There’s a discussion going on in the comments of this Harry Potter post over at Roger Sutton’s blog. Much of it is a rehash of the same old same old — complaints that the books are not well-edited, that Rowling herself is too self-indulgent, followed by strongly-voiced defenders. In the midst of it all, un-Bartleby-like, Roger explained:
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.
What struck me forcefully about this response is that it yet again reinforces how much each reader interacts with a book in his/her own unique way. And how important it is to respect these differing responses. Roger has been polite, direct and forthright in his comments; those who feel differently should be so as well.
And so, here I go. While I don’t think the books are perfect (more in a moment), my own experience with them has been quite the opposite from Roger’s. That is, far from feeling pushed out, I feel I’m very much in them — mucking about as I pick up this clue and consider it, wonder about that person, about the prophecy, about Voldemort, about how Rowling will end it, and so on. That it is a school story, something I always like, makes it even more fun, and best of all — there is that wizarding world Rowling has so cleverly put together in a way that parallels our own. From exams to communications devices, she’s got them all in there.
I do think the sentence level writing is definitely nothing to write home about. I’ve long railed about those darn adverbs (and I think ever since people started pointing them out Rowling has put even more in to get back at them/us:); I’m currently listening to the sixth book and must say that I’m getting a little tired of the boys smirking and sniggering every few pages while certain girls giggle way too much.
Still while I do think Harry Potter is an experience of our time that doesn’t mean I think everyone has to read the books or acknowledge that they are more important in 2007 than the…um….Beatles were in 1966. I plan to have fun next Friday and Saturday and will, no doubt, be online busily debating what it all means once I’m done with the book along with many others. But for those who prefer not to — no problem!