BBC is to be congratulated for a good programme on the special relationship between J K Rowling and Harry Porter aired here last night on channel television. To be fair to BBC, they have produced quite a few quality programmes over the years. Rowling confessed in the documentary that she was never good at handling the mass or the media and she had to ear-plug herself for the mass meeting in Canada where she was invited to read her own works. She also underlined a number of fundamental points regarding her rise to fame and the gross exaggeration about her life, which actually are not what I want to underline in this letter.
Perhaps the single most important message in the BBC programme is what Rowling told the young kids about authors and authorship, or to call a spade a spade, writing. She said that all one should do is to read as much as one can – read anything, anything at all, for you would then discover what you like and dislike and pick up what makes good literature and so on. The next thing is that one should put one’s thoughts on paper. One should write. One would discover that the first writings would probably be not worth the paper they were written on, for which reason she had a lot to apologize about the trees.
Rowling went on to suggest that anyone should write, or more specifically, anyone who has anything to tell others should write. Writers are not born, but authors are something different. Rowling wrote her first novel and had problems finding a publisher. She was a bit shy to talk about whom she went to, but BBC said that all the majors had been approached and had rejected her works. It was like the Beatles having difficulties finding a company to distribute their music in the early days. All of them would not like to discuss the matter, but the one who signed up the Beatles and the one who signed up Rowling both struck more than gold, and the rest is history.
Rowling was the first author whose books made the top three on the best selling chart in the United States at one time. Indeed, the publishing house in the United States which snapped up her first works confessed that no author had ever been paid that much advance for works that had yet to be produced.
In the BBC documentary, it was acknowledged that the Harry Potter saga becomes successful because it is not so much about fantasy as about magic, which makes it distinctly different from stories involving children that never grow up or old. Rowling mentioned more than once in the documentary that there would be a lot of deaths in her story and that she had written the final chapter of Book Seven. She is focused and she knows what she is doing, which is very obvious.
If you have been following my letters, you would have noticed my young friend Harry. When his name first appeared in my letters, some readers and friends said that I had named him after Harry Potter. Well, actually I did not.
I was looking for a name that would not give away the identity of my young friend who at the time was discussing a host of interesting and fascinating issues, beginning with authors, authorship, audience and readership. Harry was derived from Henry, which dated back to the 15th Century and was of French origin, literally meaning home and ruler. Look at the number of rulers in the British history named Henry and one might get some idea about the name.
Never ye mind. I picked the name. I was accused of trying to ride on the popularity of Potter, which I found rather amusing. Rowling was amused by what some critics made out of what she did and did not do after she hit fame. Life is short; and we are not here to please passengers. They either get on or they stand aside. Life will go on regardless.
In case you miss it. Today is World Health Day. I wish you good health, and for good measures, happiness, for I can never decide which is more important, between health and happiness.