“Harry Potter and the Sinister Spoilers”

Lev Grossman and Andrea Sachs at Time Magazine have written an essay about security for the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows called “Harry Potter and the Sinister Spoilers.” I’m no Lev Grossman fan (anyone who thinks C. S. Lewis would be a Death Eater if he appeared in Rowling’s sub-creation — and says so in a national magazine — has gone out of his way to make a poor first impression) but I especially enjoyed this point about it not being possible to spoil the magic of this last book:

Ironically, the Harry Potter brain trust could be guilty of underestimating the power of the books it’s trying so energetically to sell. The magic-moment strategy promotes a myth about Rowling’s work—and reading in general—which is that the pleasure of a book is a fragile enchantment that’s easily dispelled. On June 18 a hacker calling himself “Gabriel” announced on a website that he had done exactly what the Harry Potter brain trust most feared: stolen the text of *Deathly Hallows*…. But even if the spoilers were genuine, it wouldn’t matter.

On this point, both hacker and publisher share a key misunderstanding of what reading is all about. People read books for any number of reasons; finding out how the story ends is one among many and not even the most important. If it were otherwise, nobody would ever bother to read a book twice. Reading is about spending time with characters and entering a fictional world and playing with words and living through a story page by page. The idea that someone could ruin a novel by revealing its ending is like saying you could ruin the Mona Lisa by revealing that it’s a picture of a woman with a center part. Spoilers are a myth: they don’t spoil. No elaborate secrecy campaign is going to make *Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows* any better than it already is, and no website could possibly make it useless and boring.

Tip of the hat to Potter Blotter for this article.

End note: Someone remind me after the book release to explain why I found one detail of this story especially amusing.


  1. I don’t mind “spoilers” myself, but then I’ve been reading for 50 years so I’ve probably covered all the surprise endings there are. I’ve actually gotten to the point at which I’ll anticipate a “surprise” ending, and find myself disappointed to discover that the real ending is more predictable than the one I’ve been envisioning.

  2. Grossman has part of the answer. Learning the ending wouldn’t *completely* spoil the experience of reading DH. But it would certainly remove a significant part of the experience of a first reading.

    Re-reading any book is significantly different from a first-time reading. Learning the ending most certainly would cloud the first time through.

  3. I think it’s like Rowling put it herself, spoilers don’t keep people from buying and reading the book, but they diminish the pleasure. I would be disappointed if I knew the ending in advance, and also if it would turn out more predictable than I (and many others) expected. When I read the book for the first time, I want to be surprised and I hope that I won’t come across some real spoiler on the internet.

  4. Arabella Figg says

    I loathe spoilers, especially with mystery fiction. I love being surprised. With potential spoilers floating about, I shall try to avoid them until the Great Day of DH’s release. I’m not even reading the Glasgow interview untill after.

    I always feel sad holding the last book of any series or beloved author, knowing the pleasure of the unknown comes only once. The fervid anticipation of DH makes it truly unique. I agree that really good books are those enjoyable for a lifetime, but the first reading is truly special.

    Dang! The kitties are…oh, no, what are they doing now?

  5. ChildofImmanuel says


    End note: Someone remind me after the book release to explain why I found one detail of this story especially amusing.

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