One week before the J. K. Rowling billion-dollar book release love orgy began, a guy named Joel Stein called out the nation’s Harry lovers.
“Hogwarts fans, you are stupid, stupid, stupid,” wrote Stein in his Los Angeles Times opinion column. “Isn’t it a clue that you should be ashamed of reading these books past puberty when the adults who write them are hiding their first names?”
Previously, Stein had called out the Star Wars people. He’d called out the Finding Nemo people. Then he called out the people who love Tom Hanks. Now, he was starting shit with Potter.
Or trying to, anyway.
“You realize, sir, that this means war,” one blogger fired back online. War? Yeah. Right. And Voldemort’s my uncle. These guys don’t read Op-Ed or Current or whatever The Times is calling its sounding-off pages these days. They read Prisoner of Azkaban.
To prove my point, at half an hour to midnight on Potter’s Eve, I did a round of reconnaissance at the Barnes & Noble at The Grove. A threesome of thirty-something witches and warlocks were having a meet and greet against the New Arrivals Fiction bookcase. “I’m Bellatrix Lestrange, Narcissa Malfoy’s sister, who is one of the Death Eaters,” said one witch, adjusting her hat.
“I’m just a general Death Eater, nobody specific,” said another.
“Say, what did you guys think of that Joel Stein article?” I asked. The witches blinked.
“Who’s Joel Stein?”
Two tables over, two hot Gryffindor girls in sexy pleated miniskirts quizzed each other for the Harry Potter adult trivia contest. The Potter lexicon is vast, and they had Books One through Five spread out before them. “Okay. Madam Rosmerta?” said the one with her leg draped over the back of the chair.
“Duh,” said her friend, “Bartender at Hogsmeade. Give me something else.”
“Okay,” I said, “Joel Stein?” The girls scrunched their noses, smelling a trick question.
“Wait, is he a Slytherin?”
Downstairs by the register, I ran into a Dementor. “Excuse me, do you know who Joel Stein is?” He curled his bony hand beneath his chin. He shook his head, then shrugged in his long black robes before gliding away.
In a while, my cousin’s boyfriend found me at the café. “There’s this girl over there dressed as an owl, holding a stuffed owl,” Jay said, out of breath. “Owls holding owls .?.?. it’s so postmodern!”
I told him about Stein, the Op-Ed, the “stupid, stupid, stupid.” The weird thing is that Joel Stein kind of looks like Harry Potter — what with the nebbishy glasses, the tousled brown hair, the pasty skin. All that’s missing is the infamous scar, shaped like a lightning bolt on the forehead.
“Joel Stein?” Jay mumbled, adjusting his plastic Harry Potter frames, “Never heard of him. But he sounds like a punk. I can kick his ass if you want me to.”
No, I said, that won’t be necessary. But watch your back, Joel. Because scars, apparently — lightning bolt or otherwise — can be arranged.