I became a fan of Rowling's other books perhaps slightly ahead of the curve. Though not from the very start, then only a few years into the series. I remember Prisoner of Azkaban being featured on the front page of USA Today's Arts section when it was released in 1999. While I was attending Mercyhurst College in Erie, PA for my freshman year in 99-2000, I saw Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets available at CVS, where I regularly visited (because I always need some kind of store to frequent, preferably one that has books and magazines in it). I began reading them, and by the time I transferred to the University of Maine for my sophomore year, my parents gave me Azkaban for my birthday. I was my first hardcover Rowling. It was also her first book that I truly loved.
There were four other books, and I joined everyone else (which was pretty much everyone else) in the mass midnight release parties. I suspect Vacancy won't have that kind of release, and yet I'm just as excited now as I was in 2007, when The Deathly Hallows rounded out the adventures of Harry Potter (and I finally succeeded in reading one of them in a marathon session). Though she kept writing books starring young characters and almost all of them centered in academic experiences (littered with fantastic developments), Rowling had more than established her ability to tell a story, particularly within the last hundred pages. I don't read a lot of books that are page-turners, so far any author to get me ramped up for the conclusion a hundred pages before it comes, that's a sign that they're doing something right.
Though I doubt Vacancy will be doing that, either. It seems like the kind of intimate human drama that was always at the heart of her previous works, which became most clear in Azkaban, when Harry meets the twin surrogates of Sirius Black and Remus Lupin, father figures who for a time fill in for Albus Dumbledore, who of course substitutes for Harry's deceased dad. In the later books, when the story of Tom Riddle becomes clear and we start to sympathize with Severus Snape (well I did, and well before we learn that he was a good guy all along), and the romance between Hermione and Ron becomes real, the true depth of Rowling's vision becomes clear. I expect that sort of thing in Vacancy.
As the new TV season continues to unfold, I see other things unfold. In Survivor, Jonathan Penner continues to elevate his game, sort of a new Boston Rob (given that they both have distinctive accents, it only figures), and becomes my improbable favorite to win, if he can finally figure out how to play with others. As he notes, possessing individual immunity is nearly always a good thing. Mike Skupin, the other veteran likely to have a shot at winning, either has his fledgling alliance starting to fall apart, or perhaps on their way to figuring out why they need each other. Time will tell. Malcolm and dingbat Angie are ones to watch, even if they go the full Ulong.
I watched half the pilot for Vegas, which has some great stars, including one of my personal perennial favorites in Jason O'Mara, and figured out that CBS has turned a perfectly good period drama into another procedural. Still, it has time to figure out what it actually has working for it.
The Neighbors is brilliant! Even I didn't see that coming. Brilliant! The series has been in development for a while, and it shows. It knows its own mythology, which is like a sitcom version of Pushing Daisies. Star Simon Templeman, now that I can finally put a name to a face, has always been a favorite of mine. He first showed up on my radar as Lord Nor in the fourth season premiere epic of Lois & Clark (the last season, for the record). He also popped up in my sister's favorite show, Charmed. And now here he is again. He's so awesome. His signature locks looked silly as Nor. But he figured out how to rock them long ago. Now he's 100% awesome. Reason enough to watch? Reason enough to watch! But the rest of the show is pretty great, too.
I figure I'll be watching a lot of the season on the Internet. Caught the season premiere of How I Met Your Mother. Still classic. (But what else could it be, o cynical muse?) CSI I've grown to love again because it's reclaimed, or perhaps simply gained, a sense of urgency, driven by new stars Ted Dansen and Elisabeth Shue, along with giving George Eads perhaps his best work yet.
And the season only begins...