On the morning of Saturday July 21st 2007, I – like so many fellow readers – turned the last page and closed shut the final volume of a momentous seven part fantasy series. Like those fellow readers, this was a journey we had embarked upon so many years prior, and while those first fledgling steps into this magical land promised a thrilling battle of good and evil – as our protagonist battled through myths, mazes and monsters – little did we know then how epic in scope the final tale would tell. I still recall those first few words, so pregnant with possibility…
“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”
Ohhh, I’m sorry. Did I lead my Constant Readers astray?
Well, it’s all true and amazingly coincidental. On the same day that the seventh volume in the Harry Potter series dropped, I closed the book on Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. None of that was by design – in fact, it was a few days before I put the two together and realized the irony of the situation. On one side of the equation, people who had stayed in line all evening to purchase this final volume had spent the entire night speed reading their way to Harry’s denouement. On the other side, I was flipping the final page of a book I had started reading well over a year ago.
There are two lessons to be learned here.
For starters, The Dark Tower (that is, the final novel titled The Dark Tower) absolutely SUCKED!!!! It should pain me to say that but really, I’m just happy to be rid of the whole mess. It was a fascinating series that King unfortunately rushed to the finish line when a runaway van crashed upside his head and reminded him of his own mortality.
The second lesson is aimed at the Potter fans. First, a question. Where were your mothers that fateful Friday night? Well, since a Mom’s work is never done, here goes:
Chew Your Food!!!
I’m actually kind of stunned at the shear number of people I have encountered that finished that book in one night. Sure, I don’t advocate my year long sabbatical with King’s thing, but to wait with baited breath for that final delicious morsel and then to just inhale the entire sweet treat – wrapper and all – without chewing or digesting, seems like an awful waste of a good thing. It just seems like that series was meant to be enjoyed – to be savored – to keep the good times rolling a bit longer. Instead, everyone stayed up all night, downed the 745 pages like so many White Castle sliders, and now what???
It’s over, Johnny.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that almost every person I ran into within days of that book’s release had already finished it. Most completed it the first day. Some, I guess, had to take a bathroom break and finished it sometime Saturday afternoon. (Yup, that’s Muggles for ya’.) What pushed me over the edge was when listening to a radio show Monday morning, every caller dialed in with their completion times. Word is the NFL is thinking of adding this skill-set to their annual Combine. I’m dying to see what Pac-Man Jones scored .
I think the saddest thing about all of this is on the same day that I trudged through the final passages in a series that began with such promise, a legion of fans treated Rowling’s life’s work like so many Krispy Kremes.
In reading EW this morning, I find I am not alone in this sentiment. Sean can back me up that my thoughts on the matter came well before Uncle Stevies. Sure, King takes umbrage at the critics who digested the book and then immediately spun a review but I think the criticism wields blanket powers. In fact, I think he’s wrong when he says the critics spoiled the meal while the readers savored it. They’re all guilty of the gorge.
I have yet to crack a Potter book but I’m actually looking forward to it now. While I have seen the films, I know that much of the experience will be a bit lessened for me. I’m not discovering this universe with fresh eyes as so many readers had the opportunity to do. I do envy that. That said, I look to the books to color in the corners that always fray on the transition from scribe to screen.
And now, with all the pressure off, I can take my time and enjoy the ride.