Space Ramblings

Harry Potter Mania Drags to a Close

With the release of the latest Harry Potter movie and the upcoming release of the seventh and last Harry Potter novel, the long international nightmare is nearly over.

While the brilliantly calculated hype rolls on, newspaper writers offer their dribs of purple prose in defense of the premise that J.K. Rowling is a brilliant children’s writer and Harry Potter is a beloved childhood classic that will live on for generations. They are wrong on both points.

J.K. Rowling is a strictly mediocre writer. Her characters and her descriptive abilities rank somewhere in the middle half of the sort of children’s books that are regularly put out. Her writing relies heavily on raiding and looting earlier books and boiling the mess down into the lowest common denominator volumes of Harry Potter. Neil Gaiman did it better and earlier with Books of Magic, featuring a bespectacled English boy discovering his magical abilities. The comparison between Books of Magic and Harry Potter is pretty much a comparison between a genius and the studious boy who tries very hard, isn’t very bright but who is taken under the wing by a wealthy patron.

Harry Potter is a triumph of marketing over storytelling and to the end it represents the merger between the kind of marketing micromanaged hype seen in movies and the music industry attached to children’s books. The result has generated billions of dollars. It is an impressive achievement, not in literature but in marketing. J.K. Rowling has produced nothing worthwhile and nothing that will endure when the hype machine begins to slumber. There are genuine works of the fantastic imagination that lives on through the decades long after Harry Potter has become an obscure reference.

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  • Danger B July 16, 2007 at 7:47 pm

    Part of the storytelling process is grabbing an audience and creating a shared fantasy world… The story flourishes not only on its own merits, but on the shared pleasure of the audience enjoying it together.

    I thoroughly enjoy the Harry Potter stories, not for any great abundance or lack of literary value, but for the social fact that damn near everyone I know has also read the books and has access to the same shared fantasy world.

    Rowling wrote at least well enough to capture and keep huge attention on the story, and that may be all that is needed.

    It may have been good timing, good planning or good marketing, but the fact that the story is so universally popular is enough to ensure it will endure long past possibly better written, but poorly timed/planned/marketed or just plain unlucky books.

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