I don't always hang out in alleys. But I do like to roam around the city. In one respect I'm lucky in the kick I get out of wandering. A few cat lovers leave a small basement window open in case I'm in their neighborhood. One of these is Zelman Zagursky an English professor over near Brooklyn College. His study is surrounded by high bookshelves into which I like to jump. I take snoozes on the top shelf stretched out across Madame Bovary, Sister Carrie, Jane Eyre, and Anna Karenina. I smile when I think of those famous characters hiding inside their books until someone opens them up to let them out. If you donšt think a cat can smile remember the Cheshire Cat with a smile a yard wide until he slowly disappears.

   The professor is writing a new book himself. You won't believe the title, "Oberon, Faust, and Harry Potter: Characters and Magic in Literature." Only a mind like Professor Zagursky's could think up a book like that. He's going to have a tough time getting that one published. His last one, "T.S. Eliot, Alan Ginsberg, and Edgar Allen Poe, Three Poets Who Hate Each Other," only sold eleven copies, ten of them bought by Zagursky's cousins. But it was the professor's interest in Harry Potter that made my whiskers quiver.

   Harry Potter has grown so famous all over the world that he has become a household word, even if he is really two words. The other day when I stole into a candy store to breathe in the egg creams that some of the old style ones still make, the kids crowded in there after school were talking about only one thing, Harry Potter. If Harry Potter books ever reach China I bet every kid will gladly give up a week's worth of chopsticks chow to get his hands on a copy and soon the whole country will be selling their jeans putting up their last yen for him. So what is it all about?

   There were plenty of crazes before this one. The yo-yo craze. The zoot suit craze. The Beatles craze. But this HP craze is something else. Why are they so mad for him around here? He is not from Brooklyn. He is not from Manhattan. He is not even from the USA. He is from England, three thousand miles across the ocean. There is nothing wrong with that except when you compare Harry Potter to a couple of other characters about his age you got to admit hešs got stiff competition. What's more, they have been around a lot longer than Harry and may still be here when he is long forgotten. I mean the two most famous of them with world wide reputations bigger than any others, including Harry's. I am talking about Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. And the main difference between them is that their adventures are real, while Harry's are mostly imaginary and could never have happened. Which is fine, too, but you got to know the facts. There's no hocus-pocus about Tom and Huck. You feel all the excitement is happening to real boys as they race in and out of the fun and fear they encounter in the many zany experiences that befall them. Professor Zagursky and millions of others, including me, enjoy the hocus-pocus Harry delivers in great style. But, as they say in Brooklyn, you ain't seen nothin' yet until you meet up with Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and Tom's girl and their best friend, Jim, a runaway slave. No kiddin'.

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Copyright Š August 3, 2000-


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