In this age of social media, where nothing is either sacred or secret, author J.K. Rowling wants nothing short of a miracle. She has asked theatergoers who attend previews of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London not to reveal the plot of the play.
She made her request in a video posted online after previews began.
Of course, Googling "J.K. Rowling" "Cursed Child" and "secret" yields both that video and the entire plot of the play in one simple search. Let's face it, even for J.K. Rowling, creator of the most beloved book series in recent memory, this secrecy thing was always too much to ask.
And why is secrecy so important, anyway? You'll recall the multitudes of Harry Potter fans who waited with giddy excitement for the release of each new Potter book. Children of a certain age stayed up until midnight, wand in hand and witch's hat on head, for the privilege of being among the first to get the new book, hot off the presses.
They would then run home and shut themselves in their rooms to read it before anyone could ruin their experience with spoilers.
Now, J.K Rowling, her American publisher Scholastic, and book sellers across the nation hope to re-create that experience for a whole new generation of readers. So at 12:01 on July 31, "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" will be released in book form.
And yes, once again there will be lots of midnight release parties. But exactly what kind of book will fans be getting?
Rowling has taken pains to say that Cursed Child is NOT a novel. She, and Scholastic, call it the eighth Harry Potter STORY. In truth, it's a script of the play, which is based on a story by Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany.
I don't know about you, but the only suspense I am feeling at the moment is about whether this script will actually include stage directions. What 10-year-old wants to read stage directions?
For that matter, is this latest Harry Potter book/story/script/whatever even aimed at kids anymore? Maybe it's for the 20-somethings who experienced the special pleasure of discovering Harry Potter for the first time, something no other generation can ever know.
A script does offer readers of any age the enticing possibility of staging our own play, complete with homemade costumes and sets. But it doesn't provide a reader that delicious, solitary pleasure of getting lost in a book.
I don't blame all the interested parties for wanting to hold onto the magic (sorry, you knew that was coming) a little longer. But this is about more than magic. This is about money, lots of it.
I don't blame the publishers and the book sellers for wanting to make money, believe me. Publishers need big blockbusters like the Potter series in order to afford all their other mid-list books that may be wonderful reads but don't sell well. And honestly, I don't begrudge a local brick-and-mortar bookstore one penny.
So, go for it. Welcome all those potential new readers into the store for a midnight party. I get the economics of it, really I do.
It's just the magic I'll miss.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
All right, the latest installment in the adventures of everyone's favorite wizard is currently in previews in London's West End theater district. It's a play called "Harry Potter And The Cursed Child." A book version of it is due out, but not until the end of July, which, as NPR's Lynn Neary points out, is a pretty long time to keep a secret.
LYNN NEARY, BYLINE: In this age of social media where nothing is either sacred or secret, J.K. Rowling wants nothing short of a miracle. She's asked theatergoers not to reveal the plot.
(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "Keep The Secrets - Harry Potter and the Cursed Child")
J. K. ROWLING: You've been amazing for years at keeping "Harry Potter" secrets so you didn't spoil the books for readers who came after you. So I'm asking you one more time to keep the secrets and let audiences enjoy "Cursed Child" with all the surprises that we've built into the story. Thank you.
NEARY: Of course, if you Google J.K. Rowling, "Cursed Child" and secret, you'll find that video and the entire plot of the play in one simple search. Let's face it. Even for J.K. Rowling, this secrecy thing was too much to ask. And why is the secrecy so important? Well, you remember how "Harry Potter" fans would wait with giddy excitement for the latest book to be released. Children of a certain age stayed up till midnight, wand in hand and witch's hat on head, for the new book, hot off the presses.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Six, five, four, three...
NEARY: Kids would run home, shut themselves in their rooms to read the book before anyone could spoil the experience. Now Rowling, her American publisher Scholastic and booksellers across the nation hope to recreate that experience for a new generation. So at 12:01 on July 31, "Harry Potter And The Cursed Child" will be released in book form. And yes, there will be lots of midnight release parties.
But exactly what kind of book will these fans be getting? Rowling has taken pains to say this is not a novel. She and Scholastic call it the eighth "Harry Potter" story. In truth, it's a script based on a story. I don't know about you, but the only suspense I'm feeling is - will this script really have stage directions like Harry Potter enters stage right? And what 10-year-old wants to read that? And don't get me wrong. I don't blame anyone for wanting to hold onto the magic a little while longer.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE")
EMMA WATSON: (As Hermione Granger) Wingardium leviosa.
NEARY: Well, you knew that was coming. But this is about more than magic, folks. This is about money. And I know publishers need to make money and don't begrudge bookstores one penny. So go for it. Welcome all those potential new readers in for a midnight party. I get the economics of it. It's just the magic I'll miss. Lynn Neary, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.