At 07:16 PM 11/10/2003 , WendellWag@...
>I subject the Harry Potter books to a higher standard of criticism because
>it's been constantly promoted to me as being the greatest thing since sliced
I don't think your standard of criticism of HP is particularly severe. I
think they're good books with flaws, and I basically agree with your
>With very little exception, every news story I've read about the
>treated it as if it were the greatest children's book ever written,
Never judge a book by its news story.
>Virtually every news story
>about the books I've ever seen have implied that the only people who could
>conceivably object to the books are either fundamentalists who think it's
>the work of the Devil or people who just don't like children's fantasy.
I didn't think you were objecting to the books, just pointing out things
that irritated you personally.
>Truly bad works of art aren't the ones that get hyped. It's the flawed but
>acceptable ones that are hyped, and it bothers me when people are unable to
>admit that there are flaws in otherwise good work.
I often wonder if this is partly due to F.R. Leavis's influence on literary
criticism. He held that there was a small canon of masterworks, and
everything else was beneath notice except as documents in the history of
taste. The problem is that this tends to put the masterworks on a pedestal
as above criticism, but even the greatest masterworks have some flaws.
Years ago, someone published a collection of negative reviews that
masterworks of literature received when newly published. The editor wrote
(paraphrase) "Boy, wouldn't you hate to have been the guy who panned
_Moby-Dick_." So I read the pan of _Moby-Dick_ and was astonished: it
summed up exactly the problems I'd had with that book. The reviewer was
right! (at least as far as I'm concerned)
>I am even more offended by the statement that "well, at least Harry Potter
>has gotten children reading, so you shouldn't complain." What is the
>here - that if I complain about Harry Potter being less than perfect that it
>will cause children all over the world to quit reading the Harry Potter
Well put. I'm not so offended by that line myself, because I don't
perceive myself as complaining. I believe, as you do, that there are much
better books. But I don't think the HP books to date are bad books, so if
I'm a little puzzled at their hype, I'm not offended by it, even on behalf
of Diana Wynne Jones, who has a right to feel offended.
I also don't blame Rowling. The hype clearly came from the first book's
popularity, not the other way around, and the sequels' popularity is also
not artificial. Rowling does not puff herself up with her own genius, and
the HP paraphernalia has been reasonably tasteful. If kids dress up as
Dementors, it's only as Halloween costumes that are supposed to be scary,
as far as I know. I don't have the problem with this that I have with One
>I don't find it necessary to tell them when I give them
>_The Chronicles of Narnia_ or L'Engle's _Wrinkle in Time_ books that I think
>that I consider them great works. I let them make up their own minds.
Both of which have spots that irritate me a lot more than anything in Harry
- David Bratman