Then I tentatively admitted that I wrote gen fanfiction (not Harry Potter), which then had this girl bouncing in geeky excitement because she was starting to beta for gen Harry Potter stories.
Anyway, turns out she's an AP English student and admitted that she really needed to improve her grammar chops, both for school and her beta work. So I put Elements of Style by Strunk and White in her hands and said that this $8 book was really all she really needed for both. I told her to hold off on anything more expensive unless she really wanted to do this professionally.
The girl was so pleased with it that we went through the book on spot so I could show her where it might help with some of her blind spots. She walked off with it practically glowing with excitement.
I mean, that's great, IMHO. I know some beta readers (waves to ponders_life) really take their beta duties seriously. But almost all the beta readers I know are adults and either work in some form of publishing or have ambitions in that direction. To see a high school student taking beta work so seriously and looking to apply that to her RL situation really did my heart good.
For some reason, adult beta readers don't take me by surprise. But this high school girl who seemed really into the whole beta process and seemed to love grammar with the same geeky love I do...well that took me by surprise. It was a pleasant one, I might add.
In which I face down some high school asshats: The only sour note is our local high school assholes decided that my 5'1" self would put up with them asking me where "Harry Potter" was and buy that "his brother" went to their school.
I rolled my eyes and asked to please cut it out (I was busy getting people into line so they could buy the book) because I wasn't in the mood.
But they kept aggressively pushing the joke and being obnoxious about it.
So, my 5'1" self immediately went into "I will kick your skinny ass" mode. (I think I said "I will kick your ass if you don't get out of my face this second.") Honest to god, when I get pissed off, I've been told my eyes actually get darker and my face scrunches in a very menacing way. I could actually feel my jaw clamp, so probably I was going into "pissed off face."
After two minutes of growling that they were going to die if they annoyed my shit for one second longer, they actually backed down and scattered. They then avoided me the rest of the night. (I caught one of them running when I turned a corner. He almost ran over another customer to get away from me.) I'm pretty amazed because three of the six guys were pushing six feet. I have no idea why I spooked him that much. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't spook me that much if I had a clear foot on me.
People applauding the books: About 10 to midnight, the supervisors starting rolling the sealed boxes to the front of the store (they were all covered in purple coth, so people couldn't even see the boxes) and this cheer went up that was positively defeaning. Then, at a 11:59 p.m., we started a countdown to midnight, with everyone in the store joining in and everyone was grinning like it was Christmas.
It was simply unbelievable.
When you get down to it, people were excited about a book. How many times has that happened? I mean, not you personally. Not you and your friends. I mean a store full of hundreds of people? And not just your store, but every book store across the English-speaking world, all full of a at least a few hundred people of their own.
There is, no matter how you slice it, magic in that.
It doesn't matter who wrote it, in the end. It doesn't matter how well it's written. Somehow, enough people believe in what all those HP books are about.
It gives me a little hope.
And yes, I think I might've shed a happy tear or two about it when the applause and the whooping was loud enough to shake that store.
Then came the two-hour wait: Overall, the vast majority of people were laid back about the wait. You had teenagers buying the book and taking pictures of each other holding it with these cheesy grins on their faces. You had younger kids walking out of the store hugging their books. You had tired, but happy parents thrilled to death that their kids were thrilled about a book.
And more than a few of those parents had other kid books in their shopping bags.
Not to say there weren't a couple of asshats complaining about the wait. But as we beleagured book sellers pointed out to each other: "What the hell did they expect? That they wouldn't be waiting in line?" My favorites were the handful of people who came in at 12:45 a.m. and bitched about the line.
Or the people who weren't happy when they showed up at 1:30 a.m. to get in to find out that we were not letting any more people into the store.
Do I look scary to you?: Oddly enough, I was "the gargoyle at the door." I was assigned to politely tell the post-1 a.m. stragglers to go away, play nice with the cops, calm down those few "don't wanna wait" customers, and otherwise keep an eye out for trouble.
I was also assigned to make sure people got into line and stayed in line, like some human sheepdog.
I actually joked to one of my coworkers that I think they wanted me to work the Harry Potter party because they needed an intimidating enforcer to keep trouble-makers in line.
Said coworker looked at me and said, "Well, duh!"
I said, "But, ummm, how intimidating can I be? I'm 5'1" for Chrissakes!"
"Yeah," the coworker said back. "But you can really scare people when you set your mind to it. Deling with you is sometimes like dealing with a younger version of Granny Weatherwax."
Is it a bad thing that I took that as a compliment?
Only in a bookstore...