far too many thoughts on why DWJ is better than JKR, was Re: DWJ in Israeli newspaper

Abe Gross argross at bigpond.net.au
Fri Feb 20 21:21:10 EST 2004



> > I feel that in many ways, when you've read and deeply appreciated DWJ,
it
> > can be easy to dismiss Rowling. When I read the first Potter book, long
> > before it became popular, I felt genuine delight, and commented to a
friend
> > that it reminded me somewhat of DWJ! I think there's a lot more in
Rowling
> > than immediately meets the eye, but at the same time, I also agree that
DWJ
> > is still so much more subtle and complex, and wise about people and
life.
> > I'm not sure what I'm trying to say--I keep changing my mind! Sometimes
I
> > agree with you that comparing Rowling and DWJ is like comparing apples
and
> > oranges and ought not to be attempted; other times I feel that it's more
a
> > matter of degree, and that DWJ is just so much *more* than Rowling. For
me,
> > there's this odd incongruency: the later Potter books are indeed more
> > complex and "dark" than the earlier ones, so they *should* seem more
> > DWJ-like, but on the contrary, I enjoyed the earlier ones so much more,
and
> > as I said, they actually reminded me of DWJ as well! The later ones
*don't*
> > particularly remind me of DWJ. I'm not sure what to conclude from this,
> > except that I'm not completely willing to wipe Rowling off as impossibly
> > inferior to DWJ (though I still think she is!).

lizzie replied:

 > Oh, me too!  This is almost exactly what I wanted to say--only that I
don't
> think that the later books are at all more like DWJ.  They're dark, yes,
but
> they're also hormonal, and not as well controlled (I loved Goblet of Fire
and
> decidedly did not love Order of the Phoenix), and they are more complex,
but
> only socially (?).

Maybe I was confusing in the way I said it, but this is exactly what I was
trying to say: that although you might *expect* the last two Potter books to
feel more like DWJ, they didn't feel that way to me, while the first few
books did. I haven't figured out What It Means yet, though.

>That is, one of the things I love most about DWJ is her
> ability to confound you with this really elegant complexity that suddenly
makes
> all the book make a little more sense (oddly, this is exactly the thing
that
> bugs one of my best friends about her a bit).  Another example of this
_kind_
> of thing (though it's done in such a different way I almost shy from
citing it)
> is Madeleine L'Engle's "Swiftly Tilting Planet," in which all of the
sudden at
> the end _everything_ makes this gorgeous sense (though hers has a much
more
> planned, structured feeling than does DWJ's, which usually feels
effortless,
> subtle, and downright magical ;)).  Rowling has made her whole plot more
> complex, but she lacks DWJ's gift to make it all make sense in the end.

Yes, maybe that's it. Rowling has added "complexity" and "darkness", but
somehow she can't quite hang it all together in an organic way as DWJ does.

> I think the first book had definite echoes of DWJ--Harry's living
situation
> reminded me _strongly_ of "Dogsbody," which is why I bought the book back
when
> the first two copies came into the Barnes and Noble where I then worked.
But
> (I've said this before, I know, but I really believe it) the part where
she
> lost that was when Harry got on a broom and could fly intuitively, like a
bird,
> a wizard, and an insider.  A DWJ character almost never has such obvious,
> socially acceptible skills, and that's the thing that really sets JK
Rowling
> apart: she's not writing much about underdogs and misfits.  If DWJ were
writing
> this series, either Hermione or Neville would be the main character.  So I
> don't think it's the complexity of plot that should make JKR seem like
DWJ--
> it's the missing complexity of character that seperates them, even more
than
> the fact that JKR can be heavy-handed sometimes.  Which she _must_ be
doing on
> purpose at points.

Yep! Thanks for putting what I mainly felt in an amorphous way but hadn't
yet thought out clearly. DWJ does character in a multi-layered, complex way
that's just not the same in Rowling. And that's because she's aiming at
something different. She has a different perspective. It's the whole
complicated, difficult universe that's the subject of DWJ's books, in a
subtly different way than in Rowling.

> And while I do think that some of her characters have gotten more complex
(see:
> Neville, Hermione, Sirius (though I didn't _like_ his new complexity),
Fred and
> George in Order of the Phoenix), some really, _really_ haven't: Harry,
Ron, and
> Draco in OotP.  I can't _stand_ how she writes Draco--in a DWJ book, he'd
end
> up at least slightly reformed, or if he was going to be staying evil he
> wouldn't ooze it quite that much, but I'm a devout Harry/Draco slasher so
I'm
> of course quite biased in my belief that Draco isn't evil, he's just
written
> that way ;).
>
> And while her ambiguously evil Snape--who was not immediately made all
fluffy
> bunnies and fuzzy pink slippers after he was revealed to not be quite so
bad--
> appeals to me more, I'm not at all sure how he's going to end up (that is,
if
> he's been exposed as a spy against Voldemort, I'm not sure I believe he's
going
> to pull that off again without turning out to be evil after all in the
end).
>
> So yeah: I think that if you could go inside a Harry Potter book, a la The
Eyre
> Affair, you'd find the off duty characters behaving in totally different
ways
> than they do in the book.  I would not say the same of DWJ.

So Rowling has added complication to the books, but that's not at all the
same as the genuinely and organically complex view of people and life that
DWJ is able to convey. So...actually, I may be closer to the view that
comparing Rowling and DWJ is like comparing apples and oranges, after all. I
am interested to see what JKR will do with her final books, though. You
never know, maybe she is really heading somewhere quite surprising. Then
again, maybe not. :-)

Ros

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