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November 30, 2003 12:06 AM   Subscribe

Harry Potter: The New Atlas Shrugged.
posted by Espoo2 (77 comments total)

 
In related news, Atlas Shrugged, the movie, is apparently coming soon.
posted by Espoo2 at 12:07 AM on November 30, 2003


I liked Bob the Angry Flower's sequel to Atlas Shrugged.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:30 AM on November 30, 2003


Hmm, that would be pretty funny, if it wasn't for the fact that they (the inhabitants of Atlantis in Atlas Shrugged) had already created a sustainable environment in the mountains, with crops and cooks and food. Not that A.S. is gospel or anything; it's just a weak cartoon.
posted by Espoo2 at 1:18 AM on November 30, 2003


I don't even need to read the article to know I'm about to vomit at the pure silliness of the idea. (Though of course I have read it, and am still going to vomit nonetheless.)
posted by aschulak at 1:19 AM on November 30, 2003


The libertarian party seeing libertarianism everywhere and trying to co-opt a popular fictional character? Say it ain't so.
The wizarding world in the series has a private banking system and no apparent zoning laws. Wizards have the right to carry a wand -- more dangerous than any firearm -- at all times for the express purpose of self-defense. The schools are largely independent (until this book). Dumbeldore, the most powerful wizard alive, actively avoids a position in government. Independent action is celebrated. Notably absent is any mention of a system of taxation.
Yeah because most fantasy fiction aimed at kids make sure to have a few pages dedicted to zoning laws and how they get away without taxes. Talk about projecting.

Oh geez. What happened to this guy? Did someone steal his collection of Heinlein books? At least there are *real* lib principles in there.

May I recommend the Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Stranger in a Strange land for those unaquinted with good ol' Heinlein?
posted by skallas at 1:56 AM on November 30, 2003


The only thing I wanted after reading Atlas Shrugged was a cigarette.
posted by WolfDaddy at 2:00 AM on November 30, 2003


Speaking of cigarettes, I think ill have one.
posted by Keyser Soze at 2:02 AM on November 30, 2003


Let's see, in Harry Potter:

Some people are naturally 'better' than others. These are the only people woth anyone's time or attention

No one explains how any of the real, non-glamourous work gets done.

and of course, it's all a magical fantasy world.

Yeah, maybe they're on to something here.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:17 AM on November 30, 2003


smoking is rad
posted by Satapher at 2:36 AM on November 30, 2003


The Ayn Rand dating service.
posted by spazzm at 2:39 AM on November 30, 2003


And smoking kills. Or at least gives you a vicious cough.
posted by spazzm at 2:40 AM on November 30, 2003


I'm simultaneously disappointed and laughing my ass off to see that spazzm's dating service link doesn't seem to be satire.

Oh well, religion is a pesky beast, it crops up so easily.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:46 AM on November 30, 2003


Who is Harry Potter?
posted by scarabic at 3:01 AM on November 30, 2003


skallas: I thought Heinlein's books were all about f*cking?
posted by spazzm at 3:35 AM on November 30, 2003


Some people are naturally 'better' than others. These are the only people woth anyone's time or attention

Yeah, that's exactly Rowling's message re: muggles.

:::rolls eyes:::
posted by rushmc at 6:14 AM on November 30, 2003


Good lord...I can't believe that Ayn Rand Dating Service hasn't been a front page post. The people in those photos all look oh-so-evolved and naturally selected.

(Yes, I jest.)
posted by squasha at 6:15 AM on November 30, 2003


Where's the wizarding dating service? Harry really needs a date after book 5.
posted by Hildegarde at 6:39 AM on November 30, 2003


"126 dating profiles (103 Male, 23 Female)"

Go on ladies, the odds are good. But maybe the goods are {cliché}
posted by Mossy at 6:43 AM on November 30, 2003


Yeah because most fantasy fiction aimed at kids make sure to have a few pages dedicted to zoning laws and how they get away without taxes. Talk about projecting.

It's a standard fanwank to say "well, since they don't mention it, it must have happened." Just because this dude's focusing on taxes instead of, say, a minor character's gender, eh, no difference.
posted by Katemonkey at 6:46 AM on November 30, 2003


Wands don't turn people into frogs; people turn people into frogs.
posted by trondant at 6:48 AM on November 30, 2003


It's kinda cool that, like Wizard of Oz and other popular kid's books, anyone can take Potter and identify, whether it's finding a social, political, religious or other meaning...of course I give them all a gay reading rather than a libertarian one, but to each his own.
posted by amberglow at 7:59 AM on November 30, 2003


Too bad the Libertarian thing probably isn't intentional, nice as it would would be if it were.
posted by hama7 at 8:34 AM on November 30, 2003


Not one word about the plight of house elves or SPEW. A shame, really.
posted by SPrintF at 8:50 AM on November 30, 2003


Personally, I think Harry Potter is a paean to the beauty and power of gay marriage. I'm pretty certain the Massachusetts supreme court cited it in their decision.
posted by Nelson at 8:51 AM on November 30, 2003


Very, very nice, scarabic.
posted by funkbrain at 8:52 AM on November 30, 2003


I'm terribly disappointed that the link to Harry Potter and the Enema of Caustic Soda and Warm Pine Kernels is dead.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 9:02 AM on November 30, 2003


Having read the 5th book myself, I think the author is right in saying that the anti-government tone of the books is very obvious. I don't think the author of this article is looking for anything in the story that isn't quite easy to find! As for the statement that you wouldn't find references to taxes in a children's story, that may be true, but then you also wouldn't normally find such overtly political children's stories either. Probably the main reason we didn't hear about it so far is that children don't have incomes and therefore don't pay income taxes. However, there are sales taxes and the children in the story do have parents who are part of the story, so I wouldn't be surprised if we do hear about taxes in a future installment (although I'm not wagering on it).
posted by PigAlien at 10:33 AM on November 30, 2003


I think what's interesting, however, is that this book was written by a woman I believe to have been on the 'dole' (welfare) for a while before becoming famous. Quite interesting to have been supported by the state when down-and-out, only to deride it when famous. In fact, the author even pokes fun at one of the main characters, Hermione, for supporting elves-rights, insinuating that elves want to be enslaved (because they refuse to take the pieces of clothing left lying around). I realize the book is quite tongue-in-cheek, so I won't say that means something one way or the other, but it does make you wonder if she's not making jokes about PETA supporters or those other organizations who campaign for the downtrodden.
posted by PigAlien at 10:36 AM on November 30, 2003


This is almost, but not quite, as annoying as the people who adamantly insist that every major character in every major motion picture or cartoon for the last fifty years is secretly gay.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:42 AM on November 30, 2003


I gave up reading the article after they called Rowling a "gifted writer". Why can't they get their facts right?
posted by John Shaft at 10:45 AM on November 30, 2003


I imagine Rowling is pissed that the goverment wants some of her millions and millions of dollars.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:21 AM on November 30, 2003


I gave up reading the article after they called Rowling a "gifted writer". Why can't they get their facts right?

She may or may not be 'gifted', but she's managed to create a story that gets kids waiting in line to read a 500+ page tome that most of my peers in college (who whine about having to read 100pg to prep for a test!) wouldn't want to tackle, at a time when the X-box and TV reigns king. And, at first, it wasn't a popular mass-media-pumped 'thing'. That's downright impressive, and I don't care what you call her in your contentless 'me-too' assholish posts on MeFi, but she's got my respect just for getting kids to READ again.

skallas: I thought Heinlein's books were all about f*cking?

Yep, but they alternate the f*cking with explanations of TANSTAAFL ... There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, and digs at people who think they can have 'rights' without doing anything to defend or support them.
posted by SpecialK at 12:36 PM on November 30, 2003


She doesn't actually say that Malfoy isn't gay...I mean, he does hang around with those two big guys a lot. And come on, those "Potter Stinks" badges are classic crush behaviour. And Harry did live in a closet until it came out as a wizard.

Hehehehehee it's tr00 luv.
posted by Hildegarde at 12:40 PM on November 30, 2003


This is almost, but not quite, as annoying as the people who adamantly insist that every major character in every major motion picture or cartoon for the last fifty years is secretly gay.

Wait...they're not?

Goddamnit! There goes my faith in the universe!
posted by Katemonkey at 1:08 PM on November 30, 2003


I gave up reading the article after they called Rowling a "gifted writer". Why can't they get their facts right?

She writes children's books. I'm sorry they weren't very interesting to you. Try not reading them.
posted by Satapher at 1:13 PM on November 30, 2003


I gave up reading the article after they called Rowling a "gifted writer". Why can't they get their facts right?

Mmm hmm, and how many books have you written, and how many copies have they sold? Criticism that bitter sounds like professional jealousy.
posted by RylandDotNet at 1:35 PM on November 30, 2003


... yeah, it's like Atlas Shrugged in that it sucks too! {flees from the insane Defenders of Potter apparently gathered in ambush inside this thread}.

Seriously, it's actually really cool that millions of kids are reading books instead of watching more DragonballZ. It's also too bad their parents aren't reading literature instead of more Harry Potter.

What is so sacred about this series that it is beyond criticism? They are books for kids, and it is 100% certain that there are many better books out there to read. I'm glad that my little brother and sister like Harry Potter, I'm mystified that so many grown-ups refuse to admit that they're not literature. Is it because there are millions of dollars behind the marketing of Harry Potter, and none (sadly) behind the Penguin classics?
posted by josh at 1:51 PM on November 30, 2003


I'm mystified that so many grown-ups refuse to admit that they're not literature.
Why does it matter? There are tons of books that are good reads (which these are) yet not literature. I think most adult readers of the books don't really care that much whether it's literature or not.
posted by amberglow at 1:56 PM on November 30, 2003


She is a gifted writer for children, obviously. It was equally obvious to me, after slogging through the first one, that she is not a gifted writer for not-children. I'm glad she's sending the kiddies to the bookstore, but wild horses couldn't make me read another in the series (especially as they approach War and Peace length. (On preview: what josh said.)

I thought Heinlein's books were all about f*cking?

Not until Stranger. Before that, I don't think there was a f*ck in a barrelful, just eager space cadets and swarming alien bugs. Great stuff, too—much better written than Rowling's.
posted by languagehat at 1:58 PM on November 30, 2003


Whatever about Rowling slipping in some politics for the children and young-adult readers of her fantasy lit, didn't George Orwell already do something like this much better in Animal Farm? Now there's a book for all the family.
posted by meehawl at 2:01 PM on November 30, 2003


psst: the 2nd and 4th are the better ones imho, languagehat
posted by amberglow at 2:01 PM on November 30, 2003


She may or may not be 'gifted', but she's managed to create a story that gets kids waiting in line to read a 500+ page tome that most of my peers in college (who whine about having to read 100pg to prep for a test!) wouldn't want to tackle, at a time when the X-box and TV reigns king.

I see what you're saying with this, but it depends on how you look at it. What does it say about the nature of the writing when its fans spend all the rest of their time playing Xbox? I've flipped through the books a bit and they seem like pretty shallow crap to me, filled with whiz-bang special effects, bubblegum drama and cheap action. It's no wonder they compare so favorably with watching TV and playing video games.
posted by scarabic at 2:13 PM on November 30, 2003


*awaits an adequate definition of "literature"*
posted by Hildegarde at 2:20 PM on November 30, 2003


"She is a gifted writer for children, obviously. It was equally obvious to me, after slogging through the first one, that she is not a gifted writer for not-children."

Yes, and when writers (or their works) exist that do both very well (Roald Dahl and Philip Pullman) I can't help but wonder quite what the fuss is about.
posted by nthdegx at 2:44 PM on November 30, 2003


I remember that in one of the books she spends more time than is really necessary making fun of an international wizards' government committee which is attempting to standardize couldron thickness or something, which I think is a rather clear dig at EU regulations.

Another random fact: the Dursleys read the Daily Mail.

Not that any of this makes her libertarian, but it's interesting that she deliberately put these things in the books.
posted by Spacelegoman at 3:03 PM on November 30, 2003


scarabic, I agree that Harry Potter's a bit blah (especially when compared with Roald Dahl and Philip Pullman), but don't you think writing off books that otherwise-non-readers read *because* they're read by non-readers is a bit elitist? Are you saying they should all read Gravity's Rainbow?

(Hmm. Maybe they should. Or at least Infinite Jest.)

I think improving literacy is a worthwhile goal, and while I'm opposed to "dumbing down" (although I'm not totally sure what I mean by that), I'm pretty happy about Harry Potter being potentially a gateway book, for some of its audience. So I'd give it props for that.
posted by wilberforce at 3:09 PM on November 30, 2003


So given that I don't know what the old Atlas Shrugged was, can anyone explain? I tried a quick google, but apart from sites telling me how wonderful and world-changing and objectivist it was, I'm confounded. To me, John Galt is a lovely writer of quaint little Scottish literature.

Can anyone precis? Bob The Angry Flower's got me curious
posted by bonaldi at 3:33 PM on November 30, 2003


extremist groups are prone to flights of fancy.
posted by mcsweetie at 3:34 PM on November 30, 2003


The phrase y'all are looking for is "gifted storyteller." She's a gifted storyteller, though not necessarily a gifted writer. There is a distinction. Joyce was a gifted writer, though not necessarily a gifted storyteller.

The article is absurd.
posted by Hildago at 3:57 PM on November 30, 2003


Bonaldi, Rand is all about the strong man. And I do mean man, though good women know how to choose the right man to stand with, especially after the man's proven his worth by struggling against the bureacrats and masses.
posted by billsaysthis at 3:57 PM on November 30, 2003


Bonaldi, not sure if this is exactly what you want, but I never read the whole book, just the big speech at the end, so I can't really help much.
posted by Hildago at 3:59 PM on November 30, 2003


Whoops, this.
posted by Hildago at 4:00 PM on November 30, 2003


"The phrase y'all are looking for is "gifted storyteller." She's a gifted storyteller, though not necessarily a gifted writer. There is a distinction. Joyce was a gifted writer, though not necessarily a gifted storyteller."

Right, I'm sticking my neck out here. The main reason I do want to get through one of the books is to prove to myself the above, because I find the storytelling in the films to be lazy in that the conclusions are wholly unsatisfactory. My instinct is that she is neither a gifted storyteller nor writer, but I am aware I haven't given her a fair go. I do find her style very trying, though - although I've been told it might be worth skipping the first two books for this reason.
posted by nthdegx at 4:28 PM on November 30, 2003


52 replies and not one these libertairans, they vibrate? comment. Bah, what's the world coming to.
posted by ciderwoman at 4:32 PM on November 30, 2003


you think writing off books that otherwise-non-readers read *because* they're read by non-readers is a bit elitist?

Only inasmuch as calling any book that interests children "literature" is ludicrous.

I do see your point, and I'm not trying to knock the Harry Potter phenomenon. I think it's great too. I have no need to crap on Harry Potter from a great height just because it's a little thin by stodgy literary standards.

But let's not call it great writing just because it happens to get the attention of the world's rugrats, either. Fair deal?
posted by scarabic at 4:55 PM on November 30, 2003


You all have got it wrong, Potter is really New Labour:

"Harry is presented to us as a boy for our times, even a mythical embodiment of all the priorities and prejudices which constitute the New Labour ‘structure of feeling’: a truly Blairite hero."

But then again, others suggest that:

"Rowling is a pinko socialist twat.". After all she does admit being influenced by a socialist aunt and this socialist reviewer defends the book from charges of anti-egalitarianism.

But this is secondary to the fact that Harry Potter is, as is well documented, a Satanist or at least anti-christian.

However, for a concurring view with the original post (but through a conflicting perspective) see Harry Potter and Capitalism, an article which concludes with the following notable (and arguably true sentence: "Don't look forward to an instalment called Harry Potter and the Critique of Postcolonial Reason any time soon."
posted by talos at 5:28 PM on November 30, 2003


You know what's great about a library or a bookstore? If you don't like one book, there are lots more to choose from!

(I've heard that this strategy can even work on Metafilter but suspect that's just an urban legend...)
posted by rushmc at 5:32 PM on November 30, 2003


Why does it matter? There are tons of books that are good reads (which these are) yet not literature. I think most adult readers of the books don't really care that much whether it's literature or not.

Sure thing--I read and enjoyed Jurassic Park, and it's not literature, and I didn't care. But, I didn't publish an article calling Michael Crichton a "gifted writer," either. He's not. Just because something's popular doesn't mean it's good, and it doesn't mean there is 'no such thing' as literature, which is what some people claim as part of their Potter-mania. E.g.:

*awaits an adequate definition of "literature"*

Literature is what *I* anyway call a book when it is not merely entertaining, but also a work of art--something which moves us and which articulates ideas and feelings that matter. Harry Potter is the Saturday morning cartoon of the book world. There's no reason not to take pleasure in it--but there's no reason to valorize it as great writing either. It's just a book. It's not literature, and that *should* matter to you as a reading, adult person. Disgrace is a book for adults: it doesn't pander, it's not shallow, and it teaches you something you can't learn from some mediocre movie.
posted by josh at 5:49 PM on November 30, 2003


Children's literature is one of my special areas of interest within literature - I read and collect it and also read critical works on it. I also wouldn't describe Rowling as a "gifted writer" and agree that "gifted storyteller" is a more accurate label for her. The Harry Potter books, like the Wizard of Oz books, are wonderful as imaginative works, but the level of the prose is not high. Yes, they are popular, but popularity and excellence are two different (though not mutually exclusive) attributes.

These different readings of Rowling's work are both intriguing and hilarious. But this kind of thing happens often to popular works of children's fiction, especially when it's fantasy (just look at the various interpretations of the Wizard of Oz) and it's just a part of the assimilation of a book into a complex culture. Everyone does read every book in a different way, and these inevitably wildly different interpretations are interesting - but finally incidental.
posted by orange swan at 6:11 PM on November 30, 2003


I enjoyed the series, but it's really just tv in written form: lots of flash and shallow characters and simple plot devices.

Really, I wonder sometimes that people think that the act of reading is better than the act of watching television. I can understand the gateway argument, of course, but when all a person reads is popular romance or sci-fi or mystery or whatever, I don't see that it has any more intrinsic value than watching the same stuff on the tube.

As for Atlas Shrugged, I have no clue.
posted by moonbiter at 6:42 PM on November 30, 2003


Personally, I think Harry Potter is a paean to the beauty and power of gay marriage. I'm pretty certain the Massachusetts supreme court cited it in their decision.

No kidding, Nelson.

She doesn't actually say that Malfoy isn't gay...I mean, he does hang around with those two big guys a lot. And come on, those "Potter Stinks" badges are classic crush behaviour. And Harry did live in a closet until it came out as a wizard.

What are you talking about, Hildegard? Everyone knows that Remus and Sirius are where the ? is at. And save for that one little Christmas-at-12-Grimmauld-Place bit, one has to wonder about JKR's dispositions, because what she did to Sirius is no way to treat a character.

(Hmm. Maybe they should. Or at least Infinite Jest.)

Infinite Jest? Read?
As for the article... [is suddenly overcome by an inexplicable fit of laughter]
posted by azazello at 8:10 PM on November 30, 2003


"Really, I wonder sometimes that people think that the act of reading is better than the act of watching television. I can understand the gateway argument, of course, but when all a person reads is popular romance or sci-fi or mystery or whatever, I don't see that it has any more intrinsic value than watching the same stuff on the tube."

I'm not a neurolinguistics expert or anything, but I would venture to guess that reading trash is far better than watching trashy television because when you read, you actually have to use your imagination. It doesn't matter what you're visualizing, your brain has to visualize something. When you're watching television, your brain doesn't have to imagine anything - its presented right there for you.

Also, when reading, you can read at your own pace according to your own level of enjoyment and comprehension. With television, the pace is set for you. Keep up or lose track. No chance to pause and laugh or ponder.

Also, watching television doesn't improve your ability to read, whereas even the trashiest, most worthless short story is helping improve your ability to read. I doubt you would argue the importance of stimulating creativity and improving reading abilities.

Its not the destination, its the journey. It is actually better that children read Harry Potter than nothing. Don't underestimate the importance of gateways either. I know I've had many gateways in my life. At some point, every single connoisseur in this world went through a gateway of one kind or another.
posted by PigAlien at 9:01 PM on November 30, 2003


I'll give you Remus and Sirius, but come on! Malfoy is obsessed with Harry! All he does is talk about Harry! And that wine glass scene in book 5 is a clear reference to a Jewish wedding. It's Romeo and Juliet, man. The perfect romance: Gryffindor and Slytherin. The Sorting Hat predicted it!

Hehehehehehe *rubs hands together evilly*
posted by Hildegarde at 9:47 PM on November 30, 2003


When you're watching television, your brain doesn't have to imagine anything

true.

"While watching television, the brain appears to slow to a halt, registering low alpha wave readings on the EEG."
posted by scarabic at 9:55 PM on November 30, 2003


Jesus, scarabic, that article says "even if you are reading text on a television screen." Could that mean [gasp] computer monitors? I've always felt better wasting my time on the computer than in front of the TV because I believed I was at least reading the news, keeping up on current events and my body of knowledge, as well as being somewhat social.

That article just left me with a bunch of questions...

I guess my first thought would be that low alpha wave readings aren't necessarily a bad thing or an indicator of whether you're learning or not, but then that would just throw out the argument against TV's effects on brain waves, anyhow.
posted by PigAlien at 10:06 PM on November 30, 2003


MetaFilter: The New Twelve Angry Men
posted by HTuttle at 11:07 PM on November 30, 2003


Jesus, scarabic, that article says "even if you are reading text on a television screen." Could that mean [gasp] computer monitors? I've always felt better wasting my time on the computer than in front of the TV because I believed I was at least reading the news, keeping up on current events and my body of knowledge, as well as being somewhat social.

In this book, Richard Restak posits that the brain understands words differently, depending on whether you are reading from a monitor or a piece of paper, even if you're reading the same words.

After reading the book, I decided to print out a screenplay I'd been editing, unsuccessfully, on-screen, for some time. On the printed page, however, the problems within became obvious. "Placebo"? Perhaps. But now I only edit on paper.
posted by dobbs at 11:26 PM on November 30, 2003


I read and enjoyed Jurassic Park, and it's not literature, and I didn't care. But, I didn't publish an article calling Michael Crichton a "gifted writer," either. He's not.

I would maintain that it requires "gifts" to write a book that you can read and enjoy. I doubt that you could write a book that Michael Crichton could read and enjoy. Therefore, he would qualify as a "gifted writer." "Literature" is a matter of style, content and intent, not quality. There are many terrible literary books and many good genre books (and vice versa, of course).
posted by rushmc at 11:53 PM on November 30, 2003


HTuttle, a man talks like that... he really oughtta get stepped on, you know? Rotten kids...
posted by nthdegx at 3:59 AM on December 1, 2003


Please, God in Heaven, tell me that one of the most intelligent and well-read communities in all of cyberspace hasn't spent 70 posts arguing over Harry Potter.

Classic behavior by adults who enjoy childish things: try to assign deeper meaning to it, even if it requires mental gymnastics of an obscene caliber. Oooh! Oooh! Look! Harry Potter is all deep and stuph! It contains intriguing social commentary! Its just hidden, ya know, so as not to confuse the kids!

They are books, about magic and magicians, written for children.

They are not deep, they are not complex, they are not extremely well written. Rowling is not a genius. She is merely someone who accidentally stumbled onto a phenomenon and is milking it for every possible penny (note: I would do the exact same).

Many of the people here salivating all over Rowling would guffaw if told creators of other popular works were geniuses. But because this is a popular work THEY ENJOY, then suddenly, it is a work of art.

Adult readers of Harry Potter: read your books, enjoy, play dress up if you want and rename your boudoir "Hogwarts". But don't brag to other adults about it, especially if the other adults are above a 6th grade reading level.

Jealous? You bet your ass I am. I would be beyond thrilled if I could be given millions upon millions upon 10's of millions for writing a rote predictable book in easy-to-digest language.

Using Harry Potter in any kind of intellectual or scholarly debate should be, well, embarrassing.
posted by Ynoxas at 12:15 PM on December 1, 2003


And how many of the books that you are commenting on have you actually read, Ynoxas?

Using Harry Potter in any kind of intellectual or scholarly debate should be, well, embarrassing.

The same contention has long been made of all pop culture, but it's been a while since that was the dominant opinion.
posted by rushmc at 1:55 PM on December 1, 2003


rushmc: I'm sorry I made fun of your girlfriend. If I give you a furry muggle-wuggle hug can we be friends again?

You of all people would not be one I would see as succumbing to Potter-mania. In fact, if someone had asked me "what common metafilter poster is a Potter-ite" I believe yours might have been the last name to hit my list.

I don't read a lot of Harry Potter as I'm not 11. But I am "familiar" with the works and the movies. How any self respecting adult could read and/or watch that tripe and stand in line for 12 hours to get the next installment makes me embarrased for them.

Ynoxas' 1st Axiom of Artistic Quality: The quality of an artwork is in inverse proportion to the number of toy tie-ins.
posted by Ynoxas at 2:53 PM on December 1, 2003


Please, God in Heaven, tell me that one of the most intelligent and well-read communities in all of cyberspace hasn't spent 70 posts arguing over Harry Potter.

And yet, here you've spent two posts (comments, if we want to get technical), comprising a dozen paragraphs, arguing over Harry Potter. Better submit yourself for reprogramming.

It's one thing to say Rowling isn't a particularly impressive writer; I said it myself. It's quite another, and very silly, to say she "accidentally stumbled onto a phenomenon." Perhaps you don't understand what writing a novel is like. I suggest you try it and get back to us.
posted by languagehat at 3:00 PM on December 1, 2003


Ynoxas has just completely stumbled over some very major points.

First of all, Harry Potter, although ostensibly written for children, is written by an adult. People, adults or children, inject what they create either purposely or subconsciously with their own beliefs and biases.

Secondly, children are very influenced by everything in their environment, especially their entertainment.

I think it is entirely within the realm of intelligent adults to consider what their children are reading and the prejudices and biases being introduced to our children by other adults in the form of entertainment.

Whether JK is a good writer or a terrible writer is of absolutely no accord. Children by the millions are gobbling up her books and being influenced by them. To say they don't matter because they are 'children's' literature (which is debatable) is absolutely naive and incorrect.
posted by PigAlien at 3:28 PM on December 1, 2003


You of all people would not be one I would see as succumbing to Potter-mania.

You seem to view this in very black-or-white terms: either one must spew venom at the Potter books and deny them any speck of value whatsoever or one has "succumbed" to the meme. It seems more realistic to me to think that there is a whole lot of territory in between those two extremes that you are neglecting.

I don't read a lot of Harry Potter as I'm not 11. But I am "familiar" with the works and the movies.

So I assume that you similarly avoid Alice in Wonderland and all other examples of literature originally created for children? That's a good way to miss a lot of interesting work. Do you similarly look down your nose at and refuse to have anything to do with children's television (e.g., Doctor Who) or movies (any animated Disney film)? In any case, I dispute that one can usefully discuss—much less dismiss—a book without having read it. And a movie adaptation is not the book (as I'm sure you'll readily admit if you consider an adaptation of whatever book you happen to favor).

The Harry Potter books are not One Hundred Years of Solitude. Fortunately, Rowling has never made such a claim for them. On their own terms, they are quite successful, from both an artistic and (obviously) a commercial standpoint. Are they the best books ever written? Please. The best children's books? Nope. But since when must we limit ourselves to reading only the very best books? If I'd done that, I could have allowed myself to revert to illiteracy about 2000 books ago.

My eyes might have thanked me, but my brain would have suffered mightily and I'd have quickly lost touch with the society in which I live.
posted by rushmc at 5:46 PM on December 1, 2003


Using Harry Potter in any kind of intellectual or scholarly debate should be, well, embarrassing.

Nonsense. Yes, Rowling's books are not that good. But it's very worthwhile to have discussions about the phenomenon of them, the effect they have, why they appeal to us, what they reveal about us, etc. I think it's well to remember that popularity is not excellence, but that does not mean that popular things that are not also excellent are without merit or interest. They are as much a part of our culture as the high art we produce, and so are deserving of examination and discussion.
posted by orange swan at 10:06 PM on December 1, 2003


Considering that Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book while on State Benefits (social welfare), I think it's a little desperate for these Warmed-over Social Darwinists, sorry, Objectivists, to claim Harry Potter somehow demonstrates the triumph of their Utilitarianist views.
posted by meehawl at 2:33 PM on December 8, 2003


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