No, I haven't read the new Harry Potter novel yet. I'm not a fan of the series.
I seem to know a lot of people who trooped to the bookstores last weekend and scrambled for their reserved copies, but even then, that really doesn't surprise me. We love our books, after all, and we all know that it's quite reasonable to expect large crowds for a Harry Potter release.
What surprises me, however, is the fact that I keep hearing about people who have sped through their copies. Iris plowed through the novel in seven hours flat. Claire didn't get a wink of sleep the night she bought it. And those are some of the tamer stories I've heard.
It's interesting, though, that right after all these people tore through the pages like a hot knife through butter, they breathlessly described how good the novel was, decided whether or not they were excited enough to reveal the most spoiling of spoilers, then went back to the beginning and started reading it again.
Now, if that doesn't immediately indicate that they're fans of the series, I find it to be at least a strong logical possibility.
Remember how, back when James Cameron's Titanic came out on the big screen, and everyone was shedding tears at the movie romance of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet? I'm sure we've all heard anecdotes about people who sat through multiple consecutive showings of the movie. And each show must have been at least a three-hour affair, to boot.
We don't seem to notice many people keeping Titanic near and dear to their hearts nowadays, though. I wonder if those same people even bought the DVD when it finally came out. Perhaps they've had their fill already. (Interestingly enough, I do know of at least one former fan who will forever be haunted by Celine Dion's rendition of the theme song. :) )
Fanaticism is a funny thing. It doesn't necessarily have a negative meaning attached to it, but it occasionally makes its way into the "oh no, not again" aspects of modern life. Depending on who we are, we roll our eyes at the prospect of completing entire expansion playsets of Magic cards. Or we balk at the prospect of buying multiple versions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy DVDs. Or we act amused at the possibility of waiting in a 3,000-person line just to meet a favorite author.
That's, of course, depending on who we are. Everybody's a fanatic in some way, after all. For all I know, you buy Magic cards, watch The Lord of the Rings, or have a signed copy of Neil Gaiman's Smoke and Mirrors collection.
I should know. I play Legend of the Five Rings, catch Ghost in the Shell on the tube, and read Terry Pratchett whenever I can.
We all have things that we like, and chances are such that something, somewhere, is going to come around that we do not merely "like", but really, really love. It's probably part of the probability of the universe that we eventually come across something that we admire so much that we can do nothing else but hold it in a state of near-worship.
In hindsight, fanaticism isn't actually a question of the measure by which we can really love certain things, but more of a perception by others as to how much we love those things. Get a devout Harry Potter lover in a closed room and he won't necessarily think of himself as a fanatic. Lock up a neutral party in the same room, and that's inevitably when he's going to end up referring to the Rowling reader as "a Harry Potter fan".
In short, we're all fans. We're just not all fans of the same thing.
That, I figure, is why I keep running into Trekkies arguing over whether Kirk is better than Picard, or vice-versa.
I wonder if perhaps that's the same fuel that runs the argument over whether or not it's ethical to spoil the plot of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I've seen tempers flare simply because somebody could not keep the big secret to him- or herself.
Then again, it could merely be a case of the pro-spoilage / anti-spoilage argument this time. Or a case of overexcited readers who didn't see the bombshell that Rowling had coming.
Whatever the case, it's strictly between the fans. As long as they can leaf through something they love, then I suppose that they can have their fun.
Me? I'm still looking for that copy of Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment. :)