By this point I’ve ready the book cover to cover, but I’m going to wait a few days before commenting on it to give other people a chance to catch up. But the release party was a whole hell of a lot of fun and I wanted to share!
The Barnes and Noble at Lincoln Center had a million and six things going on. Right when you came in the door there was a fortune-telling booth and a couple of chamber musicians playing music from the movies. On the second floor were crafts tables and the like. But the real treats were on the third floor: costume contests, actors doing improv based on what audience members thought would happen in the seventh book, and… LIVE WIZARD CHESS.
The wizard chess was whole levels of awesome. You put your name in a hat and I got picked as a Slytherin knight. We squared off across a huge chessboard laid out on the floor, and two chess grandmasters called out the moves they wanted us to make. Which would have been terrific fun in and of itself, but there was a twist: Before you could make the move chosen for you, you had to answer a really hard trivia question (divided into age levels, but still, how many people can list the ingredients of polyjuice?), and if you got it wrong, your side lost that turn. So the grandmasters had no idea whether the gambit they were setting up would be railroaded by missing three turns in a row. And because you weren’t allowed to say the answer if it wasn’t your turn, everyone was jumping up and down on the squares in frustrated delight, going, “Oh, I know this one! I know this one!” A store employee who I’ve seen before, a real sweetie, dressed up as Harry Potter and asked the questions, but the judge was this employee dressed as Draco Malfoy who really hammed it up and got into the role, trying to give Slytherin extra points and insulting the Gryffindors left and right. I did pretty well, but I got taken out by a five-year-old Gryffindor bishop who didn’t even come up to my waist, which was cool because after he got his question right in this tiny little voice, he put up his dukes and fake-pummelled me off my square, so I had a fun death.
By the time midnight rolled around, everyone was sleep-deprived, coasting on enthusiasm and Starbucks-induced sugar rushes, and then they announced that they were closing down the store except for people actually buying the book, so I left since I wasn’t going to buy it on Friday night. When I got down to street level, the line for reserved copies went all the way around four sides of a city block and onto a neighboring block. Three blocks away, I could still hear people squealing like Elvis fans as they got their copies.
I went back the next day to read the book in the store, and again, the line was around the block. For the first four hours the store was open, it was just a steady stream of people coming in, going straight to the counter, getting the book and going out again, while the booksellers ran back and forth from the stockroom with more boxes to replenish the stores. I was up in the cafe, sitting across from this high school girl who was playing hooky from shul. And we’re reading at roughly the same pace, but at any given moment, one of us will be a little ahead of the other and giggle or get misty-eyed, and the other would say, “Wait, wait! I’m not there yet!” But as promised, I’ll save my thoughts about the book for a later post, except to say that I take back every bad thing I’ve ever said about J.K. Rowling. This book was whole levels above what I thought she was capable of.