In a few days, bookstores will be beset by eager readers, online vendors will mail out hordes of pre-ordered packages, and costumed fans will squeal with delight as they crack a fresh cover. Like the days of old when the release of a new Harry Potter book incited epic expectation and fan reaction, the publication of the rehearsal script for the first two parts of the play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, is already surrounded by attention that not only echoes the releases of the seven books in the Hogwarts Saga, but that also recalls the kind of fascination and frenzy that has prompted other artists to do what J.K. Rowling has done: trying to re-create a phenomenon when the original source of that phenomenon, at least from an artistic and symbolic standpoint, has concluded and needs no further additions.
When C. S. Lewis completed his seven-book Chronicles of Narnia, he resisted requests for more installments, even suggesting that readers who enjoyed the novels should write their own stories. Other authors have not been as able to resist the attraction of trying to return, again and again, to the fictional worlds they have created, even when the journey has been completed. While J.K. Rowling is already being censured by Potterphiles and critics alike for engaging in an unnecessary new story or tampering with the cohesive artistic unity of Harry’s story by collaborating on what will inevitably be mislabeled the “eighth Harry Potter novel,” she is certainly not the first author to engage in such shenanigans, and it is unlikely she will be the last. So why do they do it? Why do authors, like filmmakers, actors, and other artists, go back to a completed work and add to it? [Read more…]