Saturday, August 19, 2006

An Evening with Harry, Carrie and Garp


On August 2nd, I had the privilege of spending an evening with Harry, Carrie and Garp at Radio City Music Hall. Despite the fact that the event was sold out, not many people know what I'm referring to when I speak of it.

Let's say that when we arrived, there was a line of muggles wrapped around the block to find out if their favorite author might tip her hand and give us a peek into the highly anticipated and final book of the Harry Potter series.

Oh yes, Stephen King and John Irving were there, too...

The evening was a fundraiser for The Haven Foundation and Doctors Without Borders, two organizations I have no issue with supporting. And, hey, how often do you get to see three of your favorite authors reading excerpts from their own work? Given the fact that Ms. Rowling hasn't been to the States in five years and she really does need to get crackin' on Book 7, I'm going to guess the answer is "not too damned often!"

Whoopi Goldberg's introduction was well-written and well-timed as she praised King, Irving and, most especially, Rowling, for getting kids reading. We're not talking Hardy Boys mysteries here, we're talking tomes. Remember IT in hardback? Kids devour books rivaling the longest Irving novel in length and in half the time.

Tim Robbins introduced Stephen King with a monologue about the origin Shawshank Redemption's name - sparking a litany of wordplay on the name but, alas, no answer. Stephen read an excerpt from Different Seasons, which gloriously detailed the blueberry pie eating contest that became a scene in Rob Reiner's Stand by Me. I, personally, was looking for something more along the lines of Misery or Carrie but I'm sure he had to mindful of the young audience. And, really, who doesn't like a good barfing story?

Stanley Tucci introduced John Irving, who read a very entertaining passage from A Prayer for Owen Meaney, which was the inspiration for Simon Birch. I'm not sure of the Tucci-Irving connection there but I'm sure there is one. Mr. Irving, like King, read from manuscript pages typed in large font. His squeaky retelling of the pageant scene was very entertaining and also select for the kids. I had hoped for a little Garp - you know, like the title suggested? - but I'll settle for Owen Meaney.

Of course, despite the tremendous successes of Stephen King and John Irving, they really were a warm-up act for Rowling. Jo, as her contemporaries called her, slinked out on serpentine sandals, sat in a throne and placed Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on her lap. She promptly informed us that she was only going to read a short selection because she found that fans preferred Q&A, a statement that was met with anxious applause. Of course, my first thought was: "I hope she doesn't tell us who died because I'm only halfway through Order of the Phoenix.

After reading about the intial meeting between Dumbledore and Tom Riddle the feeding frenzy began. An 18-year-old fan, a scholar if you will, had a subtext question. Did the fact that Aunt Petunia became flushed upon hearing that Harry would only be returning for one more summer mean something. Rowling's response? "There is more to Aunt Petunia than meets the eye." And, as she spent most of the evening emphasizing, all will come to light in Book 7.

Then a young lad asked her how she could kill off Dumbledore, when Harry was so loyal to him? Jo clutched her hand to her chest, clearly distraught by this young reader's concern. I turned to my husband and uttered something like, "Well, I know who dies now."

After Rowling told the audience not to expect Dumbledore to pull a Gandalf, Salman Rushdie and his son stood at the mike and asked essentially the same question. Rowling explained to the esteemed author that she could not be any more explicit - Dumbledore was dead.

Rowling teased the audience by telling them that she thought she was certain of the title for Book 7. However, she came up with another title during her shower that morning and may well of changed it. Of course, she didn't tell us. If she had, it would've been CNN Breaking News.

Then Soledad O'Brien asked the authors if they could have dinner with any of their characters, who would they be. Stephen quipped, "Any five characters from one of my books? Honey, I'm eating alone!"

Rowling struggled a bit before stating she would take Harry, Ron and Hermione. The reason? She knows who is dead. So she was granted a little reprieve and was allowed to bring dead characters to dinner. She then quickly rounded out her dinner guests with Dumbledore and Hagrid.

All in all, it was a very pleasant evening and I feel I'm a bit in the know. I guess I had better hurry up and read Book 5 before the movie comes out...

To see a replay of An Evening with Harry, Carrie and Garp, click here.

Tags: , , , ,

No comments: