Byatt on Potter

Roger Burton West roger at
Thu Jul 10 04:59:11 EDT 2003

On Wed, Jul 09, 2003 at 11:18:47AM -0600, Melissa Proffitt quoted A S

>"[The books] comfort against childhood fears as Georgette Heyer once
>comforted us against the truths of the relations between men and women, her
>detective stories domesticating and blanket-wrapping death. These are good
>books of their kind. But why would grown-up men and women become obsessed by
>jokey latency fantasies?

As you may imagine, the Heyer list has been somewhat... ruffled... by
this particular paragraph. :-)

>"Comfort, I think, is part of the reason. Childhood reading remains potent
>for most of us. In a recent BBC survey of the top 100 "best reads," more
>than a quarter were children's books. We like to regress. I know that part
>of the reason I read Tolkien when I'm ill is that there is an almost total
>absence of sexuality in his world, which is restful."

Hmm. I know I have comfort-reads, but they're mainly books that (a) I
know very well and (b) have no really nasty bits in them. I don't
consider romance or sex, _handled well_ (as in IMHO _A Sudden Wild
Magic_), to be in any way nasty or threatening...

[back to Melissa]
>wanting to understand why adult readers are so addicted to these books,
>Byatt doesn't really seem to believe she'll find the answer to be a positive
>one.  That's a little depressing--but again, not a huge surprise.

If, for whatever reason, one considers the HP books not to be very good,
then it's natural to say "why on earth are so many people reading this
stuff when there's so much better stuff out there?".

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