We're reminded of another editorial by James E. Groves where he quotes a letter from George Grant Elmslie to Frank Lloyd Wright:
Why not, in the years of your great maturity, exhale a modicum of kindliness to others, endeavoring to do their bit? No one can afford it so well as yourself. But alas, you are not endowed with so human an element, only with a curious quality of vanity, and a rather vulgar and childish egotism. You seem to have it in your mind that you yourself do your work, whereas the impulses are much deeper and more universal than the mere ego which you adore.Here is the editorial by Marina Hyde of The Guardian:
Quite unexpectedly, the true original in the JK Rowling copyright trial is turning out to be the judge. "It has been brought home to me in the last 20 years," mused Judge Robert Patterson this week, "that litigation is not always the best way to solve things." If this seems a faintly unusual utterance for a man in his line of work, it is all the more so for having been made in his courtroom in New York, a city not known for its aversion to dragging lawyers into every aspect of the human drama. It is a town in which people have sued themselves - usually successfully. A couple of weeks ago you could have read about a man suing a Manhattan strip club over claims that a lap dancer's shoe caught him in the eye.
Though they have been spared any collisions with perspex footwear, Ms Rowling and Warner Bros, who make the Harry Potter movies, are suing to block publication of the The Harry Potter Lexicon, an encyclopedia of her wizarding world based on a long-established fan website of the same name. Its creator, one Steve Vander Ark, wept in court after Rowling accused him of "constant pilfering" and "utter laziness". On the other hand, she did concede she had previously given an award to the site, and used it as a fact-checking resource. There were tears on her part too, and it all seemed completely unnecessary.
Of course, it wouldn't be the first time that Warner Bros has been involved in a pettily protectionist copyright case. Do let's recall that brilliant letter Groucho Marx penned to the studio - makers of Casablanca - after he received an "ominous legal document" warning the Marxes off calling their movie A Night in Casablanca. "I had no idea that the city of Casablanca belonged exclusively to Warner Brothers," he deadpanned. "I am sure that the average movie fan could learn in time to distinguish between Ingrid Bergman and Harpo ... What about Warner Brothers? Do you own that too? You probably have the right to use the name Warner, but what about the name Brothers? Professionally, we were brothers long before you ..."
The case was eventually dropped. And it came to pass that moviegoers were indeed perfectly able to distinguish between Ingrid and Harpo - just as one suspects Harry Potter fans will be able to distinguish between JK Rowling's work and that of Mr Vander Ark.
We could all use a guide as to how the digital revolution has changed the world, but one safe-ish bet is to trust that quality rises to the top, and no matter how many Harry Potter fan "tributes" are sloshing about, interest in them will be dwarfed by that in the genuine article. What on earth is the difference between this stuff being on the internet or available to purchase in a book? The author might aver that in the latter case, money is being made by someone other than her - but the website has long carried advertising, so that seems moot. Vander Ark's publisher wanted a print run of 10,000; were Rowling to publish a lexicon, the first print run has been estimated at 3m.
"I believe the floodgates will open," she said this week, as though this sort of fan fiction could possibly be a problem for anyone other than creators of vast global phenomena. "I see this as an incredibly important case."
Alas, the judge was less convinced. In fact, in the course of advising the parties to settle, he referenced Jarndyce and Jarndyce, the long-running case featured in Bleak House that has become a byword for pointless and interminable litigation. He appears to have done so without requesting official permission from the estate of Charles Dickens. Judge Patterson confessed that he had enountered so many neologisms when reading one Harry Potter volume that he found it "gibberish" - marking himself out as one of that rare breed of adults who do not read these children's books on public transport wearing a moony expression. They opt for the special adult covers, or what we might call "the enabler edition".
As for Ms Rowling's argument that her work is being "debased", that position may be very compromised by this time next year, because she has given her blessing to the construction of a Harry Potter theme park in bookish Orlando, Florida. Bertie Bott's Tenth Circle of Hell ... I'm so sorry, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will open next year, and the trailer website promises the chance to visit "Hogsmeade TM" and Hogwarts TM Castle", among other zones "inspired by" the Harry Potter books.
This, says the official blurb, "will provide fans with another way to experience the world beyond the books and films". And so it will: as some injection-moulded theme park, punctuated by those endless Disney-esque stands selling supersized fast food, and attempts to chisel cash out of you - or "experiential shops", as they have it. So when JK Rowling takes her first spin on the Cruciatus-a-Coaster, or whatever the big thrill ride will be called, here's hoping she looks back on Mr Vander Ark, and realises his modest fan project was not quite as ghastly as she made out.