Saturday, July 21, 2007


Harry Potter and the Half-Baked Prints



Sorry, wrong medium, wrong decade.

Now that the last turd in the Harry chamberpot has been dropped, perhaps we can all get back to some REAL reading?

I have nothing against Scholastic. I'll be forever in debt to them for one of my favorite childhood memories, the 1970s Dynamite Magazine. From a purely market standpoint as a pro-capitalist-type, I applaud Scholastic for taking a small piece of children's literature and helping shape it into a multi-billion dollar industry on par with Lucas-Films and the Star Wars saga, or any number of Marvel and DC characters writ large on the Big Screen.

From a literary perspective, however, I find it disgusting that the Potter series is compared to the great works of Charles Dickens by empty-minded talking heads. I think most of these journalist and media types make comparisons between The Half-Blood Prince and Nicholas Nickleby because they are such unread imbeciles that Dickens is the only comparative English-language author whose greatness they can comprehend. Were they a little more well-read, we'd be subjected to Harry histrionics that engulf Jonathan Swift, Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain, or Rudyard Kipling. Are we really to believe that The Prisoner of Azkaban
is on par with Gulliver's Travels, Captains Courageous, The Red Badge of Courage, Oliver Twist, or Huckleberry Finn?

In an age where the educational establishment doesn't think that there should be rigorous standards, that self-esteem and feelings are more important than tangible accomplishments and personal sacrifice, and that no one should have to suffer the indignity of poor grades because they didn't work as hard as another, it doesn't surprise me that poorly written trash lit for kids like the Harry Potter series is praised more than it should be. There used to be a time when "children's literature" consisted of books that were written for adults but accessible to children in such a way that youth could readily enjoy the immediate plot of a work then grow into deeper understandings of the subtleties and shadings within the texts as they matured.

Good night, Allan (and Harold and Leopold) Bloom, wherever you are ...

Now, I'm not one to claim snobbery, as anyone who reads Ragged Thots can tell from my love of three-minute, repetitive tonic-chord pop ditties. Intelligence, however, is to know the difference between my AC/DC or LL Cool J records on one end and my Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Prokofiev or Duke Ellington CDs on the other. One reason why I hated the Batman Begins movie is that it seemed to me that screenwriters were so embarrassed that they were writing about a wealthy weirdo that runs around in tights, that, much like an eighth-grader caught reading Mad Magazine in English Lit class, they felt the need to explain every single detail of how Bruce Wayne got the car, this bat device, that suit, etc. It was a two-hour apologia for engaging in low-brow entertainment. By contrast, there's something to be said for the honest, unassuming camp of the old Adam West incarnation. The producers of the 1960s TV show knew they were passing off pop entertainment, not Kafka or Nietzsche, therefore they excelled at being a great TV show, rather than a poor-man's Masterpiece Theater.

Read Harry Potter, and enjoy it. But please, please, PLEASE, stop trying to justify a simple read as the progeny of more advanced works!

For parents who'd prefer a less pretentious (and FUN) read for their little dumplings, I recommend THIS Scholastic series ...

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