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>Get a grip.

>I’m staggered by the readers’ comments, all four hundred-plus of them, attached to NYT public editor Clark Hoyt’s defense of Michiko Kakutani’s review of Harry Potter. I routinely skip reviews of things I want to “see for myself” first: did this not occur as a strategy to anyone? (I saw the epitome of this thinking on Child_lit, where someone pronounced the book satisfying, and somebody else started screaming about spoilers.) And the outrage that the Times did not honor Scholastic’s embargo–why are so many so willingly led by the nose?

Not by Harry Potter, I hasten to add, but by the mentality of a herd that somehow thinks that its numbers–and the presence of children, cautiously surrounded and protected by the adult bulls and cows–justify a ludicrous degree of entitlement. Is the book’s merit so shakily dependent upon plot turns that it is so easily spoiled? Why can’t the Times give Harry Potter the same treatment they would give any book? (That is, review it ahead of publication date?) How can Scholastic (admirably) turn the release of a book into news and then complain that it is treated as such? And don’t quote “Jo” at me. I haven’t met her, neither have you, but in any case respecting–even considering–her wishes regarding the reviewing of her books is both ickily sycophantic and cowardly.

Yes, it’s hot here.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. >Thank you! I’ve found a big contradiction between those who defended Harry as being “art” when faced with the prospect of a major character (possibly Harry) dying, and Rowling needing to be true to her art, yet allowing it to be totally “commerce” when it comes to this artificial release date. The release date serves no other purpose than to drum up buzz and sales.

  2. >Amen. I avoided all reviews and related media for the few days leading up to the release of HP7 because I didn’t want to be spoiled. It just wasn’t that difficult.

    But then again, I’m a parent who simply changes the channel if I don’t like the programming for my children. Imagine that.

  3. Anonymous says:

    >I got a kick out of the commenter who insisted the reviewer couldn’t have read the book in two days.

    Um, well, I read it in about 5 hours and my 11-year-old read it in about 9. And I daresay some of your regulars could have beat me.

  4. >I expect a major movie, CD, or book release to be reviewed prior to release. It’s how the business works. If I’m really interested and don’t want spoilers, I avoid the reviews.

    In the case of Harry Potter, the only real spoiler for this book is that there aren’t any real surprises. The expectation of major surprises and major deaths were key to the hype, so not having either would have undercut the hype.

  5. >I’m reminded of the You Tube video that surfaced after the release of Half Blood Prince that followed a bunch of teens who got the book at the midnight party, skipped to the end of the book, and then drove by the entrance to the store, shouting “Snape kills Dumbledore!” at exiting customers.

    I can avoid spoilers like the rest of them (and managed to do so, no matter who posted what on the internet all that week). Giving people who delight in this sort of behavior early access to information, allowing them to ruin it for others, strikes me as a reason to dislike the early review.

  6. Anonymous says:

    >I too am staggered! Do you suppose those 400 protesters ever read anything else in the TIMES? One shudders to think that these are potential voters – supposedly more educated than DAILY NEWS readers. (Pity the poor Public Editor!)

  7. >I find the Harry Potter excitement and the publication parties charming and a happy moment for those who wanted it. However, the outrage over a review situation that every other writer on the planet expects and even hopes for has finally made me wonder if we should be considering these volumes as books at all. Perhaps they are merely pop culture events. And that’s fine. They’ve made plenty of people happy.

    But as with most things in life, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t claim that you’re talking about a piece of literature and then turn around and complain when it is treated as one.

  8. >I think my most favorite “spoiler” has to be a British license plate I saw that read, “SNPKLSDMBLDR.”

    Crafty, eh?

  9. >Bravo, Roger. Hype is self-perpetuating, afterall; I’m surprised anyone was really surprised by the leaks and the early reviews. I thought Kakutani’s review was admirably both critcal and restrained.

  10. Monica Edinger says:

    >What a satisfying post!

  11. >This is my favorite post out of the whole hoo-ha.

  12. Anonymous says:

    >Keep in mind that certain online communities have “leaders” who seek out online polls and chats on their topic, be it candidates for public office, lobbying groups, or Harry Potter. They then instruct their minions via email to go to said poll or chat and flood it with comment supporting their cause. When I see an irregular number of comments with an irregular percentage favoring one point of view, I suspect the host has been “e-bombed.”

  13. Roger Sutton says:

    >Wow, you guys. When I wrote this post at the end of a long, dispiriting day (it’s dated in the AM but that was only when I logged the link for further perusal) I thought I would get slammed even among the Muggles.

    My long dispirition had nothing to do with Harry but with a speech I was trying to write for Simmons. Tomorrow. It’s going much better today.

  14. Elizabeth Fama says:

    >Ha! Stella, I love that license plate. It’s too bad American plates (or at least Illinois plates) allow a mere 7 characters. My writing partner could apparently only fit the truncated version on her plate: DUMBLDR.

  15. Anonymous says:

    >naive thanks to the anonymous who described the “leaders” of online “communities” – OF COURSE those were the 400 who flooded the NYT with Potteristics. I’m reassured and will know how to evaluate similar communications in the future

  16. >I was worried about spoilers. Which is why I didn’t read the CLEARLY MARKED NYT review until after I read the book.

    I found it quite easy to avoid spoilers in the lead up (until my husband read the epilogue and tried to charge me $50 to keep quiet. He accepted the counter-offer of muffins.)

    My main spoiler fear was not a NYT review, but some jerk emailing me and telling me that Ron was Kaiser Soze. Or someone at the release party reading the end and shouting it out. I didn’t fear professionals doing their job, I feared people who wanted to ruin it for a mean-spirited laugh.

    But I safely read it all and am now just trying to keep really quiet because too many of my friends/coworkers are still working through it…

  17. Anonymous says:

    >5 hours to read 759 pages, Anonymous? I admit, the prose is not tough going, and agree that the book can easily be read in less than two days, but averaging two and a half pages a minute can’t be more than skimming.

  18. rindawriter says:

    >Authors really, really, REALLY need to stick to the writing of a book not the reviewing about it…NOR the reading of it….

    A FASCINATING example, however, of the emergence phenomenon…what was that old saying??

    Readers of a “feather” flock together…..ha! A possible little Freudian slip there.

  19. >Marian – I read it in about the same amount of time as Anonymous. Would you care to quiz my comprehension of it?

  20. Anonymous says:

    >This attitude is exactly what bugged me about the other post. Quien es mas macho, baby. If you can really read and enjoy at that rate, have at it!

  21. >That wasn’t my point – I just didn’t understand why it was twisting your knickers. I still don’t. Someone reads speedily – it merited comment exactly why?

  22. Anonymous says:

    >It was the belittling of the commenter and the inherent braggadocio that prompted my comment. But, perhaps, the person (commenter) was provocatively annoying.


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