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Down with Harry Potter

Since I’ve pissed off several friends already by forwarding this critique of Harry Potter, it’s time to troll it up on the blog. I hereby admit that I feel nothing but revulsion for Harry Potter and everything he stands for. I wanted to articulate why one day, and then I came across A.S. Byatt’s fantastic review.

Some highlights:

Derivative narrative clich├ęs work with children because they are comfortingly recognizable and immediately available to the child’s own power of fantasizing.

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Ms. Rowling’s magic world has no place for the numinous. It is written for people whose imaginative lives are confined to TV cartoons, and the exaggerated (more exciting, not threatening) mirror-worlds of soaps, reality TV and celebrity gossip. Its values, and everything in it, are, as Gatsby said of his own world when the light had gone out of his dream, “only personal.” Nobody is trying to save or destroy anything beyond Harry Potter and his friends and family.

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In this regard, it is magic for our time. Ms. Rowling, I think, speaks to an adult generation that hasn’t known, and doesn’t care about, mystery. They are inhabitants of urban jungles, not of the real wild. They don’t have the skills to tell ersatz magic from the real thing, for as children they daily invested the ersatz with what imagination they had.

That children like it I understand. That adults can’t see through its complete lack of imagination and craft I find depressing.

I realize that these sorts of critiques these days automatically make you a snob. You’re only allowed to say “I like it” or “I don’t like it.” While the idea that food might taste good yet be bad for the body is widely accepted. The idea that culture can be good or bad for you is not, because it evokes the uncomfortable and seemingly elitist concept of bad taste. The same people who work out and eat salads obsessively would never dream of making artistic distinctions that transcend the expression of their personal taste; and they would never dream of modifying their leisure habits.

In case none of this offends you, the same thing goes for “The Kite Runner.”

Fire away.

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