Monday, June 23, 2003

Harry Potter Media Roundup

It shouldn't be a surprise that the intellectual snobs and smug anti-trendies are engaged in serious Harry Potter bashing. After all, the books are popular which is the kiss of death to this crowd.

Jennie Bristow worries that the books are being enjoyed more for their "readability than their quality," bemoans the "infantilization of culture" indicated by adults reading books written for children, and then exhibits her lack of knowledge about the books by claiming that the most recent volume continues to portray a black and white world where death is the only thing to be feared - exactly what doesn't happen in HPatOotP. (She also engages in some entirely unnecessary Enid Blyton bashing, but gives no indication of what she feels is appropriate reading material for children or adults.)

Alex Good worries Potter mania has led to book releases becoming hyped events like movie premieres. Because no one eagerly anticipated books before Harry Potter. Good needs to review his literary history just a bit - over hyped literary phenomenons have been a regular feature of publishing from the very beginning. In the days when novels were regularly published as serials, the mania frequently verged on hysteria (a ship arriving from England was mobbed by a crowd desperate to know what had happened to Dicken's Little Nell). And far from being flashes in the pan, many of these literary fads (like Dickens and Dumas) have stood the test of time and taken their places in the canon. Good also joins Jennie Bristow in his condemnation of adults who read children's literature, because apparently the target audience makes all the difference in quality. Again, Bristow is showing is 21st century myopia. The whole concept of novels for children or young adults, as a separate category from adult novels, is a relatively recent one. Obviously, there is a difference in quality in a child's picture book and an adult novel, but this distinction grows increasingly fuzzy as you compare books for older children or young adults to so-called adult books. Are C. S. Lewis and Philip Pullman really less complex than Danielle Steele? Are J. K. Rowling and Susan Cooper more formulaic than John Grisham?

Positive reviews are beginning to trickle in though:

Salon's review is very positive and well-written.

The BBC's gimmick was having an actual witch review the book. Despite the silliness of this, the review is articulate and interesting.




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