>Waiting for Harry

>The reporters are calling again, looking for a new Harry Potter story. I wish I could be more helpful, but there really is no news. When they ask what the “next Harry Potter” will be, I point out that there was no last Harry Potter, depriving us off the crucial second dot from which we might be able to derive a meaningful line. Of course, we’ve seen book crazes before–Goosebumps, Sweet Valley, Babysitters’ Club–and we can look back into the early 1970s to see another children’s book that took over the adult bestseller list: Watership Down. But there has been nothing like Harry. And the next one, if there is one, probably won’t be about a boy wizard, if the lack of success of the many post-Harry wannabes is any indication.

As for another frequent question, I really have no idea whether Harry Potter will be widely read in twenty years. One journalist floated the notion that once All Is Revealed, the series’ cultural capital will be spent, but knowing that Frodo succeeds in his quest hasn’t stopped fans from reading Lord of the Rings over and over again. There is an interesting comparison there, I think, but more for its differences than similarities: while both Harry Potter and the Tolkien books are multi-volume fantasy tales of an unlikely hero shouldering the weight of the world, Lord of the Rings for years was what you read if you were cool (at least, that’s what its readers thought) or if you were a dork (that’s what its scorners thought). The mass-market success of the Peter Jackson movies (and a Harry-wrought fantasy-friendly zeitgeist) might have changed that, but Harry Potter has been a crowd-pleaser from the start. You don’t read Harry because that’s what the cool kids are reading, but because that’s what everyone is reading. (And I’ve never seen popular taste so ferociously defended. Tell people you don’t like John Grisham, fine. Tell ‘em you don’t like Harry, and it’s as if you have insulted humanity.)

The review copy of the latest Harry should arrive Saturday morning [correction: the 20th] at my house, from whence it will swiftly be retrieved by the assigned reviewer. When she’s done, then we’ll have some news.

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Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    >An advance copy of the last Harry Potter! Of course, of course! But still somehow the idea seems novel.

    (Shit. Sorry about the pun. Not intended.)

  2. Anonymous says:

    >But will it come with an iPhone?

  3. Melinda says:

    >”The review copy of the latest Harry should arrive Saturday morning at my house, from whence it will swiftly be retrieved by the assigned reviewer.”

    Swiftly my ass. I bet the reviewer’s going to have to arm wrestle you for it, or pay you some serious money to get it.

  4. fairrosa says:

    >Wow. Roger. You actually get the book a WEEK before its release? Did you have to make an Unbreakable Vow for this to happen? That you will not share any secrets? I know you’ll be so honorable and not read it before your reviewer or before the masses! (now, who is reviewing it? Do I know him/her?) *wink*

  5. >Oh, I thought you were gonna say, “When she’s done, then I’ll have some fun”!

    Plus… on the “what will they be reading years hence” question, I think Harry is a terrific phenomenon, lots and loads of fun, hooray for reading!!! 12 year old Korean boys!! 3rd grade kids carrying it under their arms, heck yeah! But fun as it is, it’s super high class John Grisham, or something. Tolkien’s appeal and eventual “classic” status make him more to be compared with Philip Pullman now than with Rowling, I think. But, who knows? Here’s to popularity (Shakespeare was popular in his day, yes!) and here’s to Literature (yay, Shakespeare again!), and here’s to the whole world of writing, which, one way or another, keeps redeeming the world. How’s that for faith? Rock on, Roger!

  6. >I liked the comment of the Scholastic publisher Arthur Levine, who said that he liked HP1 and saw that it had potential, but that it would have been “literally insane” for him to imagine the phenomenal popularity of the series.

  7. janeyolen says:

    >Anyone who dares question the brilliance of Ms. Rowling can literally find themselves battered by emails and letters and phone calls from irate fans.

    You would NOT like to read some of the stuff I get from kids. And some adults as well.

    Jane

  8. >My predictions:

    Snape will die saving Harry’s life and probably bring about Voldemort’s downfall as well.

    Hagrid’s half-brother will kick the bucket but he himself will survive.

    Harry, Ron and Hermione will all make it. Ginny Weasley might croak though (she will, of course, die in Harry’s arms).

    Professor Mcgonagle will end up as Head of Hogwarts.

    Mr Weasley will be Minister of Magic. Percy Weasley will probably croak after reconciling with the family.

    In twenty years time no one will be reading the books, but everyone will have seen the films and been to the amusement park.

    Any takers?

  9. Roger Sutton says:

    >Yikes, I jumped the gun! I meant NEXT Saturday. Same as everybody else.

    Love,

    Michiko Kakutani

  10. Margaret W. says:

    >Hi Roger!

    I’ve been a lurker on this blog for a couple months now, and a fan of The Horn Book for far longer, and I just wanted say it was an honor to be quoted in the same paragraph as you. All my friends were like “Oh my god, you’re on the FRONT PAGE of The Globe!” and I was like “Mmhmm, whatever. BUT DID YOU SEE??? Roger Sutton agrees with me!”

    - MHW

  11. Monica Edinger says:

    >”Gramdma Michiko, what BIG eyes you have!”

    “All the better to gulp you up and spit you out, my dear Little Red Rowling Writer.”

  12. Roger Sutton says:

    >Margaret, the Horn Book has a proud tradition of hiring Kenyon graduates (okay, two or three) and I’d tell you to come work here, but librarianship needs you more!

    But yes, Jamaica Plain, land of the level-headed. I’m proud to be your neighbor.

  13. shahairyzad says:

    >No one can blame J.K. Rowling if her audience doesn’t care about poor writing and poor editing. And if 10-year olds aren’t able to tell that her “inventiveness” is really just “fantasy putanesca” (take outdated boarding school bestseller, “Tom Brown’s Schooldays,” add bits of “Wizard’s Hall,” “Ender’s Game,” “Worst Witch,” “Lord of the Rings,” etc., stir until ingredients are unrecognizable), well, that’s not her fault either, right? Caveat lector, and all that.

    No, J.K. Rowling’s real crime is teaching kids that the more successful they are, the less they need to worry about doing a good job. Thin plots, wobbling characters, clunky prose, page after page of unnecessary writing–none of that matters when you’re selling a bejillion copies a year. Push out the pub date to do a little editing, rewriting? Fugetaboutit!

    I can only hope that a few years from now, when all the excitement is forgotten, Ms. Rowling will take a good look at what she published and be suitably embarrassed. But she probably won’t.

  14. Roger Sutton says:

    >Shahairy, I think that’s unfair. We can criticize Rowling’s writing all we want, but we just can’t know about her work ethic, and it seems cynical (and unnecessary) to presume. And we can’t “blame the editor,” either, a frequent sport indulged in by those who hesitate to blame an author for a book’s shortcomings. All we have to work from with any certainty are the words on the page.

    I don’t speak as a fan, either, but those qualities of the HP books you criticize are also precisely those that lots of readers–and critics–like. You and I would be on firmer ground by decrying public taste, perhaps, but that is indeed a fool’s errand.

  15. Anonymous says:

    >Harry and JK have gotten children and adults reading and talking about books again. Twenty years from now Harry may not be on the library shelf, but that ten year old down the street will remember reading it this summer. Hopefully, Harry will open the door to books and reading for a lot of children and adults.

    Perhaps Harry will turn a few of the Toads here into book lovers! Ha!

  16. >I have to admit that I’m perplexed by the depth of hatred expressed here. I have to assume that such vitriol is the product of either intellectual elitism or professional jealousy. (Please note that I don’t include Ms. Yolen in that; she is an outstanding writer with a distinguished career and obviously has no cause for professional jealousy).

    Personally, I think that Rowling is a wonderful writer who brings subtlety and humor to her writing. And if she draws on antecedents in her writing, well, what book doesn’t? She uses those elements in a fresh and creative way. Mostly, though, I just enjoy reading the books, even on the fourth or fifth reading. I would suggest that the mark of a good writer is someone who writes books that people want to read, but perhaps that debate has been too well trodden.

  17. shahairyzad says:

    >If we don’t blame the writer for bad writing, and we don’t blame the editor for bad editing, who do we blame? Who else is responsible for making sure that what gets printed is as good as it can be?

    Right now, I could go through Harry Potter 4,5,and 6 and highlight at least 100 (and as many as 300) pages that could be cut without affecting the story or disappointing the reader at all. (That’s 100 pages in each book.)

    But if careless writing and inadequate editing aren’t valid criticisms anymore, or if there are now different standards for different levels of popularity, then maybe The Horn Book needs to go back and revise its reviews from the last 83 years. Reading them seems to have given me a lot of false ideas about what makes good–or even adequate–literature.

  18. Roger Sutton says:

    >By all means blame the writer–but for what was published, not for unsupportable conjecture in regard to her attitude or work habits. To say “it’s crap” is one thing; “it’s crap by a lazy, venal bitch” is another and generally unprovable and in any case irrelevant.

  19. >Remember, Shahairyzad, blame begins at home! It’s “whom do we blame,” not “who.”

    As for this level of anger at people for enjoying a series of books that you don’t enjoy (as is your right), it seems unhealthy. But good luck if you do take the time to reedit those books.

  20. Anonymous says:

    >who remembers the good old days when we all – writers, publishers, editors, maybe even reviewers – were rejoicing that children were willing to read – even LONG BOOKS! It was assumed that this boded well for juvenile literacy – and chbk depts.
    But who has noticed the many surveys – most recently Dana Gioa – and interviews with booksellers, who all say the kids won’t read anything else (not even the Potteroid products on the market).

  21. >I don’t know about statistics, but there are kids out there who love to read, and not just Harry Potter. I moderate a thriving fan community of kids and teens who love to read and love to talk about the books they read. They read a lot of different books besides Harry Potter.

    I also wanted to clarify my comment above. It’s certainly anyone’s right to dislike the books. My experience serving on an awards committee (Cybils) was that there was no single book that was universally loved by all committee members. I was reacting to the extremely negative and personal tone of the comment above.

    As for the comment about removing 100 (or 300) pages, it reminds me of the scene in Amadeus when the emperor says “There are too many notes,” and Mozart replies, “Which notes would you have me remove?” Which pages would you remove from a work in which every page, every word, is beloved by millions of children (and adults)? Personally, I can’t think of too many pages that I would want to lose. There are few enough pages of Harry Potter as it is.

  22. rindawriter says:

    >I am not a fan of the HP books for reasons I have stated at other times on this blog which have nothing to do with the writing style or quality or character of the author. And I’m not saying my opinion on HP is set in stone either. I’m still exploring, still searching, and the reason I’m simply not interested in reading further in her books is in large part still due my private taste in humor in what I read or listen to. I don’t care for the demeaning way in which she mocks certain characters, human or not. That’s my taste, my private reading room, my world, and I really don’t care what people think about my not reading about HP. I rule in my reading room, no one else!

    All that being said, I still think there are reasons why the young folks are reading her so voracioiusly, and I think the reasons why do not all have to do with wizardy or her sense of humor either. She’s touched a deep vein in young people today and what that is and why it’s important for writers for young folks to start digging in the same vein are very, to me, interesting questions, and hey, I could learn something from asking those sorts of questions about HP. We all could.

    I have further commented elsewhere positively on the Internet to some extent actually, about Rowlings’ superb graciousness under fire so to speak. That is admirable in an author of her fame, and I am in great admiration of that quality in her. She doesn’t whine, doesn’t complain about what others think about her work. Hey, she’d probably enjoy meeting me! And I, her! I’ve never mocked her, never demeaned her as an author. I also greatly admire her persistence and dedication in writing. Admirable. Even though I don’t like her sense of humor and am not interested in reading her books fruther!! And, even though, I’m not goign to be recommending her books either.

    I watched yet another physics program on PBS last night. Interesting to think about some of the new theories. Scientists are calling crowd behaviors like the HP fan following “emergence” behavior. It happens when a group of people simultaneously follow the same simple group rules. Like fish in a fish swarm and birds in a flying flock…

    Suffice it to say, I’m very happy and just content to not to be part of the emergence behavior of HP fans. So much more fun being me……and reading what I enjoy reading…

  23. Anonymous says:

    >Why not go into an art gallery and take a highlighter to a few unnecessary brush strokes while you’re at it, Shahairyzad? It isn’t only literature that could benefit from such critical genius.

    Ayway, here’s a little joke for you:

    How many children’s writers does it take to change a light bulb? 1001. One to change it, and another thousand to say “I could have done that!”

    Finally, will the most popular series of all time be widely read in 20 years time? Is that really anything but a rhetorical question? It is the most popular series of all time we are talking about! JK sold more books in a day than Dan Brown sold in a year — I think we can count on significant word of mouth to sustain it for at least a paltry generation.

    PB

  24. Anonymous says:

    >Thank you for the lightbulb joke!

    That made my day!

  25. >Hmm… I completely enjoy the Harry Potter books, and am getting ready to re-read a couple before the new one comes out. I also agree that it seems presumptuous to speculate on JK’s work ethic, or on her willingness to incorporate editorial feedback. I’d say it’s pretty impressive that she’s managed to keep writing at all, given the level of attention directed her way. And, in her spoken comments, she has always come across as someone who takes her story, her writing, and her readers seriously.

    All that said, I can’t see why it’s mean-spirited to suggest that the books could have been condensed, or that they’re not perfect in every way just as they are. I don’t think such criticisms detract from the attachment children, and adults, feel towards the series. It may be that readers who are in love with the books are glad that every page exists in print… but that doesn’t mean other readers can’t suggest that the books would have been much more powerful with less. Myself, I happen to agree with that criticism– there are many, many pages that do little to further the action of the story. When I read, I generally end up skimming big chunks. Especially when there are 200 pages devoted to a Quidditch World Cup. Quidditch may be your favorite sport, but I will be skipping ahead.

  26. little brother says:

    >I’m not in the book industry, I just like to read. I’m a middling-aged adult and I read the Harry Potter books becuase I find them to be an enjoyable escape. Are they long? Yes? Overly long? Perhaps. Do I care? No, not at all because I enjoy reading them. I enjoyed reading the Tom Bombadill chapters in LOTR, too…and those could just go away with no fanfare or loss to the overall book. And I won’t even start in on all those darn Appendixes (Appendices? Appendi?).
    I think this hoopla just brings out two questions. As rindawriter says: what is it in these books that have struck such a common note? And the other question would be: why are people so strident in trying to tear the books down?

  27. Anonymous says:

    >I enjoy the Harry Potter books, and would hate to see then edited down–but, hey, I watch movies on DVD primarily to see the deleted scenes. I also love Trollope’s meandering multi-volume sagas. I admire and appreciate tightly-written prose, too, but it’s just as fascinating to me to see the juggler keep the bowling ball and the chain saw in the air just a little longer. And I remember, as a child, nothing was sadder than coming to the end of a favorite book–I would have taken any extra chapters Madeleine L’Engle cared to throw at me!

  28. Anonymous says:

    >My family enjoyed the Harry Potter books and we loved the Jin Dale audiobook. We have enjoyed the movies also and we liked the way the books were adapted for the movies and the actors chosen for the roles, We saw the promotion for The Dark Is Rising and were horrified!

  29. Anonymous says:

    >The length debate reminds me a bit of Ellen Emerson White’s forthcoming new book, Long May She Reign. It’s the sequel to the president’s daughter series, books I adored as a teen. From a lit crit point of view, this latest (I believe it’s over 800 pages, though I don’t have it in front of me) is significantly longer than it needs to be. But as a reader, absorbed in the book, in love with the characters, I couldn’t get enough, and gladly submerged myself in her world for as long as I was allowed. Would it have been a better book if it was shortened? Maybe, maybe not, but as a pleasure-reader I’m glad it wasn’t.

    Claire

  30. Anonymous says:

    >I think a couple of factors bring out the hate. One of them is the heaping amounts of praise that’s been poured all over Rowling. Remember that when the craze first started, it wasn’t enough to think Harry Potter was a good book, we all had to agree that it was GREAT, BRILLIANT, and ONE OF A KIND. With lots of exclamation points, even. I thought the first book was okay, and the second better. Even though I was looking forward to the rest of the series, I didn’t think they were brilliant– I thought and still think that their success was more of the lightening strike variety of pet rocks, and bell bottoms. But it seems to me that people don’t want to believe that they are swept up in a fad, they want to believe that their obsession is intellectually valid — I am not a boob manipulated by marketing and herd behavior, no, I am responding to great art! So they revile anyone who isn’t a true believer, and those of us who aren’t true believers get all cranky and pissed off. It brings out the hate.

    And yes, I think we are jealous, if not on our own behalf, on behalf of all of our favorite authors whose work we think is more derserving than Rowling’s of fame. If it’s just a lightening strike of fad-dom, then it could have struck anywhere. Oh why won’t you all fall on the neck of Diana Wynne Jones and make her a bajillionaire?

    Of course, it isn’t just a lightening strike. Rowling provides something we want. (I did like the first few books). Excitement, magic, fun. But most important, is the aspect that I think irks me most. They are such mindless entertainment. Sit back, read the words, no thinking required. It’s all laid out for you to enjoy with minimal effort. Of course, some people do think creatively as they read– yea for them. Rowling provides a world for the imaginative to play in. But for all those imaginitively dead readers, it is an endless soap opera engendering nothing different from seven hours in front of a television. Books are reduced to the value of TV. And so, it isn’t surprising that thousands of readers of Potter don’t go on to read anything else.

    While I don’t hate the books, and certainly don’t blame the author for her success, yes, I it bothers me that the world can’t see the difference between reading a book and being spoon fed a soap opera.

    `h

  31. >Lots of good books have soapy elements–the new Choldenko has a huge soapy twist in it. But I think ‘h has it wrong when he/she says people read Harry Potter mindlessly, because that’s exactly what they don’t do. Many readers get very swept up in it, and it isn’t only the obsessed ones who have spent a good deal of time puzzling out the clues Rowling has given us and trying to figure out various elements of the story.

    I’ve also overheard younger kids spending lots of pleasurable time pondering whether they might get a letter when they turn eleven, and what life at Hogwarts would be like. They are very engaging books.

    I suspect the books will drop way down in popularity for awhile once they are passe, but when the kids who are now 10-20 years old have their own kids, they’ll be introducing their children to Harry, and that generation will enjoy them immensely because they won’t already have had all of the surprises as thoroughly spoiled as the kids who are currently 0-10 have. I think Harry will hang on for decades.

  32. >Eight years ago I knew a few “reluctant readers” for whom Harry Potter was their breakthrough series. I’ve watched these kids grow up as loyal HP readers. These kids are soon-to-be high school graduates.

    The nine to twelve year olds I know these days, who just don’t like to read much, NEVER start Harry Potter books. And the biggest factor in that choice is the HP movies.

    I’ll make a long term prediction: the series will stay in high circulation among a certain demographic, for about another decade, but it won’t have staying power beyond that.

    And even without that critical second point from which to extrapolate a prediction like this, I’m gonna bet we will see another OFF-THE-CHARTS, runaway bestseller, with sales similar to HP, within the next five years. I’d even go so far as to bet it’ll be a fantasy series.

    And finally, I think Zorah’s predictions on the final book are gonna be dead on. Well, at least most of them.

  33. Anonymous says:

    >My biggest problem with HP is Quidditch actually — the game totally ruins my suspension of disbelief. The main part with the bludgers (or whatever) is great, but it’s Harry and this Golden Snitch (or whatever) business that drives me nuts. It’s completely superfluous! Imagine how much interest say softball would hold for its main participants if some jumped-up kid playing pinball on the sidelines could suddenly score 300 runs for his team at the very last minute. The losers would feed him the ball! I think in Quidditch, a lot of brooms would be put down in disgust the first time that happened…

    Still, it doesn’t fill me up with the conviction that I could do so much better. I’ll let my readers be the judge.

    PB

  34. Anonymous says:

    >My predictions:

    Harry is a horcrux. Under duress, Peter Pettigrew will provide crucial information to Harry about extracting the portion of Voldemort’s soul that exists in his body while preventing Harry’s dying in the process.

    As the t-shirt says: Trust Snape. Snape will provide crucial assistance to Harry at a critical moment. He’s a good guy, he’s just not a nice guy. He will save Harry in part because Harry has his mother’s eyes–and Snape loved Lily Evans. I expect Snape will live; one can never get the really annoying people out of one’s life.

    Victor Krum will die saving Hermione’s life.

    Some Weasleys will die–I’m betting it’s Ron’s mom and dad.

    Kreacher has the locket horcrux.

    Regulus Black lives. Sirius is dead and gone.

    I talk about these sort of plot and character puzzles with my students all of the time. You can’t base such vibrant discussions on “thin plotting and weak characters.”

    Re: editing: One cannot so easily expunge, for example, the World Quidditch Cup. Many plot elements are set up during this episode. Additionally, the sport element is important to many readers. So many genre’s are entertwined in these books: fantasy, mystery, boarding-school adventure, sports…Harry as an everyman, coming of age figure…

    I’m not saying the books are perfect, or couldn’t use some editing, but the amount of vitriol being expressed here is uncalled for. Sounds like a lot of snobbery to me. “If this many people like it it can’t really be good.” Sort of the opposite of the quote I’ve heard reported of James Joyce upon completing “Ulysses,” something of the nature “I’ve written a book that noone will ever fully understand.” What an ass–a great artist, true, but an ass.

    An important question, too–has everyone doing the critiquing actually read the books. ALL of the books? Maybe the answer is yes. I’m just curious.

    It’s an unedited ramble, but I couldn’t resist getting some of those thoughts out into the mix.

    Marian

  35. Anonymous says:

    >I agree with PB about the excessive amount of points going to the seeker for capture of the snitch. However, it is stated that these games can go on for days. Presumably, enough points would be accumulated in such cases that the capture of the snitch would not be so decisive. Thankfully, none of the games in the books goes on quite that long, though some might think it feels that way!

    By the way, did I mention how richly detailed and fully realized is Rowling’s alternative world? An important marker for well-written fantasy.

    Marian

  36. Roger Sutton says:

    >Yikes, this conversation has gone completely out of my depth. I can only say why I stopped reading (and stopped commenting on) HP. As Claire and Rand (my little brother) point out, a book won’t ever seem too long if you love it. But if you haven’t been drawn into that world, every page is one too many. And after two- or three-and-a-half (can’t remember just where I gave up) Harry Potters, I realized I was simply Not There. Rowling writes (or wrote, anyway, in those three books) in a way that made me feel pushed out. Not unwelcome, but unnecessary. Every scene, character, action, motive, and joke was described and explained, frequently more than once. There was nothing for me to do. This is the quality I think ‘h was alluding to. It’s also why I think those books have been able to enthrall millions of non-readers.

  37. Anonymous says:

    >Roger, I’ll agree with you to the extent that it may be one of many reasons the books have enthralled millions of non-readers. Tis too true that the prose itself is nothing to linger over and savor and puzzle out allegory and illusion. Nevertheless, I think we should not forget the many very excellent readers who also love the books. Clearly, the passion for the books is not limited to non-readers.

    It will be interesting to see if JK Rowling can pull off the ending. So many books fall apart at the end… What a lot of pressure to be under, as a writer…

    Marian

  38. >It’s not just fantasy, with the seemingly unneccessary pages. Anyone ever read Hugo’s Les Miserables? Seriously: sixty pages on the rules of a convent! Chapters dedicated to explaining argot! Perhaps one day, HP will come out in an abridged version. But I agree wholeheartedly with whomever said whatever about a book never seeming long if you love it. I could probably kill someone if I threw my copy of Order of the Phoenix at them, and we’ll call it double murder if I’m armed with Les Mis as well.

    And I love the rush of fantasy on kids’ shelves. Adults, too. Good fantasy helps us to see our own world in a more clear light. Not only that, it’s imaginative and fun. I read so much as a kid that my mother grounded me from reading for a whole summer, because I used to lock myself in the bathroom and read, instead of doing homework or my chores. It was nearly always Babysitter’s Club (talkin’ bout MY generation now), occassionally a non-fiction on ancient Egypt or jungle animals.

    But then I discovered Tamora Pierce. And Philip Pullman. And Robin McKinley. And all of a sudden there were dragons and swords and magic and humorous heroes and incredible heroines, which were all so much more exciting than life in Twinsburg, Ohio. Alannah and Lyra, etc, were my escape from a world where I was literally no one, to a place where I rode along side a knight into battle, and saved children from a horrible fate. Fantasy is why I want to write books, why I find my life now so utterly magical.

    I hope there’s another Harry Potter, to help kids to read and find a world so much bigger than what they know, with heroes they never thought possible (and I hope I write it).

  39. Anonymous says:

    >this must be some sort of mass hallucination – will you all go to Disneyworld for your annual convention? Or maybe you will all be translated together into some sort of Harryworld in the sky. it’s hard to believe that adults (some of whom may be responsible for young readers) can act so STRANGELY

  40. Anonymous says:

    >It’s another lily-livered personal attack from a completely anonymous source. Get some manners and wait to write until you have something interesting to say.
    Marian

  41. Anonymous says:

    >Ooops, couple of posts ago, I mentioned “allegory and illusion.” Consider that allusion.
    Marian

  42. Roger Sutton says:

    >But Marian, I do recall with admiration Philip Henshaw (I think) writing about seeing a young businessman reading Harry Potter on the tube and wanting to snap at him, “You should be ashamed of yourself.” I wouldn’t dare try that here!

  43. Anonymous says:

    >Ahh, there’s nothing like a good curmudgeon!
    Marian

  44. Anonymous says:

    >What a Pandora’s Box You Have Opened- Roger!

  45. Roger Sutton says:

    >Yes, and just wait until I post about Harry fangirl bloggers writing reviews! ;-)

  46. >I agree with the comments about editing (but then, I have the same complaint about A.N. Wilson, Dan Brown, Nicholas Basbanes and a host of others). Editing, and I mean close, careful editing, is disappearing today. Or that’s what seems to be happening in the books I read.

    As for Harry Potter, I read it because I’m a school librarian and it’s sort of expected; I don’t think I’d have ready further than Book Two/Three otherwise. My older students are all agog about the ending, but the younger, middle school ones don’t seem to care as much. The new Warriors book, or the third in the Inheritance trilogy are what they crave. The ones that are looking forward to HPVII are mostly those with older siblings (who got into it years ago).

    Perhaps it’s the time lag between books, or perhaps it’s just something that you had to be in on from the start? In either case, I don’t expect to hear many of my fifth and sixth graders chattering about it come September.

  47. Anonymous says:

    >I recently stumbled upon your blog, Roger, and so enjoy hearing your thoughts. Wow, what a comment trail we have here. As a regular, good old elementary school teacher, with no other credits to my name, I see my number one job as this: getting kids to love reading. That’s it. I could take or leave everything else.

    And that’s what HP has done. Not for all kids, no book could, but more than any other book in the last several years.

    This is a series written for children. You can call them young adults if you wish, but they are children. If adults enjoy it, as many do, that’s fantastic. But this series began, and will (I hope) end in a way that is meaningful to children. Why have so many people lost sight of that?

  48. Garret Freymann-Weyr says:

    >Well. . . as my husband is producing an endless stream of Harry stories at work, I don’t have much to say about the fuss. But you can say that you are not a Harry fan if you explain why. I have told many a room full of 7th or 8th graders that it is derivative and that they should read the source material: P.L. Travers, Tolkien, Tom Brown’s School Days, etc. Their eyes get very big, but I am told that a lot of them go and read, at the very least, Mary Poppins. It is true that I don’t say anything to grownups. I rather feel it is too late for them.

  49. Melinda says:

    >When I saw my cousin (a wrestler who has no interest in books that I have ever seen) carrying around “Phoenix,” — and he was halfway through it — I was impressed beyond words.

    Even if I didn’t like HP (which I do), that alone would have made me take up the banner for it!

  50. Anonymous says:

    >Yes, if you like Rowling, then by all means read Tolkien. And if you like Tolkien, then maybe you should check out Wagner. And if you like Wagner then maybe you should read the Norse myths. And so on and so on. Each have their pleasures, some deeper than others, and the point is that (happily) you needn’t give up one to pick up the other.

  51. Saipan Writer says:

    >I’m an HP fan. Roger objects: “Every scene, character, action, motive, and joke was described and explained, frequently more than once. There was nothing for me to do.” I understand the objection, and can agree in part. Because Rowling does do that a lot.

    But there are still things for the reader to do. For example, analyze the characters. Is Snape friend or foe? (The debate rages on this point.) For example, imagine future plot points–what is the last horcrux going to be? Is RAB really Regulus Black? Why did Fortescue disappear? And so on.

    And these are the kind of puzzles I enjoy. (Although I am not a fan of Tolkein or most other fantasy.)

    As to the lasting quality of the books, who knows. Perhaps the series will be like Treasure Island–popular in its day, but of less enduring quality.

    Or perhaps there’s a universal appeal that will transcend time, make the books classics, and forever ruin them for future generations. (haha!)

    Nice discussion, here. I have my own pathetic predictions on my blog, for those who just can’t get enough Harry.

    And thanks, Roger, for the chance to count down a few more minutes in the LONG anticipation of the Deathly Hallows.

  52. >Again, a late comment due to lack of internet when abroad…

    One thing that seems to be missing in all these discussions about why HP is popular, it seems to me, is character and setting. Rowling’s greatest strengths as a writer are character development and setting. In this way, she’s much like Dickens. Also, like Dickens, because of these skills she’s managed to create a fan base–a number of readers who are willing to spend the night outdoors (not me, I bought my copy at 6am in an Edinburgh train station–no way was I going to queue on Princess Street at midnight) waiting for the latest installmet. Yes, her words could be edited down. But, so could Dickens’s novels. Ever read A Tale of Two Cities? Great novel, but the first 100 pages are totally unnecessary. SO WHAT? We still read them. What the hell is with the carping about it? Don’t like it? Don’t read it. Take up some Russian Lit instead. Each short story has an extra 50 pages.

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