Byatt on Potter

Ven vendersleighc at
Tue Jul 8 20:28:24 EDT 2003

Here's a url for an article in the NY Times, A.S.
Byatt on Rowling and her readers -- Harry Potter
and the Childish Adult.

A fairly representative quote, with a nod to Dwj
"Auden and Tolkien wrote about the skills of
inventing "secondary worlds." Ms. Rowling's world
is a secondary secondary world, made up of
intelligently patchworked derivative motifs from
all sorts of children's literature — from the
jolly hockey-sticks school story to Roald Dahl,
from "Star Wars" to Diana Wynne Jones and Susan
Cooper. Toni Morrison pointed out that clichés
endure because they represent truths. Derivative
narrative clichés work with children because they
are comfortingly recognizable and immediately
available to the child's own power of fantasizing

And because, coming to them fresh, children don't
know they are cliches?

I would have agreed with everything in this
article after reading HP1 and probably after
rereading 2 and 3 as well, but my conviction is
wavering with each succesive book. A couple of
weeks ago I watched a young lass reading HP5 on
the bus. She got up from her seat and pressed the
bell, still reading, picked her way down the
aisle, still reading, stepped off the bus and
walked up the street, still reading...........
And then I got caught by the damn thing (I will
NOT buy the hardback, I WILL not buy etc) in the
supermarket. I only meant to glance at it but
started to read and had to wrench myself away at
page six. It is impressive.

Later in the article  Byatt praises Pratchett to
the skies. He is a writer who improved in quantum
leaps, I think Rowling may be another. Its
certainly germane to my reactions that I don't
(and didn't)  rate the first two Discworld books
either. And its interesting that both the
Discworld and Hogwarts became very popular very
fast. I susopect it will be wise to defer
judgement until book 7 when the fat phoenix


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