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Heard about Tales of Beedle the Bard? It's a limited-edition, handbound, handwritten book by Rowling containing five fairy tales that fit in the Harry Potter universe. There are 7 extant, of which Amazon got one on auction for 2 million pounds [no, really]. The proceeds are going to Rowling's pet charity, the Children's Voice Campaign.

I am pretty ambivalent about this stunt. It earns money for a good cause, yay hooray, but it also escalates the general feeding frenzy surrounding anything related to Harry Potter. It is a physically beautiful item, bound like a grimoire with moonstone-eyed skulls, but that's kind of irrelevant because it's so rare that it will probably be guarded, rather than displayed for enjoyment. 

I think what I object to most of all is that Rowling is wielding her immense business savvy in service of a project that, to me at least, seems to be the diametrical opposite of what books represent philosophically. Yes, books represent a convenient storage medium for information, and, like all books, The Tales of Beedle the Bard stores information well enough. Books are also a tool to distribute information, however, which means that they are made for wide audiences. They are designed to be possessed, passed along and used. The Tales of Beedle the Bard is, by the fact of its small edition size, designed so that most people cannot afford it or keep it, which is to say that is is designed NOT to be possessed [at least by you, me or any of the other rabble]. Because the book is riding a wave of Rowling mania, it is an object created to capitalize upon said mania by encouraging people to gawk at it, rather than pass it along. Essentially, books say, "I am a book. Use me. Spread the word!" The Tales of Beedle the Bard says, "Oh, I'm technically a book, insofar as I'm constructed to look and theoretically function exactly like one. In principle, however, I'm not a book because YOU CAN'T READ ME HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!"

I am sure that the content of the stories will somehow escape their limited-edition confines and become available to the general mass of readers, but that doesn't obviate my point. My point is that this project comes across as rather unfriendly, self-involved and, to my gut instincts, unfair because Rowling trumpets that she had written some new stories, but the audience to which she trumpets can't read them because they're not worth[y] enough. I'm torn now because I really want to read The Tales of Beedle the Bard because I'm always on the lookout for new fairy tales. At the same time, Rowling's deployment of the ultra-limited edition seems less about raising money for a good cause and more about the glorification of her own product empire.

The tone of the Amazon.com review -- which is quite possibly the most truckling, cowering, cringeing, fawning, kowtowing, toadying, sycophantic, grovelling, apple-polishing, brown-nosing, servile piece of flattering lickspittle up-suckery that I have ever read -- does not increase my goodwill either. [Did you like that phrase? Over the years, I have amassed quite a collection of words related to obsequious behavior. "Lickspittle" is my favorite because it implies someone who is willing to abase him/herself so low as to slurp up the saliva of someone else off a dirty floor.]


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Feb. 15th, 2008 09:41 pm (UTC)
Some the comments in defense of Rowling (I skimmed) were just as pathetic.

Presumably they'll issue it for the plebes at some point.

Its good that a charity is getting the money, but I'm struck by the fact that its going to institutions in Europe . . . .

Our whole society is about the special privs and access the rich can get, to the government, to secrets, to perks and back rooms. Why should literature be any different. *sour face*
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )


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