W H a T ’ S a n a u T H O r T O d O W H e n T H e W O r L d K e e P S d e m a n d I n g m O r e f r O m b O O K S T H a T H a v e e n d e d b u T C O n T I n u e T O T H r I v e a S C u LT u r a L P H e n O m e n a ?

WKND - - Fan Club Saga - By Sarah LYALL

19 YEARS ON: Cast pho­tos of a grown- up Harry ( from the up­com­ing Harry Pot­ter and the K Rowl­ing al­ways said that the sev­enth Harry Pot­ter book, Harry Pot­ter and the Deathly Hallows ( 2007), would be the last in the se­ries, and so far she has kept to her word. But t hough she’s writ­ten many new things in the in­ter­ven­ing nine years, in­clud­ing four adult nov­els, she’s never been able to put Harry to rest, or to leave him alone. What’s an author to do when she once seemed to be done? Tak­ing an ap­proach that some fans love and oth­ers do not, Rowl­ing has never made a secret of her con­tin­ued im­mer­sion in Pot­ter- world. Over the years, she has reg­u­larly in­ter­jected new el­e­ments into the old sto­ries, some­times through sud­den Twitter pro­nounce­ments, some­times by other means.

She also reg­u­larly pro­duces fresh an­cil­lary ma­te­rial — new sto­ries, new elab­o­ra­tions — on her Pot­ter­more web­site, most re­cently a se­ries of fic­tional es­says about the his­tory of magic in North Amer­ica. And now comes Harry Pot­ter and the Cursed Child, a play in two full- length parts that opens July 30 and is be­ing ad­ver­tised as the of­fi­cial “eighth story in the Harry Pot­ter canon”. Set 19 years af­ter the events of Harry Pot­ter and the Deathly Hallows, the play imag­ines Harry as an over­worked em­ployee of the Min­istry of Magic and fo­cuses on his mid­dle child, Al­bus Severus, and his strug­gle to come to terms with his fam­ily’s legacy.

No one who re­mem­bers the frenzy sur­round­ing the pub­li­ca­tion of each of the Pot­ter books would be sur­prised to learn there is now a frenzy sur­round­ing this play and all the de­tails around it, like the dis­clo­sure that a black ac­tress, Noma Dumezweni, is por­tray­ing Hermione.

The news has been re­leased slowly — Rowl­ing is a master of con­trolled pub­lic­ity — and cast pho­tos of a grown- up Harry ( Jamie Parker) and Ginny Pot­ter ( Poppy Miller), along with Al­bus ( Sam Clem­mett), have been un­veiled on the Pot­ter­more web­site.

Per­for­mances, at least for the first of the two parts, are sold out through May 2017. Sec­ondary- mar­ket tick­ets to the first pre­view are sell­ing for nearly $ 5,800. And the play’s script — by Rowl­ing, Jack Thorne and John Tif­fany, who is also the di­rec­tor — is No. 1 on the Ama­zon best- seller list, de­spite the fact that it won’t be pub­lished un­til July 31, Harry Pot­ter’s birth­day.

If that wasn’t enough, this fall will come Fan­tas­tic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a movie that is both a spinoff and a kind of pre­quel. Writ­ten by Rowl­ing ( who did not write the screen­plays for the eight Pot­ter movies), it is very loosely based on her book of the same name. That vol­ume was a fic­tional wizard­ing- school text­book. The film takes its sup­posed author, Newt Sca­man­der, sends him back many years to when he was a young man and trans­ports him to Amer­ica. Star­ring Ed­die Red­mayne, the movie is ex­pected to be the first of a tril­ogy.

Clearly, Rowl­ing has not wanted to put Harry Pot­ter be­hind her. It’s an in­ter­est­ing dilemma for an author, par­tic­u­larly one who cre­ates an elab­o­rate world over many vol­umes: How do you stop? ( Do you want to stop?)

Both Philip Pull­man, author of the Dark Ma­te­ri­als se­ries, and Stephe­nie Meyer, author of the Twi­light se­ries, have spo­ken about fur­ther books to come, years af­ter those sto­ries were ap­par­ently put to rest. On the other ex­treme, Sir Arthur Co­nan Doyle grew so weary of Sher­lock Holmes that he killed him off, only to res­ur­rect him years later in re­sponse to wide­spread pub­lic un­hap­pi­ness. In an in­ter­view, Mag­gie Stief­vater, author of the wildly pop­u­lar young- adult Shiver and Raven se­ries, spoke of the temptation to re­visit char­ac­ters she thought she had fin­ished with. The Shiver books were meant to be a tril­ogy, she ex­plained, and she even put a note into the third one promis­ing never to come back to the story. But then, while writ­ing the Raven books, she changed her mind and pub­lished a fourth Shiver book. “I had thought, ‘ No outs what­so­ever’, and then I looked like a to­tal id­iot,” she said. Stephen King, who has writ­ten many se­ries as well as stand- alone nov­els, said that the same thing tends to hap­pen to him. In 2012, for in­stance, eight years af­ter com­plet­ing his sev­en­vol­ume Dark Tower se­ries, he pro­duced an eighth book, The Wind Through the Key­hole, whose ac­tion takes place be­tween Books Four and Five. Char­ac­ters with un­fin­ished busi­ness in­vei­gle them­selves into his head, he said in a tele­phone in­ter­view. He’s cur­rently toy­ing with go­ing back into his Bill Hodges tril­ogy, though End of Watch, com­ing out next month, is meant to be the fi­nal in­stal­ment. “There’s a char­ac­ter named Holly I keep think­ing about,” he said. Rowl­ing gives in­ter­views very rarely and de­clined to com­ment for this ar­ti­cle. But King said he sym­pa­thised with her re­la­tion­ship to her ma­te­rial. “There are two things,” he said. “I think she likes the Harry Pot­ter peo­ple, and it’s a lit­tle bit hard for her to let go. And she’s aware that there are mil­lions and mil­lions of peo­ple who l oved t hose books. Writ­ers feel a re­spon­si­bil­ity to their readers, and some of that is a way of say­ing to the fans, ‘ If you want a lit­tle more, I’ll give you a lit­tle more.’” In­deed, all this new ma­te­rial is prov­ing ex­cit­ing to many Pot­ter fans. They can’t get enough. Now, even the small­est snip­pet of in­for­ma­tion about the play — the in­tro­duc­tion of hand­carved sconces for each of the Hog­warts houses and of new wand de­signs, for in­stance — sends the In­ter­net into ec­stasy. On May 2, Rowl­ing is­sued a Tweet apol­o­gis­ing for killing off Re­mus Lupin, the re­luc­tant were­wolf, in

mu­ta­ble. Hearing new de­tails about things they hadn’t re­alised were open to in­ter­pre­ta­tion feels like cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance, as if some­one were tam­per­ing with the word­ing of the Con­sti­tu­tion. “It’s dispir­it­ing to be faced with daily re­minders that one of your for­mer he­roes is still tin­ker­ing with a world they thought you left be­hind per­fectly pre­served in child­hood,” Heather Sch­wedel wrote re­cently in Slate.

For her part, Stief­vater said that she never ac­qui­esces to fans’ re­quests for ex­tra in­for­ma­tion. “Some peo­ple come up to me and ask me to give them ma­te­rial out­side the books — for in­stance, what is Gansey’s favourite ice­cream flavour?” she said, re­fer­ring to one of her teenage pro­tag­o­nists. “I never re­spond to them. Per­son­ally, I think it’s un­fair — it re­wards only some readers and not those who don’t dig through all the ar­chives to find the new lit­tle fac­toids.”

She counts her­self a Rowl­ing fan and con­sid­ers Harry Pot­ter’s world to have closed af­ter Harry Pot­ter and the Deathly Hallows.

“I have such re­spect for what JK Rowl­ing has done,” she said. “I know I en­gaged with her se­ries at a mo­ment in time, like a lot of peo­ple did. And if you re­turn to it, it feels like it’s stretch­ing on — peo­ple aren’t re­mem­ber­ing the se­ries as much as the cul­tural phe­nom­e­non.” Of the new de­tails that have emerged over the years, she said, “They rip­ple through­out fan­dom and, for fan­dom, it’s highly re­ward­ing but, as a reader, it’s not how I en­gage with books.”

With a new set of movies on the hori­zon, some fans worry that Rowl­ing will make the same mis­take that Ge­orge Lu­cas did af­ter the three orig­i­nal Star Wars films, pro­duc­ing in­fe­rior work that de­tracts from the bril­liance of the orig­i­nal.

They men­tion, too, how Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watch­man dis­mayed readers who loved To Kill a Mock­ing­bird and wanted its world to re­main in­tact. ( An ar­ti­cle in The At­lantic last Septem­ber about Rowl­ing’s post- Pot­ter, Pot­ter- rich work was ti­tled “Harry Pot­ter and the Never- End­ing Story.”)

But to Anelli, who was a teenager when the books were pub­lished and is now 36, there can’t be enough new ma­te­rial. “She’s creat­ing it, and whatever she cre­ates be­comes part of the story. As long as she wants to make it, as long there’s more story com­ing from her, I’m su­per- happy,” she said.

— New York Times Syn­di­cate

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