Copyright 2005 Ben S. Pollock
Wednesday, July 27, 2005. Three cheers for Harry Potter and his inventor. J.K. Rowling may well be this generation’s Dickens. I’m not saying she is a perfect novelist or storyteller, although yes I am implying Dickens can be difficult, especially140 years later. But enough about Chuck.
The Harry Potter series remains strong in its sixth book. The new one, the “Half-blood Prince,” does what they all have done so well: tells a series of connected stories (plot and several subplots) that enthrall their intended audience of children. Kids don’t read tedious material unless forced. We adults force ourselves all the time. (I don’t have to force myself to finish a Harry Potter book.)
Children know Rowling has it.
I compare her with Dickens because like him she writes specifically for our times, full of atmosphere with thoroughly drawn complex characters.
In the last book, we see through Harry’s eyes just how members of his parents generation once were his age and happy at times, struggling others. That is an important phase the young teenager with luck accomplishes. Of course lots of other things happen, too.
The current volume addresses the fear that modern terrorism has foisted on Western nations. Of course, the characters’ fear center’s around their villain, a dark wizard, not an extremist group. Yet Rowling creates the dread without the specifics of headlines and, more than that, through her you can feel the vague “gotcha” we all have come to expect just before we turn on CNN.
Her characters deal with fear and its ramifications, in the structure of the story lines. Yet that is not her point. It still is the story of Harry Potter growing up; Lots of things happen in the course of the year, fun, tests, friendship, melancholy.
Each book — most of which I have “read” while commuting in the car as unabridged, spoken-word CDs — also captures each year the children are going through, through buddies, rivals, and now that they’re 16 years old, growing maturity and also a bit of romance.
The best part is that Rowling is not teaching or preaching. She’s telling stories with no lessons at all, just the way novels should be, at any level.
If I choose to see her cleverness as something a child or teen could learn or model, that is me as an adult reader interpreting, not Rowling crafting. She is genuine. Well, isn’t anyone else as annoyed with contemporary parables and memoirs as me, where if you don’t “learn” something, you’re heaven-forbid wasting your time (or if it’s not true like memoirs supposedly are, then it’s therefore false and a waste of time)?
We shouldn’t be surprised if Rowling’s saga is popular a century from now. Her talent is classic. -30-