EW succumbs to Rowling's witchcraft

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Entertainment Weekly has named Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling its Entertainer of the Year for 2007. And you know what? She deserves it, and the choice reflects some good judgment on the part of a magazine that last year gave the honor to the cast of “Gray’s Anatomy.” (I know, lots of people like the show, but come on.)

Rowling deserves it not necessarily because the Harry Potter books are great literature -- although I wouldn’t be surprised if the boy wizard maintains a pop-culture niche in perpetuity, along the lines of such timeless figures as Tarzan and Sherlock Holmes. And she deserves it not just for the raw numbers of popularity, with the series’ seventh and final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (reviewed here) being a milestone, Amazon-pre-order-record-breaking best seller. She deserves it because, for a decade, she’s been a talented and tasteful entertainer whose work happens to have shaped the pop of a generation, in a way analogous to cultural icons such as the Beatles or Star Wars in prior generations. Just last week I met someone at a party who said he quit reading Deathly Hallows about halfway through because he didn't want the series to end. It's hard to imagine any book franchise that can replace Harry Potter, although it's fun to try.

I’m sure it didn’t hurt that this summer’s film adaptation of the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (reviewed here), is the best of the series so far. Incidentally, the cast has been named for the sixth film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (to be directed by Phoenix director David Yates). The biggest name joining the cast is Jim Broadbent as social-climbing professor Horace Slughorn. Broadbent’s a terrific actor and such a fixture in English cinema that it’s a surprise he hasn’t been in the film series already. (I’m a little disappointed, though, because I was hoping to see Ricky Gervais in the role.)

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