In the aftermath of the furor surrounding the last Harry Potter movie, even I’m getting into the spirit. I started listening to the audio books while I have my morning workout. (Hey, don’t knock it; it keeps exercise from being dull.) I’ve also been reading some articles and blog posts from a variety of perspectives. We may have laid aside petty arguments about whether or not Rowling single-handedly led a generation of children to dabble in witchcraft, but the debates rage on: How does Potter stack up against other great works of fantasy? Love Harry or hate him, it seems that everyone wants to weigh in.
In one article, the writer extolls the virtues of Ms. Rowling, crediting her with bringing back the joy of reading to a world of illiterate children. Other well-known authors, in this person’s view, are too preachy or heavy-handed. Harry is realistic because he struggles rather than falling neatly into categories of good and evil. Another blogger finds the books lacking, full of plot holes and bad writing.
We have a world full of books; it isn’t necessary for a person to like all of them. My taste in literature is as varied as my taste in music. Fantasy is my preferred genre, but I generally go on a book-by-book basis when I choose my reading material. I like some books more than others (loved Great Expectations; hated The Great Gatsby). I love certain authors (Hemingway, Dickens) and dislike others passionately (Steinbeck). Even within an author’s canon I may not care for every work (Tom Sawyer is a favorite, could have done without Huckleberry Finn). There are exceptions to my rules (I prefer novels to plays, but I love Shakespeare; I’m not big on endless series fiction, but I’ve read the entire Xanth* series by Piers Anthony). And yes, there is room in my heart for Middle Earth, Narnia, and the wizarding world of Harry Potter.
While the discussion may be interesting, I think we’re missing the point. Books are what they are: A place to escape, dream, and live vicariously through our favorite characters. The stories should get us thinking and talking about the very real issues in our world as we watch our fictional heroes struggle in theirs. In my mind, whether Harry Potter is high literature or not, Ms. Rowling has done an excellent job of giving us all of the above. May Harry live on in the imaginations of the next generation of readers.
*Cheese Factor 10/10, but worth the read if you like pure escapism.