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The Forum > Article Comments > The Order of the Harry-Haters > Comments

The Order of the Harry-Haters : Comments

By Helen Pringle, published 27/7/2007

Children would be better off not reading anything rather than reading 'Harry Potter'.

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I admit to having a Potter reader in the household and having read to book three myself (at which point, given it's deeper style, I wondered how many JK Rowling's there are, or, thank goodness she found a new editor). I've seen the movies.

My observation is that HP seems to reinforce conservative middle-class values and isolationism. The women in the books are treated apallingly. Harry, the hero does heroic things, plays sport and inevitably saves that day. The main female lead, Hermonie, just does sneaky spells. A lifetime of telling my daughter that she can do what the boys do has been lost. The minor female characters are stereo-types.

Yes, Rolling can roll lots of stories into one, telling a good tale. But the writing is lazy and lacks confidence. The books are dialogue heavy but she is unwilling to let readers 'read' the dialogue. Most statement are qualified with "he said anxiously....surprisingly...seriously ...(insert any other adverb)". My Potterite observed (wisely?) "these are children's books [really?] and shouldn't be taken seriously". Which is a bit like saying restaurants should only offer chicken nuggets and chips in a kid's menu.

The other aspect is that Potterdom is a closed world. My reader read the tome in the required day. Why? So she could get on the net and not see spoilers. The aim was not any richness in the narrative but simply to see 'how it ends' before someone tells her in a forum. The book finished, I asked how it ended (yes, I'm curious as to whether JKR has left space for a follow-up) but i was greeted with hostility. Apparently either I wouldn't understand or was not a citizen of HP land, so not entitled to know. Other parents had similar experiences. I'll wait for the movie as my household reader uses HP, (like IM/SMS/blogs), to exclude who she wants from her world.
Posted by PeterJH, Friday, 27 July 2007 9:25:43 AM
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'Fraid this article is garbage.

The author concludes:

"Moreover, the passage is like an allegory of reading: slow down, listen, take your time, think, donít rush to the end, and a world will come to life. With Harry Potter, all there is, is a rush to the end to see whodunit."

Rush to the end? Welcome to the world of children. It's all well and good to ask them to be more contemplative, but we may as well ask them all to stop wanting to eat junkfood and stay up late.
Ain't gonna happen.

The premise - that children are immersed in an anti-social, impatient literary spiral of some description, essentially means that any popular books that children are eager to read, will fall into the same trap.

Unless there is some kind of fiction which is more contemplative... but most kids aren't going to want to read that. May as well ask them to trade cartoons for news programs.

This isn't an issue about Harry potter - it's an adult projecting their concept of what should be interesting to kids (and adults), in place of what actually is.
Posted by TurnRightThenLeft, Friday, 27 July 2007 9:48:24 AM
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What's it like being stuck back in "the Good Ole Days" Helen? Do tell ;)

But seriously, to use a Tolkien example...I'd much rather re-read The Hobbit with its light airy writing, fast-pace and subtle hints at deeper things, than sit through the horrible monstrosity of dull, incoherent, rambling that Lord of the Rings becomes as Tolkien drifts into self-absorption in the latter "books".

Potter is The Hobbit compared to which all of the classics you listed are merely Lord of the Rings.
Posted by hadz, Friday, 27 July 2007 10:37:45 AM
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Whilst I understand why an academic lover of literature is unhappy with the popularity of the HP series, whilst so much of her beloved 'literature' goes unread by the masses, she's being entirely unrealistic and intellectually snobbish.

The works of Charles Dickens, and other's of his ilk, are products of earlier times when books had less competition for peoples' time, at least amongst the educated classes. The long winded and thoroughly descriptive prose of those times was obviously far more accepted and even highly regarded in those times. In today's busy world of instant gratification, such prose trys peoples' patience, except those with lots time on their hands or a financial interest - Such as academics. Frankly, it is doubtful anyone would ever read a Charles Dickens today if they hadn't been taught to appreciate such works as children.

Of course it is a good thing our education system 'teaches' us an appreciation of the literature of other times, but to complain that the popular fiction of this era is less valid or worthwhile than that of an earlier era is just plain silly. Modern prose may not be as colourful or pretty, but it is more efficient, and makes its point in a tenth the time (c.f. Charles Dickens) and that is what our modern age demands.

As for telling us what's good for children, as a parent I will stick with the realists who know that anything which sparks a love of reading in my children is a good thing
Posted by Kalin1, Friday, 27 July 2007 11:36:26 AM
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Dissect!
Define!
Be obsessed with minutiae!
Don't accept that kids just like or dislike.
Pore over experience for an imperative definition of fun, then tell the child what to like.
Don't ever let a child enjoy exploration!
Posted by Ponder, Friday, 27 July 2007 11:53:41 AM
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I was talking to someone I know recently. She has written a number of books for children and read thousands of them. Naturally we discussed HP.
I think she was absolutely right when she said that the HP books had all the elements in them that children want.
Other modern books for children? As she said, "Go and look in the children's section of your local library. You will find a great many badly written books about 'social issues'. The characters are flat. The books are supposed to be 'realistic' and do nothing to stretch the imagination of the child. Is it any wonder children do not want to read. I don't blame the child who told me "I'm sick of AIDS and death and divorce."
Adults read fiction for pleasure. If children read fiction it is supposed to be to improve their minds (shades of the Victorian era here). If it does not improve their minds then they are "wasting time" and should be doing something else....thanks educators you are certainly putting kids off reading. Thank God for Harry!
Posted by Communicat, Friday, 27 July 2007 1:00:12 PM
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