The Problem With Harry


In an article written about three years ago, Jennie Bristow puts her finger on the problem with the wildly popular boy wizard. An excerpt:

The 'crossover' appeal of Harry Potter to a grown-up audience fuelled the conceit that there was something special, and more challenging, about these books compared with other children's novels: a conceit that seemed to come from people who just don't read enough. What is adult popular fiction other than well-plotted, formulaic pap – as shown by Chick Lit, John Grisham, James Patterson and many other bestselling authors?

A good children's story – good in the page-turning, as opposed to the literary, sense – will have a similar kind of appeal. (I challenge any self-confessed Potter reader to resist the charms of Enid Blyton's Malory Towers and Famous Five – although you would need to read those in secret.) When it comes to gripping, unchallenging brain candy, the main difference with the boy wizard is that you can read about him in public, smug in the knowledge that you are part of an accepted cultural trend.

Not much has changed since the publication of Book Six. For writing quality, it is marginally better than The Order of the Phoenix which had a lot of irrelevant material about Hagrid's pathetic little brother. In the mode of popular fiction, the last book did draw me into the story, but my eagerness owed more to a desire for closure than to the pleasurable feeling of having read something wonderful.


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