For Potter fans, book is simply magic | AspenTimes.com

For Potter fans, book is simply magic

Naomi Havlen

Dressed as characters from the Harry Potter series, Drew Soliday, 8, his mother, Laurie, and his dad, Andrew, wait for the sixth book in the series to be sold at TownCenter Booksellers in Basalt late Friday night. Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

The muggles who gathered in Basalt just before midnight on Friday were no strangers to the wizarding world.Many of them wore capes and pointy hats and waved wands while watching a magician, a fire-eater and stilt-walker perform minutes before the most anticipated book of the summer finally landed in their hands.The Harry Potter phenomenon hasn’t skipped over the Roaring Fork Valley, proved by the mass of people who crowded into TownCenter Booksellers from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Like at many bookstores across the country, a party was held in celebration of the most recent book by J.K. Rowling.

“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is the sixth book in Rowling’s series about an English boy who (six books ago, when he was 11) discovers he is a wizard and is sent away to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The book was embargoed by its publisher until 12:01 a.m. Saturday, a rule many bookstores took quite literally by throwing gatherings to sell the book (probably after a 10-second countdown and a loud cheer, as in Basalt) as soon as the appropriate hour arrived.Many of the partygoers dressed up like their favorite characters and recited elaborate plot twists of the book series by heart, as they’ve read the novels multiple times and listened to the audio books many more times.Basalt residents and mother-daughter pair Kary Price and Jaimie Schauf stood in the crowd waiting to buy the hardcover – two copies, so they don’t have to share – which they’ll promptly read. They buy the hardcover editions to save in the long term, they said, and when the paperbacks appear on shelves they’ll snatch those up to read again and again.Price said she just reread book five in the series to refresh her memory, a wise decision as book five was 879 pages long. Book six is only slightly shorter, at 672 pages.

Harry Potter adoration is a uniquely ageless obsession, bringing out children and adults alike to stand in lines to buy the book. TownCenter Booksellers’ coordinator of special events, Laura Whittemore, said she has heard that 35 percent of the series’ readers are adults. She’s torn through the books herself, finding it gives her something she can discuss intensely with her grandchildren.Whittemore rang up book after book just after midnight, dressed as Hogwart’s Professor McGonagall with spectacles on the end of her nose and a tall, pointy witch’s hat. Her store colleagues were dead ringers for other characters: Professor Trelawny, who gave crystal ball readings to kids in the store earlier in the evening; Professor Severus Snape clad in black; and tabloid reporter Rita Skeeter of the Daily Prophet with loud lipstick, wild hair and horn-rimmed glasses.The store ordered 400 copies of the thick book and by 1 a.m. had sold just under 100 editions. Explore Booksellers in Aspen opened its doors to a line of customers just after midnight and also sold about 100 books – including one to a girl dressed as a golden snitch, a piece of sporting equipment in the wizarding world.The Soliday family, parents Andrew and Laurie and son Drew, 8, drove to Basalt from their home near Ruedi Reservoir for the celebration. Andrew Soliday, dressed in a long gray beard and robe as Professor Albus Dumbledore, said the family started listening to the book series on compact discs years ago. Laurie, dressed as a witch, and Drew, as a Hogwarts student, said they’d pick up the book and begin reading it aloud at bedtime as a family.

Carbondale resident Lily Reed, 11, admitted at 11:30 p.m. that she was “pretty tired already,” but she was happy to be at the celebration for the new book. Her dad, Dave Reed, suggested they attend the shindig. Reed said he started reading the books to his daughter before she was old enough to read them herself.”I like that the books are kind of abstract – they’re not really real, but they seem like they could be,” Lily said. If she went to Hogwarts, she said, she’d probably be in Ravenclaw – one of the four houses that students are sorted into when they get to school. Her cat would be a Gryffindor.What is it about Harry Potter books that brings out avid readers of all generations? If anyone knows, it’s Carbondale residents Michael Chock and Susan Hayward. Years ago, Chock bought the first book in the series at a Denver bookstore, and Hayward,

his mother, stayed up until 3 a.m. reading it. Chock went to a costume party that year dressed as Harry Potter, and no one there knew who he was.”What’s not to like?” Hayward said, holding a picture frame over her face, dressed as a portrait that hangs in Hogwarts. “There’s the depth of character development, the essence of good and evil in every book, and how innocence always wins. And Harry Potter is not just the hero – someone else is always helping him.”Chock, now 17, was dressed as Potter, complete with messy black hair, round glasses and a scar drawn on his forehead. As a senior at Colorado Rocky Mountain School, he’s grown up reading the books. Everyone loves Harry Potter, he said.A group of 13-year-old girls across the room confirmed that. They’ve read them all, listened to the books on tape, seen the movies and are now dressed up as characters Luna Lovegood, Ginny Weasley, Hermione Granger and Gabrielle Delacour.

“Yuck, I just ate dirt!” said Olivia Mertz of Carbondale, 13, twisting up her face in disgust at the Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Bean she had just popped in her mouth. The jellybeans, made for mere mortals by Jelly Belly, are just like those in the book, coming in delicious flavors like chocolate and marshmallow, but also including flavors like booger, grass, dirt and vomit.”It’s a great thing to have excitement over a book – usually this kind of excitement comes from video games,” said Doc Eason, a local magician who helped coordinate the entertainment at the party. “And these books are about good versus evil, it’s been a basic plot line for years and years.”Fans eagerly forked over cash and credit cards to purchase the book for $31.97, with plans to read late into the night and spend a summer weekend with their noses inside a new adventure.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com

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