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Re: Digestion

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  • David Lenander
    I ve never tried Eddings or Jordan, but I did read _Wizard s First Rule_ (or something on that order), which I bought when told by a trustworthy bookstore
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 29, 2000
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      I've never tried Eddings or Jordan, but I did read _Wizard's First Rule_
      (or something on that order), which I bought when told by a trustworthy
      bookstore clerk that "everyone says this is really good" (he hadn't read
      it, himself) who'd previously recommended Susan Palwick's _Falling In
      Place_. I did read the whole thing, and then gave it away. I have
      employees who've read it and a 14-year old nephew just visiting here who
      was reading the sequel (equally long!). I found it unpleasant to read but
      it wasn't as impossible as some of the finalists for this year's MFA
      preliminary ballot. The first two Harry Potter books were joys to
      read--*in comparison*. But the Harry Potter books really give me almost
      nothing besides a sort of pleasant diversion, and even that is undercut by
      the growing irritation I feel about the unbelievable behavior of supposedly
      competent adults. A fellow Butterburian I can't mention by name has
      objected to the illogical and unbelievable incompetence of characters in
      Connie Willis's books, but they are paragons of competence and efficiency
      compared with the magical wizards in charge of things in the Harry Potter
      books. Also, the prose is flat and clicheed. I found myself twice stuck
      for long periods in the 3rd Harry Potter book because I just didn't have
      any interest in picking the book up again with so many better books around
      to read. Now I have read painful things that were worthwhile, books like
      the original Donaldson trilogy (which had a number of interesting ideas
      along with its problems) or Burroughs' _Naked Lunch_ (which is written with
      a virtuosic (is that an adjective?) style and brilliant insights), and I
      have read books that probably seemed painful because I was reading them
      under deadline (I don't know how I would have handled Gormenghast if I'd
      had to read it in a couple of weeks for a mid-quarter or something), or
      Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun, which I might have liked better if I'd had
      more time to take my time with reading it--it seemed long, but it's not as
      long as those _Wizard's First Rule_ books, but yields a lot more reward.
      But Harry Potter isn't as good as the books with which it's often compared,
      Diana Wynne Jones' or Roald Dahl's. They have style and originality. I
      actively dislike some of Dahl's stuff, while I can't really summon up much
      strong feeling about Harry Potter, it's comparatively dull and works mainly
      on the plot level. I've also read and enjoyed mindless stuff like Agatha
      Christie murder mysteries, or even (when I was younger, I don't have the
      patience any more) the formula Stratemeyer books like Nancy Drew or Tom
      Swift. Harry Potter is somewhere in between. He may get better, or
      rather, Rawlings may get better, Nancy Springer certainly improved as a
      writer (and I think that's Harry's main failing, on the prose level, and
      even Donaldson improved over the course of many books), I have read that
      even Tennyson had to work hard for years to develop his mellifluous
      diction. It's my belief that Rowlings is one of those writers who isn't
      very clear what she's writing about--she's just telling stories. This is
      not to say she's not writing about many things, I don't think that's
      possible. But she is unconscious of most of them, and her unconscious is a
      muddle. Other writers may be similarly unconscious, but they have
      unconscious minds which are apparently much more organized. Skellig is at
      once a parable which works on some unconscious level, while being at the
      same time an interesting character study of a couple of children who live
      near one another, along with their parents, and how they react to a series
      of ordinary and extraordinary events. I'm not sure about its prose, and I
      don't have the book at hand to compare, but I'd bet that it's much more
      careful about diction and style than Harry Potter. Because during the
      first hiatus on reading Harry Potter #3 I happened to listen to an
      audiotape of Jane Yolen reading the similar (boy goes to wizards' school)
      _Wizards' Hall_ with my daughter, I had a good opportunity to compare the
      two books. I've previously posted to this list about my reaction: Harry
      Potter is written for somewhat older audiences, and it has a much more
      exciting if episodic plot, with much clever invention along its predictable
      plot and characterizations, but it's much more boring on the level of
      style, sentence and word. I can see why more readers will probably like
      Harry Potter better than Thornmallow of _Wizards' Hall_. You read Harry
      Potter fast, like you would a Hardy Boys book, because there is nothing at
      the sentence level to puzzle or linger over. You may be able to think
      about the events, to project your own additions, colors, casting choices on
      the relatively featureless canvas, and Rowlings may be working out larger
      stories and structures in the course of her seven volumes (or whatever it's
      supposed to be). This is especially easy as most of the characters are
      pretty much standard types. I don't know that Thornmallow is any more
      individual than Harry Potter, but I think his story is less predictable.
      And for me, Yolen's telling is far smoother and enjoyable. Oddly, my
      ten-year old daughter liked _Wizard's Hall_ much better than Harry Potter,
      too. Maybe she's just a bit young for Harry? She likes John Bellairs'
      series of thrillers best. She also reads those stupid scary books with the
      "choose your own ending" structure. I'm not saying I won't go to a Harry
      Potter pancake breakfast, but if I do, it'll be for the pancakes, or the
      company (with my daughter, for example). I won't pay full list price for
      the 4th book, but I imagine we'll probably pick it up at a 40% discount,
      thanks to its best-seller status, and I'll read it before next year's MFA
      process is finished. I will probably enjoy it, even if I'm irritated even
      more than I was by volume 3. I'll be surprised if I find myself voting
      for it as my first choice, though. And I'll be surprised if I'm not a lot
      more excited, positively or negatively by the 3rd Pullman "His Dark
      Materials" book, the copper spyglass or whatever it's to be called.

      "David S. Bratman" wrote:

      > On Thu, 29 Jun 2000 ERATRIANO@... wrote:
      >
      > > What else are we individually finding difficult to digest?
      >
      > I personally find it difficult to digest almost any recent fantasy
      > bestseller (Robert Jordan, David Eddings, to name two I've seriously
      > tried), except for the Harry Potter books, which go down easy.
      >
      > David Bratman
      > - not responsible for the following bestseller -
      >
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      --

      David Lenander, Library Manager I

      University of Minnesota Bio-Medical Library Access Services

      Diehl Hall / 505 Essex SE, / Mpls., MN 55455

      Phone: work: (612)626-3375 fax: (612)626-2454 home: (651)292-8887

      e-mail: d-lena@... web-page: http://umn.edu/~d-lena/OnceUponATime.html
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