in the frenzy at the Book House: Four friends pose with
their new books and Hagrid, a character from the series.
moon had been in the sky for several hours, and the air was
as thick as dragon’s blood. This, however, did not deter hundreds
of shiny-faced muggles (non-magic folk) from descending on
the Bookmark in Loudonville’s Newton Plaza, eagerly awaiting
the just-past-midnight release of the sixth installment of
the Harry Potter series, titled Harry Potter and the Half-Blood
the time I arrived at 10:30 PM, the scene itself was hours
old. The Mr. Bouncety-Bounce, which had been erected in a
roped-off portion of the parking lot, seemed like it was getting
the workout of a lifetime; and the balloon-sculpting clown
looked as though she might do with a little help from the
same generator. Though this might give the impression of some
careworn Joycean carnival depiction, the children were ecstatic,
jumping up and down as they asked their parents, “Is it almost
time?” It had been two years since the release of book five
(Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), and now
only 90 minutes separated these wide-eyed youngsters from
J.K. Rowling’s latest achievement.
There was food aplenty, cocktail wienies, pizza, and other
finger foods, but no one appeared to eat much. The Starbucks
next door remained open past its usual closing time, helping
to support the event while also taking advantage of a captive
(by choice) audience.
Costumes were secondary on the minds of many of the patrons—one
man walked by with a T-shirt, shorts, and a black cape, while
others struggled to figure out which character he was supposed
to represent. Some were successful, though by all accounts,
the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza was far better in this
arena. Owner Susan Novotny was a convincing Professor McGonagall
(the elderly, yet talented witch, and head of Gryffindor House),
and Hagrid and even Willy Wonka made appearances.
Back at the Bookmark, though, no one appeared to let the lack
of character-specific costumes affect their good time. Above
the sweaty and energetic din, Sheila Fontenot, the owner of
the Bookmark, seemed quite satisfied with the goings-on. She
said that while the chain bookstores may be able to provide
more activities to their patrons on this night, the atmosphere
was more intimate at independents like the Bookmark and the
At 11:45 PM, we were coaxed into a line outside of the store.
People had been given either a yellow or a purple ticket with
a number on it. This number was the order in which we were
to receive our books; yellow went first (the people who prepaid),
and then purple (those who had reserved but not paid). Somehow,
my friend Michael had managed to get yellow tickets Nos. 1
and 2. I felt somehow strange being in front of children in
line, knowing that I was going to have my book before them.
But I wasn’t about to give up my number. At 12:01 AM, we entered
and received our copies of the book along with the approximately
200 other customers who preordered the book.
It’s unlikely that many of the children who waited so long
to get their copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
actually made it through the second chapter that night (though
many would finish the entire book in a day or two), but watching
their young, triumphant faces as they walked to the counter
was magical. The wait was over, the quest was at a successful
end; they’d finally gotten their book. After I’d gotten mine,