Why the snobbery about Harry Potter?

Snobbery within the arts is nothing new.  Providing that you are in the right clique you could publish a novel full of your drunken rants and critics would delight in how marvellous and left field it is.  If you are outside that precious little circle then it is open season on any works that are considered inferior, thrashy, or silly pulp fiction nonsense.

When J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter became a phenomena with children all over the world, some the critics couldn’t help but sneer not just at Rowling’s writing ability about the stories themselves.  It was perceived by some critics as third-rate writing who couldn’t believe that adults never mind children enjoyed the magical world of Harry Potter.

Now if Rowling had declared herself to be the next big thing since Tolkien and that Harry Potter was the greatest piece of art then some of the criticism would be fair.  The fact of the matter is that Rowling has never professed herself to be a genius.  As most writers will tell you is for people to enjoy the stories as much as you enjoy writing and creating them.  From the interviews I assume that Rowling is satisfied so long as her fans enjoyed the exploits of Harry Potter.

A good work of fiction doesn’t necessarily have to be testing or require the works of  the Odyssey to understand the plot.  The art is to tell a good story that grabs hold of the reader and takes you deep into the pages of the world it is portraying.  This whether the critics like it or not is what Rowling excels at and is one of the reasons why Harry Potter is so popular.

It is that excitement of discovering a new world where you can be yourself. A place of magic that temporally takes you away from what is happening outside.  These are characters that they can relate to as Harry and his friends develop to young adults. What Rowling does and does well is create a well written story that the reader can easily become enthralled and feel an emotional connection to the characters.  There is a undeniably a feel good factor that good will always overcome evil.

You would think that any books that encourage children to read and enjoy the world that literature can bring is a good thing.  However there are people who frown at Harry Potter and even some that are aghast that their children not only devour them but are big fans. Some will argue that they are badly written, juvenile, and that there are better works of fiction that should be read.

That though is just snobbery.  Reading is about enjoyment.  It is about discovering and moving on to other works that you want to try or sends a tremor of excitement when you read the blurb on the sleeve.  Reading should be fun and down to the individual to decide what they want to read.

Of course you don’t necessarily have to like the books your children or even your partner enjoy.  Sometimes that can be the fun part of having a proper debate about the stories.  What is not acceptable is deriding the book simply because it is either J.K. Rowling or Harry Potter.  To just dismiss it as childish nonsense and to tell them to read something proper like Charles Dickens Bleak House

Books lead to other stories and how many children have discovered the likes of C.S. Lewis the tales of Narnia or even Roald Dahl through Harry Potter?  Influences that are quite evident within the Harry Potter world.

Is everything a bit too black and white in Harry Potter?  Maybe.  Are some of the characters such as the Dursley’s too much of a caricature?  Possibly.  Besides the strong themes of friendship, love, loyalty, even coping with the death of a loved one are all topics that are covered quite well in Harry Potter.

The main thing is that the Harry Potter stories are enjoyable page turners.  You can feel the joy, excitement, the injustice, and the danger within the pages of Rowling’s novels.

That for me as a writer is a success.  To hit that connection with the audience has to be the overall aim.  You want the reader to feel that they know the character and care about their journey.  You want them to feel part of that world and delight in it.

JK Rowling whether critics like it or not has made her mark in the literary world.  Harry Potter like Bilbo Baggins or Aslam the lion are very much well-loved and known literary characters.

It is high time that some critics stop being a snob and mocking books that doesn’t fit into their criteria of literature.  After all we all need a bit of escapism and books are about entertainment and enjoyment.  Besides anything that encourages children to read has to be a good thing.  Rowling certainly knows how to write a good book and for that at least should be given praise for that.

 

 

 

 

Books under the radar 

There is no better feeling when you take a punt on an unknown book and realise that you have a classic story in your hands.  To feel that shiddy giddy excitement as you are absorbed in this new world that it’s as though you have been beamed down standing alongside these heroes or villains as they face their next task.  It’s also the groan that you feel when your dramatically pulled into reality when the train station for work pulls into view.

Discovering these books is all part of the fun.  Sometimes it can be a word of mouth or simply just liking the look of it when you’re in a bookshop.  When it delivers its like discovering a superstar like Lionel Messi and it’s the pride and the yearning as you want people to know and enjoy the book as much as you have.  Here then a few books that may be worth taking a punt on.
TheSlowRegardOfSlientThingsCoverThe slow regard of silent things by Patrick Rothfuss

Auri the main lead is a character from Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicle in this novella.  In many ways the story deviates away from the basics of what makes a novel as there isn’t an actual plot.  There is no beginning, middle, and an end with any climax being built up.  Instead it is a character study that allows you a peek into her world for seven days.  You could argue that it is a story about nothing with one chapter solely devoted to Auri making soap but there are a couple of reasons for taking a punt on this book.  Firstly Rothfuss is a fine writer as anyone who has read the Kingkiller Chronicle his words are rich and are never wasted.  Secondly you somehow seem to understand more about Auri and have an inclination as to why she became the person that we know through Kvothe in the Kingkiller.  It’s a book that absorbs  and dwells on you like a fine whisky as you still ponder and think about the brief view that you have been allowed in Auri’s world.

ThevesuviusclubThe Lucifer box series by Mark Gatiss

Famous for the league of gentlemen, Sherlock and Doctor Who Mark Gatiss is a man of many talents.  Even so there is always an air of trepidation of a big name pushing his book.  For most there is an air of hype that doesn’t live to the gushing praise of the media.  The Lucifer box trilogy bucks this trend.  For starters there is no drivel about how it is the best book ever and breaks new boundaries.  Gatiss relies on the strength of his story which is a rollicking adventure that starts with the Vesuvius club.  We begin in the roaring 20’s  as we are introduced to Lucifer Box a dashing agent with the looks of Dorian Grey and ends in the 1950’s.

A lot of it is tongue in cheek with a mix of James Bond meeting the inhabitants of the Naughty Hellfire club.  Indeed there is a bohemian spirit throughout the book but just as importantly it is a fun book with a character who knows no boundaries and has a carefree free spirit.  An enjoyable light read that you won’t regret reading.

The_Damned_Utd_coverThe damned United by David Peace

It is in the words of David Peace fiction blended with fact as it focuses on the troubled and disastrous forty-four days of Brian Clough’s time in charge of Leeds United.

The style is of a hypnotic rhythmic prose stream of consciousness inside the mind of Brian Clough.  There are the doubts and his resentment of  Don Revie and the loyalty that he perceives his players still hold for their former boss whilst he tries to impose his style on the team.  It also cleverly takes you right back to the start of Clough’s career as a fledgling manager and how he ends up at Leeds.

It is quite a dark story but you can hear Clough’s resonating throughout your mind with his revulsion for Don Revie and what he perceived his Leeds United team stood for.  The words ‘his team.  His Leeds.  His dirty fucking Leeds and they always will be,’ are spat out so violently that you can feel the venom.

Peace also somehow takes you back to the 1970s that you can feel and smell the stale cigarette smoke and atmosphere of the era.

You don’t have to be a fan of football to appreciate this story and if you are a fan of modernist literature then this will be a book that you will enjoy as it is certainly up there with the best of them.

end of mr YThe end of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas

A book that manages to grab your attention from the very first page.  Ariel Manto the protagonist stumbles onto a rare book ‘the end of Mr Y,’ by the scientist Thomas Lumas.  Although delighted with the find there is a troubled rumour that those who read the book die afterwards.  That’s not to ignore the strange going ons at the University due to an unexplained earthquake that leads one of the buildings to subside.

As Ariel progresses through the book and discovering more about Mr Y things get more weirder as she travels through time using the thoughts of people.

It does admittedly fizzle out towards the end but its an adventure that is unique, different, and enjoyable.

300px-Ocean_at_the_End_of_the_Lane_US_CoverThe ocean at the end of the lane by Neil Gaiman

There are books that bring a sad feeling that comes after having to say goodbye to friends after a good night out.  This is very much one of those books that also leaves you thinking a lot about the story with bits slowly settling in much later like a good pint of beer does.

In many ways it’s an adult fairy story with themes about childhood and the past.  Without giving away the plot it’s about a middle-aged man returning to his childhood home for a funeral.  Whilst on his way he comes across an old farm-house where he remembers Lettie a friend who claimed the pond by the farm was an ocean.

Upon spying the house the memories come back on that particular moment in time as a child.  There are many subjects such as death, family life, friendship, imagination and what is real and not.  Even after finishing the novel you really are none the wiser.

This is a book that I would recommend anyone to read.

tenantofwildfellhall1The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

Although her sisters Emily and Charlotte Bronte are more famous for their works such as Wuthering heights and Jane Eyre respectively this is a novel that in many ways was ground breaking, topical, and in some ways ahead of its time.

When taken into context the time that it was released it is easy to see why it was so controversial.  One of the good things about books is that it can hold up a mirror image and force people to look at what is happening within their own society.

It is a blow-by-blow account of an abusive marriage and the feeling of helplessness of having to withstand due to conforming of what society expects.  There is also the treatment and hypocritical sensationalist gossiping and sneering at someone trying to escape it.

The story itself is about a mysterious tenant called Helen who moves into the said hall with her son.  Gilbert Markham a farmer slowly falls in love but following a misunderstanding finds out the truth about Helen’s past.

Perhaps Anne Bronte was not as strong in her story telling and structure in her books but in terms of the topic it very much moves away from what was the perceived ideals of romantic novels.

B. Benjamin