Harry Potter dies in the new book.
It’s tragic, really. Accidental cauldron explosion. Eye of newt and wing of bat everywhere. He gets impaled by a flying dragon snout. His last word is: “Rosebud.”
OK, I made that up. Please stop shrieking now. And for heaven’s sake, don’t cancel your subscription. We only have 17 subscribers left and there’s a rumor that if we lose one more, it’ll be the end of free soap in the lavatories.
For the record, as these words are written, the fate of the young wizard warrior remains a closely shrouded secret. Of course, by the time you read them, his fate might be on the Jumbotron in Times Square. Secrets are perishable these days.
Blame an omnipresent and infotainment-besotted media megaplex. Or blame so-called citizen journalists who don’t play by the same rules of non-disclosure that used to bind plain old journalists. Whoever you blame, just know that it is increasingly the case that one cannot choose not to know … plotlines, scandals, infidelities, whatever.
Assuming you don’t own a sensory deprivation tank, the knowledge will find you, whether you want it to or not.
Here is the sum of my Harry Potter experience: I read half the first book and struggled to stay awake through the first movie. Yet somehow, without trying, without wanting to know, without visiting any Harry Potter Web sites, clicking any Harry Potter links or watching a single episode of “Access Hollywood,” I have learned that” Harry Potter and the “Deathly Hallows” is the seventh book in the series, it was released at a minute past midnight on Saturday, it’s the last book in the series and it’s expected to chronicle the deaths of two characters, one of whom may be Harry.
I couldn’t even tell you where I learned all this, just that it’s been pounded into my disinterested head to the point where I feel like I’ve always known it. Such is life in the era of viral knowledge.
My personal gag reflex was triggered when a certain newspaper, which we’ll call The Miami Herald, published a piece, complete with quotes from worried mothers and the obligatory advice from talking heads, on how to help your children cope if Harry is killed. Beg pardon, but I seem to recall that a previous generation of children saw Bambi’s mother killed by the hunter without the need for grief counselors standing by.
And if you think the point is, what prissy wimps we have become, well, yes. But it’s also this: Shouldn’t you be able to safely peruse the health section without being ambushed by Harry Potter “news”?
You think I hate Harry, don’t you? To the contrary, I echo word nerds everywhere: Anything that gets young people reading and turns writers into billionaire rock stars is fine with me. What I hate is seeing Harry in the health section, absent news that reading his books cures – or causes – disease. What I hate – OK, what I am mildly irked by – is that media, both traditional and “new,” have grown so inescapable that it’s almost impossible to opt out of undesired knowledge.
And no one should be more upset about that than those who are wild about Harry. If it were still possible to opt out of knowledge, author J.K. Rowling would not have felt it necessary to ask people not to divulge the ending of her book and one of my co-workers would not have sent around the following e-note: “i BEG of you all, please do NOT spoil Harry Potter!”
Remember when “The Crying Game” came out in 1992? Remember “The Sixth Sense” in 1999? Remember how those who had seen them conspired for weeks to keep their secrets safe for those who had not?
It’s hard to imagine such things happening in the era of viral knowledge and that’s kind of sad.
By the way, I checked, and sensory deprivation tanks start at $7,300. Just something to keep in mind.
Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for The Miami Herald. His e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.