Never mind the joy, feel my brain; or Harry Potter

Huzzah for some sense in this matter. If I read one more snarky ‘look at how clever I am’ post about Harry Potter I shall have to write that ‘you are all idiots’ post that bubbles up at such moments.

For a lot of people, enjoying a book is not enough. You must also validate lit crit with your choices.

For the record I have not read HP nor am I a fan. Edit– no she’ s not a great writer; yes they are quite derivative stories (find one which isn’t;) yes, some people may get ‘stuck’ at Harry Potter. So what? Most people will read them as part of a ‘balanced diet.’

I am tired of the pretentious, tedious and frankly dim attacks on it. It’s like everyone is channeling some weird mix of Bloom and Pullman, which is no good thing.


5 Responses to Never mind the joy, feel my brain; or Harry Potter

  1. Miriam Palfrey says:

    I have read the series (except the latest one) and it’s entertaining and fun. I don’t think it’s worth the hype and I do think that there are better children’s authors around but that’s not to say that people shouldn’t enjoy Harry Potter or that Rowling doesn’t deserve her success.

    I am a little concerned that lazy journalism and unimaginative publiser’s blurb will have a negative effect though. For example I had a children’t reading group refuse to read Dianna Wynne-Jones because “It sounds like she just ripped off Harry Potter” and a couple of other titles which had been dubbed “the next Harry Potter” were also dismissed unread (neither of them were anything like HP). These were bright kids who like reading and will get around to reading new and different things eventually but for those who don’t normally read for pleasure I’m not sure that the idea that Potter is the be all and end all of children’s literature is all that helpful.

    As to people criticising the literary content of the series… I’m afraid I have had an opposite experience. It’s a children’s book. Listening to a group of twentysomethings discuss the relivence of Latin nomenclature within the novels or to fanfic writers whining about the homophobic way in which Rowling has disregarded fandom in the epilogue makes your skin crawl after a while.

  2. Pete says:

    Well yes, I see the first problem. Certainly even her fans would acknowledge the limitations of her writing styel.

    I think things need to be marketed as themselves not as ‘fantasy’ or the like. Did you point out that Wynne-Jones predates Rowling?

    I’d hate to see The Edge Chronicles lined up with HP to take another example ; they’re better written for one. And yes, there is a need to look beyond HP and that genre in general.

    As for the overenthusiasm, well perhaps. The Latin doesn’t mean much, literally. I wonder if some of the names aren’t indeed an elaborate joke.

    People may put too much into something, but a book being a ‘children’s book’ shouldn’t limit (too much) what you can get out of it.

    The whole ‘slash’ phenomenon is another thing though. Rowling has no obligation to bring Harry and Ron together.

  3. Miriam Palfrey says:

    I did point out that Wynne-Jones had written that particular novel at last 20 years before Harry Potter but to no avail, it was frustrating at the time but these kids read a lot so I’m sure they’ll get over their prejudices in time.

    I agree that children’s literature shouldn’t be limited and that many children’s books can be read on various levels but when people are so immersed in the subtext that they can’t deal with what happens in the text then the whole thing becomes ridiculous.

  4. Pete says:

    Well I agree there. The disappointment over the epilogue is a case in point.

  5. Katharine says:

    All hugely successful childrens books are bound to come in for criticism, Enid Blyton was banned from my fathers house when he was a child for her biggotted style. (I can understand this, but it doesnt make it right)

    Perhaps people should focus less on the writing style, the technicalities and the political sway and more on the fact that J.K Rowling, (and Enid Blyton. etc. before her) managed to get loads of kids to pick up a book in the first place.

    Once children begin to enjoy reading, quality of writing/dubious content aside (within reason), they are in a position to make their own informed comparisons and value judgements.

    It’s difficult to judge the merits of a childrens book from an adult perspective. The world’s children have clearly shown that Harry Potter is worth while, and that in itself shoud be celebrated – not just one book, but a whole series of books – BIG books – that kids all over the world will go out of their way to read.

    THAT is the value of J.K Rowling.

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