Friday, April 24, 2009

10 Books A Day: #5

The Tales Of Beedle The Bard...J. K. Rowling...Scholastic Inc.

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them..."Newt Scamander" (J. K. Rowling)...Scholastic

Quidditch Through The Ages..."Kennilworthy Whisp" (J. K. Rowling)...Scholastic

Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone...J. K. Rowling...Scholastic Press

Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets...J. K. Rowling...Scholastic Press

Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban...J. K. Rowling...Scholastic Press

Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire...J. K. Rowling...Scholastic Press

Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix...J. K. Rowling...Scholastic Press

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince...J. K. Rowling...Scholastic Press

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows...J. K. Rowling...Scholastic Press

The Lexicon: An Unauthorized Guide To Harry Potter Fiction And Related Materials...Steve Vander Ark...RDR Books

Back in the 90's when I first saw Harry Potter books on drugstore shelves I was vaguely interested. The idea for children going to a magic school was one that had always appealed to me (in fact my brother John and I had developed a rather long saga in our "playings" on this theme); but I was put off by the goofy style of the illustrations. Later when the "phenomenon" began to crank into full swing, I found the faddish brouhaha also off-putting. At last I read it for myself, to give it a fair shake, and found it a competent and enjoyable fantasy, no better (it seemed to me) than many another children's fantasy series. The adulation was puzzling unless one considered the publicity that fed back into itself, not only about Harry Potter, but about Rowling herself ("Single Mom On Dole Makes Millions, With Just The Craft Of Her Own Fair Fingers!").

To me, Rowling is remarkable for a few facts. First, she was able to show that two genres that most critics had thought to be dead as the dodo (the Dickensian Tale and the School Story) could still grip the attention and please millions of readers. Second, she became the Leaf for a whole generation. J. R. R. Tolkien, using a metaphor for the constant renewal of stories with each retelling, said that leaves come forth every year, and they are all much the same, but each time they may be the first time a new generation has seen them, and they become the leaves they compare all other seasons to. Third, I find Rowling's style comparable to Anne Rice's through her Vampire years: both combine an exaltation of taste and texture, color and style, with an angst that conditions do not allow a contented enjoyment of them. It is a strawberry enjoyed hanging between two tigers, and seems to resonate with the modern spirit.

It may be another generation before the Potter books can be given a just evaluation. In the meantime, every picture of J. K. Rowling will have that smug little smirk that must surely come from being richer than the Queen of England, with none of the obligations.

1 comment:

John said...

She looks disturbingly like Harry in that photo!