Mitt, Harry Potter (spoilers)

Irina Rempt ira at
Sat Sep 16 17:22:52 EDT 2000

On Sat, 16 Sep 2000, Mary Ann Dimand wrote:

> I reread Drowned Ammet a couple of months ago, and was struck anew
> at how beautifully DWJ had constructed a very tough book.

I started to reread it on the train to Amsterdam (on the way to my
theology class) this morning, and then a classmate lent me ALL FOUR
of the Harry Potter books...

No, I don't think I hate Mitt; but then I only made it about 1/4 of
the way through, until the point that Milda joins the Free Holanders.

About Harry Potter: I've finished the first one already, and I'm of
two minds about it. 

Warning: heavy spoilers for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
Was I the last one on the list to read it?

Parts of it are excellent - especially unexpected details and nice
touches, like all the ghosts who are taken for granted, the changing
addresses on the letters which are always exactly correct, and the
whole idea of a world invisible to most people, though that does tend
to have the effect of taking *all* the colour and magic out of the
"normal" world to put it in the magical world, leaving our world
bleak like when you're having a bout of mild depression. I do like
the Gryffindor Head-of-House (can't recall her name right now).

Parts of it are dreadful - surely, no family can be *that* bad? What
it reminds me most of is David's family in _Eight Days of Luke_, but
then those people didn't have anything good themselves either, it's
not that they had it but didn't give it to David the way the Dursleys
don't give anything to Harry. Also, the school/house loyalty seems to
be carried a bit too far, but then I've never been to boarding school
(though I've read all the Malory Towers books :-) and for all I know
it's only slightly exaggerated. And if one has been living in a
cupboard for ten years, coming out only to go to school, one can't be
*that* sane even if one is Harry Potter.

It's too obviously "for children". She's perhaps trying too hard to
keep it light (at least in the first book) to tone down the really
scary parts, like the scene in the wood. DWJ often does the same
thing, but is much more subtle about it, she doesn't think she has to
*explain* everything six times over, tediously (the endless
repetition of "Neville, the toadless boy" in the early chapters), the
way Rowling does. And the "magical" occurrences and the "mundane"
ones are side by side without any transition, giving a jarring

It seems like she's underestimating and overestimating her audience
at the same time: it's aimed at 9- to 11-year-olds, I think one needs
a mental age of at least 10 (perhaps more; I can't really estimate
that any more, I have a six-year-old reading like she's nine but with
a mental age of about seven or eight, and I won't let her read Harry
Potter in Dutch yet because I'm sure she'll have nightmares and I'll
spend an inordinate amount of time explaining things) to understand
what's happening, but she explains things as if the readers are much

I'm starting on the Chamber of Secrets now...


           Varsinen an laynynay, saraz no arlet rastynay.
irina at (myself)

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