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July 19, 2005
Harry Potter

Yes, I read the books. I enjoy them, although not with the fervor that many otherwise-adult fans seem to exhibit. Many of Jonathan's objections are mine. I'm very literal-minded and when I read of an imaginary universe, it drives me nuts when it's not logically assembled. The HP universe has many, many inconsistencies, and those bother me.

And, speaking of today's Most Popular Children's Series, what about this phenomenon, anyhow? Is it all okay if it makes kids read? Or is it not okay because it's not about the power of transformative change? Harry doesn't have to really struggle to become the hero, most of what he needs is born inside of him. He's a "natural" at so many of the skills he needs to fight evil and save the day...is that the wrong message to teach children? I didn't expect to find this particularly interesting, much less educational. But when I found myself reading quotes from Faust and contemplating what a society's popular literature says about it, I decided we should all take a look at it.

Posted by AnneZook at 12:56 PM


Comments

I probably shouldn't say anything, having only seen the movies and not read the books, but I've found Hermione to be a much more admirable individual than Harry. Is she not as cool in the books as in the movies?

Posted by: Protagoras at July 19, 2005 05:58 PM

As a matter of fact, Hermione is the coolest of all the kids, in my opinion.

Posted by: Anne at July 19, 2005 06:25 PM

While I disagree with some of the points made by Spengler, I liked Dresser's article. Of course, we must also ask if context and history really has a place in a fantasy book for children...Though they have become popular with adults, it is important to remember that these books are written with children in mind, and because of that I had a hard time getting through them myself. They have no real depth to them as novels and to try to analyze them as anything other than superficial fantasy seems to me like little more than mental masturbation. You can see deeper meaning in pretty much anything- doesn't mean it's really there though. But in response to the point about transformative change--I think it's a valid criticism, however, the story reads to me as escapist, and I don't see there being an emphasis on portraying harry as a role model at all. He is what many children wish they could be, and for them, to read about him accomplishing what they can't is entertaining and satisfying. It's a fantasy world, and I think children need a little fantasy in their lives, and I, personally, would rather they got it from books than from video games or television.

Posted by: Emily Louise at July 19, 2005 08:23 PM

Emily Louise, I agree that children need a little fantasy in their lives but at the same time, I think children can (or should) learn valuable lessons even from their "light" reading.

If Harry "is what many children wish they could be" then I think he's automatically a role model, don't you?

But I also agree that an attempt to analyse these books on too deep a level is destined for failure since they're not really "layered" material. The text isn't that complex and the character development is...minimal. (Discussions I've seen that try to compare these books to the richly textured Lord of the Rings/Hobbit volumes, for instance, just leave me rolling my eyes.)

Posted by: Anne at July 20, 2005 08:42 AM

I'm with Emily Louise on this. I have no more intention of hyper-analyzing or nitpicking the Harry Potter books than I did with the Oz books. Now, on the other hand, comic books.. ;)

Posted by: Elayne Riggs at July 20, 2005 11:58 AM

Heh. I'd have some trouble getting meta on a comic book.

I guess we should be remembering the whole, "to each, their own" rule, shouldn't we?

Seems like no matter what the topic, there's someone, somewhere, picking it apart to see what the pieces look like.

Posted by: Anne at July 20, 2005 02:03 PM

I really only bring up my objections for two reasons (well, three: I'm a blogger, so I say what I think): Rowling's had a decade and six increasingly dense books to make this world make sense, and she's put no effort into it that I can see; if this was a one-shot deal, I'd let it slide; more importantly, as a reader, I think it's important that a writer of magic and suspense be fair, abide by their own rules, make the world sensible. This series is about children and for children, yes, but it's also about politics, ethics, social order, personal and institutional power. Sure, these things seem inconsistent to children, often, but that doesn't mean that rules and systems don't exist.

I'm running the risk, I know, of appearing humorless and curmudgeonly: as I said in my post, the books are fun, and I'm really quite happy that a fantasy series is so popular. I just think it could be more consistent and plausible, and that would make them better books.

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at July 20, 2005 02:08 PM

I agree, Jonathan. If the book had been a one-off, I wouldn't have minded the internal inconsistencies. In a series of seven volumes, I expect much more.

At the very least, I do expect a writer to set up their own "rules" for their universe and to abide by their rules.

This is part of what I mean by saying the books aren't well-written. The "universe" itself isn't well-constructed (and don't anyone tell me it doesn't have to be, just because this is children's literature) and isn't internally consistent.

In addition, of course, I remain convinced that the last two, or three, books would have been much better for having been edited down a hundred pages or two.

Posted by: Anne at July 21, 2005 08:44 AM