Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Jeez Louize

Kim called me today to fill me in on why everyone is so wildly angry about my Harry Potter post. She says people are reading into it that I'm saying "If you like Harry Potter you are stupid." I am NOT saying that at all. I watch reality TV and read Stephen King – I don't think people are dumb for liking bad stuff.

When it comes to Harry Potter, I feel the reading public treats these books like something wonderful and great instead of what they are - plot-driven children’s books. It just makes me sad that caring about good writing makes me a snob. (or an elitist, depending upon which comment you agree with more.) I care that published authors and their editors don’t take the time to improve upon the writing at least enough so you don't cringe as you're reading. But the truth is they don't have to - the books will sell even if the writing is mediocre, even if there are glaring errors in syntax, even if the sentences don’t exactly flow.

Yes I am glad children are reading. But what are they going to read in between these extravaganzas put on by the publisher to sell more books? Perhaps some Sweet Valley High?

I don't have a lot of favorites when it comes to Children's Literature, but since Mrs. R asked I would highly recommend CS Lewis and Madeleine L'Engle. And I don't know if it's still the case, but I remember the Newberry Medal at least would single out one book a year that was usually good. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor are two that stood out for me as a child. Oh, and of course Stuart Little, Charlotte's Web, and The Trumpet of the Swan – all by EB White.

Paula had a good point about writers being too in love with their prose to get to the story. This is often a problem in serious contemporary "literature" these days (I blame over-workshopping in the MFA programs that have appeared at practically every university in the country). It's all about balance, and I think Rowling misses the balance by a long shot, albeit on the other end of the spectrum.

Like any art, writing is up for interpretation. If I wrote here "I think the Mona Lisa is rubbish, it doesn't deserve the wall space" would you all still freak out on me? I don't think so. So everyone simmer back down and stop being so angry. I still hate the books and probably won't read them until I have to read them to Jack. Then we'll see if I change my tune.

(And Jen, I was actually shocked at the response I got to this. I did expect some controversy regarding my divorce with kids post considering the divorce rate in our country and I was looking forward to hearing different perspectives. Oh well, I guess I didn't quite understand the Harry Potter zeal had reached such a fevered pitch.)


Blogger Berly's Blog said...

That is not the reason I called you today, I wanted to ask you if you saw my comment yesterday about going through doors. What do you think of Laura Ingalls Wilder????

9:30 PM  
Blogger potusol said...

YOU THINK THE MONA LISA IS RUBBISH?!?!?!? (foaming at mouth)

12:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very good, thank you for responding with particular titles. I assume the C.S. Lewis books are the Chronicles of Narnia? I devoured those books as a child. Interestingly, the Catholicism steeped into the stories escaped me entirely then, despite the fact I'm Catholic!
I also grew up on the Anne of Green Gables books and Harriet the Spy, interspersed with readings of The Little Women, etc.
You must be looking forward to reading with Jack.
Mrs. R.

4:09 AM  
Blogger pleutim said...

I admit that I AM reading the HP books. I would never buy them for myself (not my genre) but they were lent to me. I've made it into book 5 so it will be quite awhile before I hit 6, which everyone picked up and finished in a couple hours the other day. While I am reading and enjoying them (as in, I'm not finding it a chore to read them), I fail to see the appeal that has drawn so many rabid and fanatical fans. It's a book, people!! What *will* they do when the last one is out and there are no more??

5:38 AM  
Blogger PJS said...

I only read the first one, but I admit I sort of liked it. I didn't like it so much that I was sucked into the entire series (maybe I'm just commitment-phobic), but the writing quality didn't jump out at me as an issue.

Not so with "Wicked", which I found despicably unreadable, I and now passionately hate.

7:16 AM  
Blogger Jen said...

Have you poked around blogverse. The book is everwhere, I had no idea! People can stop putting a picture of the cover up, I know what it looks like! I actually think its quite silly that people got so angry about this. And, of course, I had to harass you a little for, once again, posting something so seemingly innocent, and yet people are angry about it. Divorce, nobody cares about that...HP on the other hand...that's important stuff. (For the record, I missed the divorce post, because I didn't have a computer this weekend, so when I read bloglines on Monday, the Monday post was the first one I saw) Oh and I HAD to give you a little grief for liking the Apprentice, which most of the world does. I know, I'm in a very small minority of individuals who are really disturbed by reality TV.

I LOVED Narnia when I was a little. Disney has turned it into a movie. I also loved EB White and Luara Ingalls Wilder and the silly Beverly Cleary Ramona books. Loved them!

7:34 AM  
Anonymous Paula said...

Actually, I just disagree with what you said about the books. I don't think the first chapter of an author's first published books tells the whole story about her writing. I do thing the English in the HP books is at a reasonably high standard, though it's true JKR will never be known for the beauty of her prose. (It's actually the logic flaws in the books that bothers me more.) Further, I'd say that the books are driven more by character than by plot, as witness both JKR's own comments (it was Harry himself who famously came to her in that train, not a whole Good vs. Evil conflict) and of the general passionate reaction to the books. One doesn't fall in love with a plot, but with the people who act it out.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Allena said...

oh i loved a wrinkle in time and the cronicles of narnia... i also liked a lot of judy blume books and pretty much any book i could get my hands on when i was younger.. i'm reading the HP books now i started to know what the "kids" were into these days. i've enjoyed them. but like you're saying to each his (or her) own! not everyone has to like the same things to get along! that's what i love about this RAOK ring! sorry that you had such a backlash for unleashing your oppinion... that sucks esp b/c it's on your own blog!
hope tomorrow is much better for you!

12:29 PM  

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