Sunday, June 22, 2003


Yes, I am going to mention Harry Potter. As someone who grew up on the Narnia books and on Roald Dahl, I enjoy the Potter books because they contain echoes of those books from childhood. They differ in that JK Rowling is not a prose stylist--you don't read her books for beautiful language. But for interesting characters, carefully differentiated, and for good use of specific detail when she needs to, Rowling does a very good job. She tends to suffer a bit lately from openings that could be condensed without hurting the structure of the book, but I don't mind that much, to be honest.

The really brilliant thing she has done is retrofitted the fantasy genre with the mystery genre and what I'm told is a kind of British boarding-school fiction tradition.

I can certainly see how a British person might be put off by the books--that perhaps they perpetuate cliches not as apparent to American readers, for example. But I remain mystified by the idea some people have that kids should not read these books, perhaps because they're too traditional. Ironically enough, you have people on the far left and the far right dissing these books. Then you also have the genre community, in part, looking up their collective nose at them. It's all rather funny, actually.

Personally, I think all of it becomes fodder for the imagination when you're that age. It really doesn't matter how the author intended the books to be received--kids will always have their own interpretations.

Do I think the Rowling books are timeless classics? Probably not. But they're much better than her critics give her credit for. And anytime a book, especially books like these that are far and away above your average Robert Jordan fantasy novel in quality, can excite readers to the point that they'll camp outside a bookstore at midnight to pick one up, I'd say that's a good thing.



Post a Comment

<< Home