The Harry Potter Withdrawal Club

Twelve years ago, Joanne Rowling was simply a struggling British mother writing on napkins in a café as her infant daughter slept. What was once just a dream has blossomed into possibly the greatest epic of this generation. On July 20, 1997, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was released to the British public. The same year, U.S.-based publishing company Scholastic, Inc. offered Rowling an unprecedented $100,000 for the rights to publish her novel in the United States. In a runaway train of events, Harry Potter has become more than a novel or even a franchise — to some, it has become a lifestyle.

The members of Pittsburgh’s Harry Potter Withdrawal Club have adopted this lifestyle. Typically, Harry Potter books are released every two to three years, and are each read in two to three days, if that. The Harry Potter Withdrawal Club is a way to satiate Potterheads’ hunger for more fantasy and help them cope with the downtime between book releases. On Saturday, the Harry Potter Withdrawal Club met at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in South Side Works for a reading and discussion of Edward Eager’s The Time Garden.

Hali Bowser, a bookseller at Joseph-Beth, talked about the club and what it does. “The Harry Potter Withdrawal Club [is where we] have the kids who are pining away for the next Harry Potter book read a different [fantasy] book every month and then come in and discuss the book,” she said. “At the end of each session, we also have some discussion about Harry Potter and what the kids think will happen in the next book.” The book club routinely has events, providing book lists and hosting activities that get fans interested in other fantasy classics such as C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth, and Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.

Indeed, Harry Potter fans are known to be boisterous, active, and obsessive. Before the release of the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, it had been confirmed by Rowling that someone was going to die — the first death of a character in any of the three previous HP books. Many fans devised all sorts of elaborate methods and even some mathematical ways to figure out of who it was going to be.

Additionally, midnight openings have become a tradition for many; for each book, people all over the world show up at their local bookstores to pick up reserved copies. Some arrive in character, dressed as anything from Fluffy the giant three-headed dog to Moaning Myrtle, the ghost who lives in a toilet. Non-subscribers to Harry Potter mania often fear for their lives if they mention even the slightest lack of enthusiasm for the books in front of any of these die-hard fans. Some serious fans even play “Muggle Quidditch,” a grounded version of the wizard game played on broomsticks.

This summer, on July 21 — exactly 10 years since the release of the first book — the seventh and final part in the series will be released worldwide. To be sure, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows guarantees the Harry Potter Withdrawal Club one final hit. After the shocking events of the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, fans are going crazy over how everything will be solved in a novel smaller than the Encyclopedia Britannica. Undoubtedly, tears will fall as the final chapter unfolds. Ten years of wands, hippogriffs, Muggles, and Quidditch will culminate. It will be the end of an era; it will be, in the words of Mooney, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs, “Mischief managed.”