My wife slyly left her copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — the fifth installment in the adolescence and sorcery saga that has assumed the penetration and prominence of 21st century world mythology — casually perched within arm’s length of our bathroom throne.
I ignored it pointedly, seeking to maintain my independence from its ubiquity, but after Warner Bros. announced a few weeks ago that filming had begun on the movie version of Phoenix, my resolve melted into the seductively cerulean blue cover of the thick paperback beckoning to me from the towel caddy.
Though cursed with very limited discretionary reading time, I have waded about a quarter of the way into Potter-5 waters, and while I am reserving final judgment, I certainly can taste the appeal of J.K. Rowling’s brew of subtle socio-political commentary, adolescent psychology, fairy lore, ironic humor, and gripping storytelling; and I also enjoy the depth and filigree of the literary vs. filmed Potter experience.
Through this submersion in printed Potter, it has also finally dawned on me that the wizarding world is not unlike that of the Amish: parallel to and intersecting with mainstream contemporary civilization, but eschewing the distractions and complications of its most prevalent driving force, electricity. There are no televisons, computers, radios, CD players, or toaster ovens at Hogwarts. I’m not sure what they do about refrigeration, but as far as I can tell the old place isn’t even wired.
So it is rather boldly ironic that the grand prize in U.S. Potter-series publisher Scholastic’s new sweepstakes — counting down to the July 25 release of the paperback version of Potter-6, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince — would be a Harry Potter iPod package that includes a 30GB iPod etched with the crest of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and all six downloadable Potter audiobooks from the iTunes Music Store.
Beginning March 1st and continuing with a new installment every Wednesday for six weeks, fans can take part in the weekly online poll, one for each of the books published to date. Each week the poll will contain a different printable Harry Potter book cover to be pasted on to a downloadable entry form. After all six Harry Potter covers have been collected, the entry form can be mailed in for a chance to win fab Potter prizes like the iPod, J.K. Rowling-signed deluxed editions, and hardcover Potter boxed sets.
The Scholastic Potter site has a bunch of other participatory shenanigans for fans to fumble about with as well. With a first printing of 2 million copies, the paperback version of Prince brings the total number of all six Harry Potter books in print in the U.S. to over 120 million.
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