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Pootering About On:2005-08-12 04:45:08

I'm sure that you, my listener, are certain to be numbered, along with that unknown tribe in the deepest Amazon and those guys doing that complete isolation experiment hidden away wherever it is, numbered among those who have not been bombarded for the last six months with special offers to pre-order the latest Hairy Pooter book at an amazing discount, and who then didn't, as a direct consequence of this, rush out at midnight (whichever day pre-ordering became, in the natural order of things, ordering) to get one, thus adding to the greatest event in publishing history and helping to countersink one of the more ultimate-ish nails in the coffin of literacy.

Not that I particularly object to the works of billionaire vixen Rowling in general nor to this latest in her series in particular, and to be honest I must admit that I haven't even got my latest copy yet. The reason for this has absolutely nothing to do with the latest book but is rather that I force my aged parents to perform this dark and midnight task for me, and perform it, moreover, in England. The reason in turn for THIS is that the very first of the series was subtly different in it's country of origin and thereby hangs an essay. You see originally the book that is called here Hairy Pooter and the Sorcerers' Stone was, in England, the book formerly known as Hairy Pooter and the Philosophers' Stone and it was only the Atlantic crossing that caused its sea-change1 into something strange (and incidentally made her into something rich), but note that the Canadian crossing seems to have had no such effect, and don't you just think that that's rich? ...and strange! ...and, moreover, your fault!!

And of course the reason for that (which makes it the reason for the reason for the reason for ...whatever) is that back when she was just a relatively poor vixen, not yet published in the States, she apparently accepted more or less reluctantly the suggestion from her American publisher that the change in title would reflect the subject of the book better and be more 'magical' and that therefore children would be more likely to buy the book. And many of us are left wondering just how low the publisher's opinion of American youth might be. And then this apparent belief that American youth "ain't had no skoolin'" gains a note of irony once you realize that this publisher is called Scholastic: the divergence of their name and their behaviour in dumbing down poor Hairy's book's name makes their own naming look like an act of apophatic, or perhaps more colourfully auto-oxymoronic, onomasticism akin to the laughingly ironic 'sleepover' that Scholastic's presumed target demographic is famed for not sleeping during.

Not only that but I suspect that there wouldn't have been half the objections from the extreme right along the lines of the series being wicked, and promoting witchcraft, and probably Evil Willow and those women from that Charmed series and Satan and Spotted Owls too---if they had only left it as a stoned Philosopher! (Though I also suspect that the extreme right objects to philosophers almost as much as to sorcerers, and anyway I'm so much more suspicious about Scholastic's own plots to get free AlFrankenish publicity along with the free notoriety that those objections would bring that I won't even go there!)

Finally what makes me avoid giving what, as I've been working on this essay, I've come to think of as Scholspastic any of my encouraging money is that, unlike their nonce term nonsense of the Sorcerers' Stone, the Philosophers' Stone has a rich and resonant history: it has long been the fabled substance that would instantly shorten your life and turn gold into lead---or maybe it was the other way about, but anyway whichever way it tended to go it is a well-known concept (at least well-known outside that world capital of child intelligence denigration at 557 Broadway) a concept searched for, at least through the Middle Ages and early Modern periods, by Alchemysts (and other Chymists) including the once actually extant Nicholas Flamel who was rumoured to actually have had at least one Philosophers' Stone and who was also actually mentioned in the book.

So while I await that package from England with my copy of Hairy Pooter and the Half-Price Book I'll just say

Cheerio for now
Richard (Plano's clean-shaven answer to Dumbledore) Howland-Bolton


1 "... sea-change" When are you absolute bastards going to realise that 'sea' is not an intensifier modifying 'change'?
A sea change isn't a really, really big change, but is one effected by the sea.
The phrase is, I assume, a reference to Francis Bac Shakespeare's song from The Tempest "Full fathom five---My father lies! It's only two point eight" or whatever it is that Ariel sings.
It's just like that other bloody annoying bit of intense ignorance 'epicenter '.

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