Harry Potter and Literature

I am probably one of the few people who hasn’t actually read a Harry Potter book. It is not because I don’t want to or am turned off by the hype. It has more to do with my TBR list than anything else. I have enjoyed the movies so far and hope to embark on reading through the entire series at some point.

Meanwhile, with the fifth movie out and the final book coming out in a few days, people are predictably sniping about the series and its success. But Charles Taylor has a very thoughtful piece of commentary in the L.A. Times defending the series.

And that’s why those who ascribe the popularity of the Potter books to nothing more than the bad taste of the masses are so off the mark. The most prominent of those naysayers, that drooping defender of the canon, Harold Bloom, has, in his attacks on Rowling, provided us with fine examples of another reason for the Potter books’ popularity: the insularity of a literary culture that willfully ignores what it is that makes people readers in the first place.

Critics like Bloom are from what I call the Literature As Medicine crowd. Yes, there are difficult works like “Ulysses” that are rewarding to read (I happen to be a fan of Joyce). But the Literature As Medicine crowd always seems to be trying to suck the fun and life out of reading. Or be completely clueless to the fact that people read a bit of everything: from “genre” fiction to literary fiction. Readers are readers. They might go from Hemingway to Cartland to King and then to Morrison, depnding on their moods.

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