Harry Potter: WTF?

Just because I feel like stirring up the pot, I’m going to repost a comment I made in the mst3k community, on the subject of Harry Potter, here:

I’ve read the first 2-3 books, and been profoundly unimpresed. The writing is strictly second-rate. I didn’t think it differed from any of the other juvenile pulp that filled library shelves when I was a kid. Somehow HKR manages to make fantasy seem dull and pedestrian. Not to mention the outright disdain she shows for the reader by, for example, including a pivotal chess scene without bothering to learn the rules of the game. As children’s fantasy it lacks the ingenious spark of C.S. Lewis, Roald Dahl, Madeleine L’engle, or Lewis Carroll. Harry Potter is one of the few cases where I’ve actually enjoyed the movies more than the books, because the excellent cast manages to liven up the drab, uninspired plotlines.

There, I’ve probably now pissed off 100% of my readers. Hit me with your best shot 😉

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  1. I liked the books moderately well, but the movies were spectacular. I am sure I might have liked the books more if I were reading them as a 7-year-old, not a 27-year-old!

    Btw, plans are in progress for turning “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” into a big-screen Hollywood production. Let’s hope they don’t screw it up.

  2. actually the kids i tutor struck a deal with me on some summer reading/movie combos and i agreed to read one this summer. i’ll definitely let you know what i thought – i’ve avoided reading any but i can’t in good faith ask them to read new things if i am not willing to do the same for them, sets a bad example.

  3. I absolutely despise Harry Potter. No-one seems to get that…

    I feel that her writing style is crap, her plots have already been done, Harry’s not easy to like (neither are the other characters), it’s just…bad!

    1. Thank you. Harry is perhaps the worst part… a kid who can’t see past his own petty grievances in order to understand that someone is trying to tell him something that might save his life… what a great role-model. Like all too many heroes, he seems to win the day more through sheer luck, fancy breeding, and his friends saving his ass than through any special effort of his own.

      And what’s with the unwritten rule that all the kids seem to obey – “no matter what happens, never, ever tell an adult anything”?

      1. I have to admit that I followed that rule fairly religiously when I was younger – “don’t tell the adults!”

        And I completely concur with the first part of your post.

        1. Yeah, I realize I’m an oddball for having been scrupulously honest with my parents. But then again, my parents were oddballs. As a kid it used to drive me batty that it never even occurred to the kids in stories to talk to adults for advice or help. Of course, I didn’t have to deal with adults who would disbelieve me or fail to take me seriously.

          That nymph in your icon is a cutie. Who is she?

          1. I’m not entirely sure who she is. She *is* cute, though, and that’s all that matters. XD

  4. Reading the Potter

    Back when there wa no movie, people quietly gathered to talk about Harry Potter, and golden snitches, and Hogwart’s and so on. “What’s that?” I asked once, point to a plush golden ball with stitched felt wings hanging from a ring of keys. “Oh, you’ve not read Harry Potter then?” Well, that kinda attitude always sours me to a item of interest. I find that things in life can be enjoyable, but the people who laud those things make the experience no fun. Anyway, the movie came out and I had a great time. Such fun. My wife and I decided to read the books. I couldn’t get through a dozen or so pages before I had to stop. The movie images were to fresh and frankly, better written. There are few children’s books that I still find readable: Alice in Wonderland, Pooh and the original Oz books. Most writing aimed at that level boors me silly; which sadly incluydes Tolkien’s The Hobbit. That book is so very differenly crafted and presented from LOTR it’s almost liek it was written by another person. And since he wrote LOTR during WWII, he probably was.

  5. I still have to read it, but I fully intend to do so

  6. I liked the books, but I didn’t read any of them: I had them read to me. I think it was the voice characterizations the reader generated that really made the books come alive for me. It’s true, however, that they are poorly written, in that the books are filled with tongue twisters that make it difficult to read out loud.

    Anyway, my challenge to you is: Write something better! If you write it, I’ll read it.

  7. I thought with everyone raving about them that the books would be beautifully written and I am disappointed. But reading them to a seven year old makes it more exciting and the movies seem to be getting even better. I have to say I am unimpressed with the series of unfortunate events and stopped buying them about halfway into the series. Though the movie I hope will be good as well. We are now rereading The Chronicles of Narnia and I found last night that Autumn had picked up The Silver Chair and is already halfway finished with it on her own. I guess that shall be the judge;)

    1. I love the Chronicles of Narnia. I have read them so many times, I practically have them memorized. I just wish I had someone to read them to!

      1. Have you read The Book of the Dun Cow, or The Book of Sorrows?

          1. Well, if you liked the Chronicles of Narnia, then you might like to give them a read. I’d link you to the Amazon reviews, but I’m too damned tired right now. Seriously – check them out if you get a chance.

  8. Speaking personally, I think Potter gets better as it goes along. Keep in mind, you are dealing with books written for children. The biggest difference between JKR and say, CSL, Dahl, or L’engle is that JKR is writing FOR children on probably what’s closer to a modern child’s reading level.

    Personally I think its significant that all the authors you mention are older. L’engle published ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ in 1962 but she herself was born in 1918. Dahl was born in ’16. Lewis Carroll I think was a whacko, but he’s 19th century entirely. The Chronicles of Narnia are first published in 1950, but Lewis himself, of course, is born before the turn of the century (or just after–I slightly forget).

    All the authors on your list either wrote some of their works at least two generations ago, were born 3 generations ago, or both. JKR is, by contrast, a very newcomer and in terms of education and literary grasp, clearly their inferior. At the same time, however, she probably writes well for her current audience.

    I like to see kids reading. If they read HP, that’s great with me. It can be a springboard into other things.

    1. I like to see kids reading. If they read HP, that’s great with me. It can be a springboard into other things.

      I agree, and I have done nothing to discourage ours from reading HP (although I announced after reading the first one aloud to them that they were on their own for the rest). In fact, I’ve driven to Border’s to buy our reserved copy of an HP book the day it came out for my stepdaughter.

      What I don’t get is all the adults I know who await new HP books with as much anticipation as kids. It’s just my opinion, and I admit I’m a literary snob.

      1. Well one thing I’ll say: The later books are getting darker and more mature. She’ll never be a CS Lewis or a L’engle, but her plots are developing.

        One last thought: When my sister began attending a private, fundamentalist Christian school, I was glad. Know why? Because Kentucky schools suck. They suck badly. And given the choice between having her learn about drugs and sex vs. fundamentalist Christianity? I’ll take the latter.

        Six years later she may have more conservative religious beliefs than I do, but she’s gotten a MUCH better education overall and she still critically thinks and analyzes a situation. She’s not a dogma-spouter.

        I see HP as much the same. I’d rather kids read better, tougher, stuff, but I’ll start ’em off somewhere good. Because even if HP is bad literature, its better than MTV.

  9. I read part of the first one, and I put it down NEVER to pick up another harry potter book ever again.

    I refused to see the films, as I have no desire whatsoever to support such mediocre CRAP.

    However, something that I am happy to see is kids lining up to purchase a book. Even if it is third-ratel, subpar writing, the fact that kids are reading makes me deliriously happy.

    At least they are reading, and not wasting their precious minds on the gawkbox, or mindless persuits of instant gratification.

  10. I disagree, but you are entitled to your opinion.

  11. Okay, I have to post now, because every single one of the previous comments has completely demeaned Harry Potter and JKR. I have read The Hitchhiker’s Guide, I have *looked at* The Chronicles of Narnia and not felt a particular urge to open the book, I have seen Lord of the Rings, and I have seen Star Wars, and you know what? I didn’t particularly care for ANY of them.

    But I LOVED Harry Potter. I like Harry Potter because in my opinion, the author gives a fantasy story a modern twist: she writes it like you would write a normal, everyday book about everyday topics, only it’s magic. Don’t you guys get it? It’s SUPPOSED to be mundane, it’s not trying to be a normal fantasy. That’s the awesome part! As for the characters not being likable, well, that’s part of the fun. They’re regular kids. Regular kids will have their neurosis, their disgusting habits, whatever. If that’s all been done before, like so many people are saying, then great: you all can go read whatever you want. I’m sticking with HP.

    And as for the movies: they were very nicely done, but I honestly enjoyed the books a lot more.

    1. not true

      “every single one of the previous comments has completely demeaned Harry Potter and JKR. “

      othniell said they were okay, and i simply stated i had no opinion yet good or bad. but i did find your countercase interesting, and i do get what you mean about a deliberate choice to make it mundane. if i share that opinion when i read one, it probably will impress me because thats a very subtle and risky move to make in writing. i have often tried explained a similar thing about a different book, which is admittedly long, monotonous and taxing to get through. that book is fourth in a series and describes a long, monotonous and taxing period of time in the series. in other words, put simply, it is somewhat boring and a trial to get through as a conscious choice to reflect the atmosphere of the content itself.

      1. Re: not true

        Hmmm… I don’t know if I’d describe Harry Potter as “boring and a trial to get through.” But, it’s all good. Obviously there are going to be people who will like it and people who won’t. You know, most things that people consider classics, I hate. So I guess it’s just a matter of taste. If you haven’t read the novels, don’t go into it thinking “it’s going to be boring.” Just go into it with your regular frame of mind, but knowing that it is written to be mundane. If you still hate it, ah well, that’s life, right?

        1. Re: not true

          I haven’t assumed that at all – what I meant is that what you described, about a deliberate choice to set it as mundane, reminds me of another book, by a completely different author, which was deliberately set up as sort of boring and repetitive. You said a lot of people complain about HP being mundane, and your reaction is to try to explain that it is deliberate and serves a purpose. I have had a similar reaction about this book in that many many people have told me “ugh i stopped reading the series there, that fourth one was long and boring.” and my reaction is always “its supposed to be long and boring. he is trying to immerse you in the feeling of the tmes he is describing, its deliberate”

  12. Considering your view on the writing of HP, I am doubly complimented in your appreciation of *my* writing. I have always felt I have barely mediocre talent. Thank you. 🙂

  13. I liked Harry Potter, but I didn’t like it because I thought it was great fantasy literature. I didn’t really think of it as a fantasy story at all. I liked it because it was interesting and easy to read. There are books that really immurse you in a world and when you come out it takes a while for you to have left the book but Harry potter isn’t really that. There also books that take a while to read because you have to digest them. That doesn’t nessasarily make them better than other books though. It can be difficult to write books that are easy to read. *shrug*

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