Prisoner Of Azkaban J.K. Rowling (Bloomsbury £10.99)

Harry Potter is a phenomenon, so much so that the publication of his third adventure - Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban - is a major literary event. Fans await the book's arrival on Thursday 8 July at 3.45pm (timed so all schoolkids can grab , an early copy) with unconcealed excitement. The sheer enchantment of the books has forced the world to take notice.

Edinburgh-based author J.l(. Rowling's first book in the series - Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone - captivated children and adults alike, and achieved both international and critical success. Its film rights sold to Warner Bros for a seven figure sum - unheard of for an unknown children's author. The sequel, Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, also topped the UK bestseller list, with sales now in excess of 750,000.

However, Rowling did not set out to write a children's book, nor had

Constructing Harry: J.I(. Rowling

she read any contemporary children’s fiction. The original idea occurred to her when she was stuck on a train journey. Harry Potter, an orphan, lives with his hideous relatives, the unspeakable Dursleys of 4 Privet Drive. A strange pattern of events enables him to escape his downtrodden existence and arrive at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry via the Hogwarts Express.

Indeed, Harry’s adventures could be seen in themselves as a journey of discovery for both him and the reader. As he grows older, there is a subtle shift in the writing: the third book is altogether darker, as Harry uncovers more about his parents' deaths. We discover more about characters we have previously met, while places and objects take on a new significance. Serious issues are examined loss, the nature of fear itself, the archetypal conflict between good and evil. Yet despite this, the

dialogue sparkles with wit; jokes and jolly japes abound.

This wizarding world is peopled by a host of memorable characters - Albus Dumbledore, the kindly Hogwarts headmaster and the evil incarnate of Lord Voldemort. Then there is Harry himself, no goody-goody but an ordinary boy, loyal and resourceful. The whole boarding school genre is gloriously reinvented in the extraordinary setting of Hogwarts Castle, where ghosts fly in formation and magical feasts appear on golden plates.

But perhaps the key to their appeal is summed up best by eleven-year-old fan Caitlin: 'A good story is . . . you never want it to end. The Harry Potter books are like that.’ (Teresa Lowe)

I Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban is published on Thu 8 Jul.

21st century boy: Kurt Andersen


Turn Of The Century Kurt Andersen (Headline £17.99)

Turn Of The Century, the mammoth debut by Spy magazine co-founder and New Yorker columnist Kurt Andersen, could easily be titled Virtual Reality— if that wasn't so, like, 1989. Already described as this decade’s Bonfire Of The Vanities, Andersen's savvy pop satire opens on 28 February, 2000 with TV producer George Mactier taking a call from his software company-owning wife, Lizzie Zimbalist, informing him of his mother’s death. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Andersen’s 600-page narrative is its surefootedness, the fluidity with which seeds planted at various stages grow and converge. Along the way, war breaks out in Mexico, the first pig-to- human liver transplant is reported, BarbieWorld opens in Vegas and Bill Gates is virtually drowned. ’I wanted to

do a book that was funny but wasn’t just jokes,‘ Andersen says. ’One that would have a sense of richness and of real people.’

While painting a picture of the networks of love, family, friendship and work in which his plugged-in couple have become lost, Andersen surgically examines the overlapping spheres of media, Wall Street and the computer industry. All the while, delighting in the twisted shapes which language and reality assume as they disintegrate among the cracks caused by the communications revolution and the dawn of the infotainment age.

A well-known figure in New York’s media circles, Andersen shares his central couple’s sense of ambiguity about the strange bubble they occupy a mixture of ’irony and contempt,’ he says. ’And some fondness and resignation.’ (Damien Love)

I Turn Of The Century is published on Thu BJul.

preview BOOKS

First writes

Putting debut novelists under the microscope. This issue: Ken Kalfus Who he? Ken Kalfus sprang from his mother's loins in the Bronx but has lived variously in Moscow, Belgrade, Dublin and Paris. He now resides in Pennsylvania.

His debut It's called Thirst and is a fresh collection of fourteen short stories with titles such as ‘The Joy And Melancholy Baseball Trivia Quiz’, 'Cats In Space’, 'Among The Bulgarians' and 'A Line Is A Series Of Points’. There is one of those notices at the beginning of Thirst which reads straightforwardly as 'any resemblance to actual person’ statement but is a tone-setting surrealist trip with the conclusion: ’after such failure, of what use is a copyright?’

Basically Basically, it's a pretty unclassifiable set of stories whose subjects range from love to poverty to obsessions with baseball taking in venues such as Third World jungleland to Venice during the Renaissance. It is by turns comic and absurd, dark and danng.

Best first line ’Kublai Khan does not necessarily believe everything Marco Polo says when he describes the indoor shopping malls visited in his travels around the empire, but he listens to the young Venetian with greater attention than he has shown any other messenger or explorer'. This comes from ’lnvisible Malls’, which can be described as a cross between Italo Calvino and Woody Allen.

To whom the book is credited ’For lnga.’

High praise, indeed American critics went barmy with the Village Voice insisting that ’the fourteen stories in Thirst work something like poison; you touch them to your lips and you’re instantly seduced,’ while the New York Times believed that the tales ’draw our eyes to structures and considerations usually associated with European and South American fabulists, not American writers born in the Bronx.’

(Brian Donaldson)

I Thirst is published by Faber 81 Faber

on Mon 79 Jul priced f 9.99.

8-22 Jul 1999 THEUSTS?