HP review

Anna Clare McDuff amcduff at math.sunysb.edu
Thu Jul 3 19:21:39 EDT 2003

On Thu, 3 Jul 2003, Charles Butler wrote:

> I agree with all of this (and with Roger's similar points in his post).
> Did I mention that WitW is one of my favourite books, by the way? I
> certainly don't see it as an allegory with a Point or a Message, and of
> course, like a lot of great books it is flexible enough to accommodate a
> good many interpretations. The interest in class is fairly explicit I
> should say (not just with the stoats/weasels but throughout, eg in the
> Ratty/Mole rel'p) - one certainly doesn't need to resort to allegory to
> make it plausible! - but my main point was simply that this book has its
> baggage, like any other, and that it's not a sign of intolerance or
> pseudism to say so.

	Absolutely! I hope my post didn't sound as if I were
misrepresenting you or tarring you with the Adamsian brush as it were. I
wrote it in a hurry so as to finish before going out to the theatre (went
to see an original no-budget musical comedy called the East End of Chicago
at the Circus Theatre Stratford in which an old friend of mine is playing
Al Capone. Lots of great dancing. It's on 'til Saturday if anyone is
interested </plug>) so I may not have been clear.

 Ideological criticism
> isn't the most interesting kind, IMHO, but it's not a a ridiculous, still
> less a fascistic, line to take.

	Certainly, where the notion of fascism comes in for me is when
people label things ideologically *and* decree that only certain
ideologies can be represented and all else must be subjugated. I don't see
anything wrong in discussing underlying ideologies. Actually I think it's
kind of healthy both psychologically and socially because we usually bring
our ideologies to what we read and we usually take ideologies from what we
read so being clear about what's going on seems like a sensible course of
action to me. It maybe the old academic blood stirring in my veins but I
personally love seeing if cases can be made, there's a thrill to seeing
how a marxist reading of Harry Potter could pan out, or a queer theory
one, or a christian reading or whatever viewpoint takes your fancy really.
I just get itchy when books are *denounced* for being ideologically

> Even so, I feel I'm missing something here. Adams's article didn't (and I
> _certainly_ didn't) say a word about censorship or what is 'acceptable' in
> children's lit. Where did all this come from? Was it raised in the
> correspondence following Adams's article? I haven't read that.

	Oh yeah, there was a lot of muttering on the old letters page & I
think to a large extent Liddle was reacting to that, the whole thing was
set in motion by the Adams article, but as usual it gathered a lot of moss
very fast. Certainly all that stuff about censorship, and yes, censorship
was mentioned, came up on the letters page & much besides. But of course
there is no doubt in my mind that Liddle was also enjoying being
provocative which is something of a specialty of his! You may remember a
while back where he got the sack from his day job as editor of the Today
Programme because of some very rude & extremely funny remarks he made in
his Guardian column about the Countryside Alliance. He was offered the
choice of keeping his prestigious BBC job or his Guardian column and
shocked his bosses by keeping the column and jacking the job in. He is
willing to pay the price for voicing his opinions & to do it with great
civility and good humour. I often disagree with him, but I do think he is
a Good Thing...

	And yes, it's a strong kind of fun, but I strongly believe that
it's a good kind of fun to have. Once things like book burning become
something we cannot joke about, my reading of history suggests to me that
book burning becomes all the more likely. Enforced Solemnity can be as
smothering as silence; like everyone's been saying here fair and free
debate is the way forward, and I think satire, including fierce satire, is
a healthy part of that.


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