Thursday, July 19, 2007

In defense of the boy who lived

This is in response to a post by the normally most excellent and wise but currently wrong Chez at Deus Ex Malcontent.

During my second year as a teacher I started hearing a lot of hubbub about the Potter boy. Suddenly kids who hated reading were becoming avid readers all thanks to this strange little wizard.

So out of professional curiosity I picked up a copy of The Sorcerer's Stone. I figured an English teacher should read a book that has kids hooked on literature.

I read it in one day. Then I immediately ran to Wal-Mart and picked up The Chamber of Secrets.

Unfortunately that's all my local Wal-Mart had. I had to graduate to trips to Barnes and Noble for the rest, which was at the time an hour away from where I lived.

The Half-Blood Prince is about 672 pages. I bought it the day it came out and read it in 24 hours.

I did not dress up as a witch. I'm not planning on standing in line at midnight on Saturday. I just love these books, the same way I love Siddhartha or Lolita or Bleak House or Stars My Destination. It's a good story.

It's a fine example of the hero's journey, for one thing, just like Star Wars. Yes, it's written with kids in mind, but so is the Pirates of the Caribbean (also a hero's journey). Harry Potter is a four-quadrant book. In the film industry we reward that concept. Why if it's a book do we look down on people for reading "beneath" themselves?

However you feel about the films, to me the books are compelling reading and I greatly enjoy the stories as they get darker and more twisted and spiral to the end. I love stories in all their forms. And doggone it, kids, Harry Potter is as entertaining as they get.

Don't bother me Saturday. I'll be reading.


  1. I haven't read them myself, but are there lots of people who look down on adult Potter readers? I know tons of grown-ups who read those books. My office did a Harry Potter theme for Halloween one year.

  2. Hell, no one ever questions me about reading them. Then again, I'm really just a nigh-forty-year-old kid...

    I have to agree: great reading, and an excellent example of the hero's journey. People (translation: adult culture snobs) are probably looking down on it more for the fact that it's popular and has generated a lot of commercialism.

  3. believe it or not, Em, I completely agree with you! My favorite part about the Harry Potter books is that they were the first ones that my entire family read together- I was post- college, my youngest brother was in early high school, and the siblings in between AND my parents were all reading them. It was a lot of fun to come home and have something in common to talk about (because we certainly don't bring up politics!)

    Just a few weeks ago we were on vacation with my family, and I was reading a book on the history of forbidden foods. One chapter was on the mandrake, so I brought that up in discussion since it's featured in the HP books. There's always more to learn!


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