Harry Potter: My Hermione Hell
Aspden, Rachel, New Statesman (1996)
As the frenzy of publication subsides, some high points of Harry Potter excess linger in the mind. There was, for example, that Edinburgh masque, in which 70 children rode to the castle by horse-drawn carriage while parents lined the route under orders to "cheer J K Rowling on". Then, a minute after midnight, Rowling herself emerged in a cloud of purple-lit dry ice to read from the sixth chapter. Bar the leather armchair, it was pure Spinal Tap.
It is just possible that Rowling is amusing herself with this, making baroque publication-day demands in a parody of the rock star's backstage rider. But surely there are also signs here (her St Tropez-tanned poker-face; the portentous description of HP6 as her daughter's "ink-and-paper twin") that she is in the early stages of an Elvis-like megalomania.
That may sound churlish, but I have a grudge. At least all those fans chose to dress up as Harry Potter characters. Six years ago, on pain of instant dismissal, I was forced against my will to become a member of Rowling's travelling circus.
I was working in a wretched suburban branch of a well-known booksellers' chain (top-selling titles: Beckham's autobiography and, on the literary side, The Bible Code). Three weeks before Prisoner of Azkaban Day, the manager marshalled his staff of underemployed philosophy graduates to announce that we would be Dressing Up. …