Monday, July 23, 2007

Hey, man. Don't be mean.

Harry Potter is a four-quadrant book. It appeals to over 25s and under, boys and girls alike. It works in the film industry; makes sense that it works for a book.

I say that if you're an adult and you read the book, you have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. I own a copy of The Emperor's New Groove. I liked Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. It's no different from enjoying a book about a teenage wizard fighting the forces of darkness.

I suppose I'm harping on this a little because Chez at Deus Ex Malcontent seems obsessed with trying to make people who read Harry Potter feel as bad about themselves as he can. Why someone wants to waste so much time and energy making fun of people for enjoying something is beyond me. All his ranting hasn't made me feel the least bit bad about my love for Harry Potter. It has made me wonder why I bother reading something written by someone who obviously needs to put other people down so he can feel superior.

One of the things recommended on his posts - maybe by him, maybe by someone else in a comment, I don't remember - was for the last page of the book to be covered in poison so we could "thin the gene pool". That's a hell of a thing to say.

I can't stand country music. But I have friends who like it and that's fine with me as long as they don't force me to listen to country while we're in the car. I'm certainly not going to write a rambling post about what horrible people they are for enjoying the caterwauls of Randy Travis because it doesn't make them horrible people. They like something I don't care for. Big deal. I just shrug and go about my business.

It makes me wonder, what makes somebody feel the need to put other people down? What is it in human nature that brings us some sense of satisfaction when we make snap judgments, when we get to decide in our minds whether or not someone is worthy of life because of their taste in music or movies or books?

Chez's main point is that Harry Potter is not written for adults. Grown ups should only read grown up-books. I've read a lot of grown-up books and some of them are pretty good. Lolita is a difficult book to read and I quite enjoy it. But it's about the repeated rape of a teenage girl by her stepfather. Catch 22 is an excellent book, and very difficult for most people to read, and it's about the stupidity and horrific oddities of war. Heart of Darkness is required reading for anyone who wants to consider himself a well-read adult. It's a horrifying story of man's inner demons.

Harry Potter is about good overcoming evil and the courage one boy can show in the face of danger. It's a hopeful story, a story that makes me feel warm and fuzzy instead of depressed and hopeless. It may not be the most difficult to read, but neither is Animal Farm. Neither is Of Mice and Men. Neither is Night. All of these are considered "adult books". Come to think of it, those are all depressing books too.

Is that what makes something a children's book? A happy ending? In order to be an adult you have to be depressed?

Then I shall stay a child.

People often hold me to some strange standards because of my chosen profession. They think I must have perfect spelling and grammar and rush to correct me if I'm wrong even though I never correct anyone's grammar unless they're in my classroom. They also expect me to only read the most lofty of literature. But I judge a book by how much I want to turn the page. If I resist going to the bathroom because I want to see what happens next, it's a good book. Harry Potter makes me feel that way. Heart of Darkness does not.

I believe it was James Baldwin who once said "Men pay for their crimes by the lives they lead." That's always sort of been my motto. People who are mean-spirited tend to be very unhappy. They can make fun of me all they like for my taste in literature, but the more venom they spout my way, the more comes back on them. That's a lesson they might have learned if they'd ever read Harry Potter.


  1. I don't understand the whole Harry Potter thing myself, but wow - I totally respect the writer. When I left LA last night, I've never seen so many adults reading the same damn book while waiting to get on planes.

  2. I think all this finger-pointing is missing the crux of the issue:

    How freakin' hot is Hermione gonna be by the last movie?

    That Ron Weasley is a lucky man.

  3. People put other people down, trying to make them feel bad about themselves and their choices, because they have some deficiency in their own lives. Misery, as they say, loves company, and this kind of misery is the kind that, as you said, works best when the person dealing the misery can make others feel worse than him.

    It's pointless to even bother debating with such people. They will not change until they choose to change themselves. The only way to do that is to not let their attempts to bring you down gain traction in your mind. LEt it roll off your back and keep smiling.

    Living well is truly the best revenge. ;)

  4. Don't have time to read his post... too busy making my way through the book....

    What was that you said?

    Nice thing bout getting the book in China... no lines... :)

  5. I was a college reading tutor for three years. The reason most adults stop reading is that they find adult books boring and tedious. They don’t want to read the classics. They don’t want to read Oprah’s book club. They don’t want to read what the American Lit teacher recommends. They want to read a book that is entertaining.

    The first session consisted of finding out what the student likes to read. Not so mysteriously, it is the same stories that we think of as the big budget summer blockbuster: romance, action adventure, sci-fi, and fantasy.

    The popularity of Harry Potter allows adults to read without the baggage of feeling bad that they're reading for entertainment. If asked they can say they’re doing it so that they can discuss it with so and so... probably some kid that doesn’t read Harry Potter books.

    Adults should be allowed to read what they like. Once they’re done with their favorite genre they’ll branch out and pick up other books. This is how most people fall in love with reading. If you give them the new Delillo or force them to read Revolutionary Road (note: We had a copy given to us by an English Teacher that no one liked. No one touched it in 3 years. Including the tutors and the admins) before they’re prepared for them they’ll stop at page ten and then not read anything for 10-20 years or until J.K. Goes back and writes a new Potter book.

  6. Top 3 Fave Books (in no order):

    High Fidelity
    Jurassic Park
    Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4

    And like the main characters in High Fidelity, I believe you can learn a lot about people from what they like -- and it can even give you an idea as to whether or not you'd get along -- but if you hate someone for liking something, then you are an insecure lunatic.

    I also like superhero comics.

  7. Any book that gets people reading is a good book in my book.

    BTW: finished reading it Tuesday afternoon, when I should ahve been sleeping. I'm dragging my butt at work, but it was worth it!

    (No spoilers from me - I don't work for the NY Times or the Washington Post!)


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