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Thread: J.K. Ruling?

  1. #1
    billy c.

    J.K. Ruling?

    We all saw J.K. Rowling rise upon the literary stage like a blazing phoenix from an obscure pile of ashes. It was a glorious period for Rowling, and I certainly don't begrudge her millions because I've read the Harry Potter books and simply adore them.

    But I have to admit that Rowling's ascension is somewhat a mystery to me. At a time when children's books were already so very numerous and battling each other for dominance in school libraries--how Harry Potter became the craze completely confounds me. Also, Mr. Potter had to deal with the increasing tendency of this generation of children to cast aside the book and watch TV or play video games, or sit at the computer.

    Many literary critics assert that Harry Potter is in no way proper literature. If so, what can we say about J.K. Rowling's writing that captivates us so? What makes Rowling's writing so special? Is the quality of writing the only factor in a successful book?

    What do you all think about J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter epidemic in general?


  2. #2

    Re: J.K. Ruling?

    I'll tell you when I have kids and read it to them. Seriously, though, I've never read them, and it baffles me why so many adults have read them when there is already too much incredible "adult" literature to get through in a lifetime... So I have reserved them for "good lit to get the future kids interested in books, when I'll read it too..." This might sound really snobby, but I don't mean it that way. But it did irritate me to see so many people sitting on the tube reading Harry Potter - children's books - in 2001, where a year before they had all been reading Zadie Smith's White Teeth, or before that Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain, or before that Louis De Bernieres' Captain Corelli's Mandolin. I think it's a real sign of the "dumbing down" phenomena that adults aren't embarrassed about this - you wouldn't see them reading Famous Five or Roald Dhal on the tube, but it amounts to the same thing.

    That said, I don't mean to disparage Rowling or her work at all. I think it's wonderful that she has managed to get children interested in reading and sparked their imaginations. I just think that what literary critics mean when they say HP isn't "proper literature" is just that it is intended for children, nothing more - it's hardly Dickens. (Yes, you can shout at me now for ranting about something of which I know nothing, not having read the books!)


    P.S. If you are an adult who has read the Harry Potter books, please don't take my remarks personally!

  3. #3
    Gary Kessler

    Re: J.K. Ruling?

    It's all in the buzz that is (or isn't created) about the book. And buzz can be a very fickle proposition. Same reason we had that silly beanie baby craze.

  4. #4
    Lisa Werth

    Book Binding

    But isn't it nice to know that a BOOK, or series of them, at this time in the world has the power to draw the attention of some many of all ages in many places. There are worse things that people could be reading, listening to, watching, etc.

  5. #5

    Re: Book Binding

    Re: ...so many people sitting on the tube reading Harry Potter - children's books - in 2001, where a year before they had all been reading Zadie Smith's White Teeth, or before that Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain, or before that Louis De Bernieres' Captain Corelli's Mandolin ...

    I doubt that many people "dumbed down" in the space of a few months. Maybe there's something to the Potter books???

  6. #6

    Re: Book Binding

    You are right! There is something to the Harry Potter books - it's called good, old-fashioned story telling, ie, lots of suspense, humour and the research to make them credible (kids can smell a weak point). JKR studied classics somewhere along the line and so the Latin spells actually mean something.

    Those who disparage the adults who read them should ask themselves if they think that THEY could keep a reader up all night turning the pages into the early hours to find out what happens next. Chick lit or Harry Potter: I know which I think is better fun!

  7. #7

    Dumbing Down?

    Many children's books aren't dumb at all. They are masterful, elegant writing. Don't equate simple with easy. Children's writers cannot afford the lazy sprawl of so many adult novels. Plus, the lives of children are incredibly complex and emotionally charged. In many ways, it is adults who are dumbed down...or dulled down, by the years and the cynicism. If you spent a year reading all the Newberys alone, you would find out what good writing really is. To capture so much in so few words is an incredible ability. And remember, a children's author Philip Pullman WON the whitbread with a children's book -- first time ever. And he did it with a novel that is far far from the best in children's literature.

    The Harry Potter books take a very traditional novel -- the British Boarding school book and turn it on its ear by making it a wizard school. Jane Yolan had done a very nice wizard school novel (with actually a bit more depth to it) but it wasn't British. For Jane Yolan, the story was about Wizards and magic. For J.K. Rowling, it was a boarding school first, and a wizard school second. I think that captured American children because it seemed so real and so exotic. American children have no real experience with the boarding school idea...and Rowling made it so real because it is a real genre in British literature.

    Also, the book played on themes that everyone can enjoy -- the underdog comes out on top, the elitist snob crashs and burns, and friendship/honor can overcome amazing things. It was charming from a storytelling perspective, maybe not great technique but I've seen far far worse in adult literature -- and some of it touted as "literary."


  8. #8
    Gary Kessler

    Re: Dumbing Down?

    I didn't mean for it to be inferred that I was comparing the Rowling books to the beanie baby craze. I was indicating that the buzz can be so powerful that it can even carry something like the beanie baby craze. I read and enjoy the Potter books myself--and no apologies for that--but I do hold that it took a big application of the fickle buzz to put them where they are on the sales chart.

  9. #9
    Nora Christie

    Re: Dumbing Down?

    I agree totally with Granny. I've read the HP books, all to myself, not to chidren. One reason parents of small children like them is that they're incredibly readable for the parent having to read them to the kids. The boarding school idea plus the other points Granny made are true. I'd add, being able to go away from a terrible situaton at home into something new and exciting. The books are truly fun, and appeal to the child in adults. Plus,they are very well done and the humor is delightful.

    A real HP fan


  10. #10
    Roy Abrahams

    Mr. Rowling?

    billy........Did the good lady Rowling go to Sweden for a quick change of gender? Or did the Sorcerer do it on the spot?

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