I recently told my daughter that I was not going to allow her to see the newest Harry Potter film until she read the book. So, she plowed through it. I waited patiently for her to finish to see what she thought. I won't ruin it for those of you who haven't read it but there are some major twists and turns in the book. "So, were you surprised by the ending?" "Are you sad about it?" (of course I sobbed while I read it the day it was released) "No." "No." What?! "Did you know what happened?" "Ya."
How awful! To ruin one of the most exciting book series by knowing the ending....I feel horrible for her. I so remember the excitement of getting my brand new copy of HP after waiting so long and secluding myself from the world until I turned the last page. And that excitement is not there for her.
The excitement of newly released stories has been happening for centuries. Did people wait expectantly for William Shakespeare's newest play to be debuted? Did JRR Tolkien get letter after letter asking to leak out the destiny of Frodo? Did libraries have year-long waiting lists to see what chaos Ramona would get into next? Did kids huddle in their rooms without outside communication until they read the latest Box Car Children book? To some degree, I'm sure.
And if you wait long enough, people stop talking about the books and you can enjoy them untainted by media. By the time my 3yo is ready to read Harry Potter, the stories will be preserved once again.
What has changed is that information was disseminated so slowly before the past 10 years. Most people still have no idea what happens at the end of Hamlet. But now, all the great books and plays are quickly swept up into the movie business. The first thing that happens when a book becomes a sensation...the movie rights are sold. Very few read book reviews but lots of people read movie spoilers (I don't even know of book spoiler sites, although I'm sure they exist). And with the internet, one can quickly find out what happens in a story.
On the flip side, I LOVE watching movie and play versions of books. I often read books that I know are being made into movies. I guess my high school English and film teacher ingrained the Venn diagram on my brain.
My hope is that our new found need for quick and simple information does not ruin the amazing journey of reading a book. That people will understand the excitement and satisfaction does not mean finding out the plot in the final chapter but in the engrossment that grows with every page turned. One of the best feelings in life is having that strong desire for the book to continue even after it is over.