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Home > Harry Potter News

On the scene: Harry, Carrie, and Garp - Night 2

Wizard News Exclusive
by Barbara L. Hanson, Wizard News reporter

On the steamiest Manhattan night in many years, I took the subway (flashlight in my purse in case of the much-anticipated blackout) for the second night of Harry, Carrie, and Garp. My heart sank as I approached; the crowded sidewalks looked chaotic but, thankfully, the security guards and ticket takers worked efficiently and pleasantly, and I was inside in under five minutes. There were a few smaller children in costume, but the majority of the crowd was comprised of adults and older teenagers. I ordered a frozen cosmopolitan (mostly because it came with a glowing red magic wand as a swizzle stick), and made my way to my seat.

When the lights went down, I realized that perhaps there was a larger contingent of children than I had first thought--the shriek that went up was as deafening as any subway car's screeching brakes.

Whoopi Goldberg was the host, and her introduction, though heartfelt and enthusiastic, was repetitive and overlong. Tim Robbins introduced Stephen King via an amusing riff on the many mispronunciations of The Shawshank (hey, did I get it right?) Redemption. King went on to read an hilarious but gross story. Stanley Tucci then led into John Irving, who read an extremely funny Christmas tale from A Prayer for Owen Meany (which I bought the next day). Both men were surprisingly gifted in their ability to perform a wide variety of character voices.

Then, it was time. Kathy Bates introduced J. K. Rowling and, while I'm sure she said lovely things, I was holding my breath in anticipation, waiting for the moment. And, suddenly, there she was, looking utterly beautiful. My eyes welled up with tears. She acknowledged the applause, then made a self-deprecating joke about feeling like Herman's Hermits going on after the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, then impishly pointed out that she did have much better shoes than the men--spectacular sandals entwined with silver snakes. She read a brief selection from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, in which Harry and Dumbledore travel back in time to visit Tom Riddle, so soon to be the soi-disant Lord Voldemort.

Photo courtesy of Scholastic

Afterward, I believe she was asked a total of eight Harry Potter questions; four when she was onstage alone, and the remainder when she was later on stage with her fellow authors. Several questions caused her to cover her face and shake her head. She verbally fenced and dodged, bobbed and weaved, and threw us a few interesting tidbits. One very astute young woman asked her if the flush on Aunt Petunia's face upon being told that Harry's next visit to Privet Drive would be his last, signified a deeper, hidden affection for Harry and/or unsuspected ties to the wizarding world. Jo seemed truly taken aback, paused briefly, then told us that there was a good deal more to Petunia than met the eye, and that we would find out in book seven.

A very young boy asked in a roundabout, albeit moving, way if Dumbledore were truly dead. Jo's eyes seemed to moisten before she responded in an equally roundabout manner that, yes, Dumbledore is dead, but that he would play a role in book seven. The next questioners, Salman Rushdie and his son, asked (the question was voiced by Mr. Rushdie), interwoven with many theories of his own, whether Dumbledore were dead and whether Snape good or evil. She was much firmer this time on the Dumbledore question. He is dead, and not about to do a Gandalf, a Lord of the Rings reference that went straight over my head. I must add that during this discussion, she mentioned the Dumbledore Is Not Dead website, and said that its adherents would be terribly unhappy. She advised to begin moving through the five stages of grief, the first being denial, the second, anger, saying however, that she didn't want us all to get angry right that moment. Her response on the Snape question was rather muted, stating to Mr. Rushdie that his opinion was correct. Given that his opinion covered both sides of the issue, one can put one's own interpretation on it. (Snape is good! Yay!)

Jo also reported that she had mentally changed the title of Harry Potter Book Seven that morning, in the shower.

The panel Q&A;, hosted by Soledad O'Brien, didn't really elicit any further nuggets of information. Jo's response to the which-five-of-your-characters-would-you-like-to-invite-to-dinner question led to a bit of a stumble. She invited the trio, then said that she was the only one who knew who lived, stopped...and then added Dumbledore and Hagrid. On a similar note, she also said Hagrid was the character she would most like to bring to life, particularly to chat with (I'm paraphrasing a bit here, and perhaps throughout. It was too dark to take notes) fundamentalist Christians.

All three authors exited to the last of many standing ovations, all of which were richly deserved.

Published August 3, 2006

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