Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Just Another Critic Who's Grip on the Cliff's Edge is Slipping

Here is an article published in the Washington Post by book critic Ron Charles about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Look, he has some good points - close examination on the excitement around HP does bring up some interesting problems. Declining reading is troubling. Yada yada yada

But, underlying the few good points he makes is sense of superiority that just turns off most people. He gets defensive about his profession and in doing so is basically ridiculing those who just don't get it. He's preaching to a choir here - this article is written for those steadfast Harry Potter haters and critics like him (in certain circles I’m sure it’s equally important not to like Harry Potter – Malfoy rejoice). The rest of us little serfs just don't get it. The opposite is true - he doesn't get it. While it is very depressing that so many of these people who are enthusiastic about Harry Potter have probably read nothing other than Harry Potter and The Da Vinci Code in the last few years, dismissing the appreciation of these books by steadfast readers (such as myself and most of you reading here) is a gross oversight. Dismissing the sense of wonder and excitement this series has produced in children is criminal. Harry Potter is a gateway to other (and better) fiction, sure not as much as we hope, but that doesn't make it any less important.

This is just another version of what has come become way too common. A print critic attempting to justify their existence by telling how everyone else has it wrong - a buggy builder decrying the automobile.


Armchair Anarchist said...

He may well be preaching to choir, but you're doing exactly the same thing, you know.

I'm not entirely defending Charles's position, but you're overstating the case rather drastically, and attempting to reclaim the HP series 'for the people' from the jaws of the evil empire is a rhetorical step too far. Although he does come across as very pompous, he's making some valid points, and the entire remit of an op-ed article is to incite the sort of reaction you've come up with here. Newspapers learned to link-bait long before bloggers! ;)

And the buggys/automobiles comparison; it holds up if used against print critics criticising blogs as a medium, but claiming that HP is the automobile compared to the works that have preceded it is just baseless sophistry. They're just books. Massively hyped mega-merchandised best-selling books, maybe - but still, just books, and as wide open for different opinions of their worth as the most elite literary novel and the most hackish pulp fiction.

Paul Raven/VCTB

Neth said...

No worries - I know I'm preaching to a choir as well. But I'm not trying to reclain HP or anything like that, I'm just pointing out that the lense he's viewing things through has a particularly insulting focus.

I'm also aware that a piece like his at time like this is intentionally designed to incite a reaction and that I've fallen into the trap. If it were just putting down HP I'd probably have just shrugged and moved on. What motivated me to rant a bit is the part where he starts defending his existence as a critic. While he doesn't go the next step to decry the internet and bloggers for ruining critical thought in the print media, this does come across as more of same bitching along those lines. That's the context of the buggy comment, not something out of HP.

I was less than clear, but that comes with blogging in the morning before my second infusion of coffee.

Angela/SciFiChick said...

OT - Tagged you for an easy meme, if you care to participate.

Neth said...

Angela, I saw that this morning. I'll probably get around to it a bit later.

Larry said...

I have a different take than either one (one that I didn't bother to go into much detail in the wotmania post I made a few days ago). I might write an op-ed sort of piece on it this weekend. It'd deal with the social aspects of reading.

Then again, you know me - I never quite divorce my spec fic opinions from my cultural historian days!


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