read: 13 July 2003
I think of reading the Harry Potter books the way many people look at watching television -- I don’t seem to really enjoy it much lately but I do it so that I’ll have reference points to talk to my friends and colleagues.
I’ll have to side with AS Byatt when I wonder why adults don’t seem to be more attracted to stories about people their own age, or why this amount of violence [and dead children and adults] is in some way conscionable for books aimed towards young children. People familiar with my politics will know that I’m not one of those types who bemoans violence and thinks we are breeding a nation of killers, weaned on horrific sensationalist media. Yet, just as I think that Wal-Mart’s discriminatory practices bear special scrutiny since they are the largest employer in the US, so I think we should pay special attention to the almost hysterical popularity of these books with their two-dimensional portrayals of good and evil and a really huge amount of deceit, violence and wanton bad behavior.
It’s easy to arge that Rowling is actually a superb cultural satirist and that the way she describes the totalitarian regimes that take over Hogwarts and threaten the very tenets of the magical world are in fact parodying our own craven governments and media. However, I live that life every day and I read young adult fiction specifically to find something new, refreshing and maybe even positive not to see my own life of conflicts, petty squabbles, and hurts writ large in 800 pages of a story I used to enjoy but now just trudge through searching for a set of characters and stories I used to really enjoy.
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