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Full confession (like this one is going to be a big surprise): I read the Harry Potter novels and quite enjoyed them, though they were not as well-written or solidly put together as The Lord of the Rings. They were more on the level of the Narnia books, maybe. I also thought the movies (the ones I've seen -- one, two, and three -- they're up to the fifth book now? No? I don't pay much attention to movies) were fun romps with mostly non-painless acting (the sprinkling of British acting vets helps, as at least older British actors know how to appear in something non-highbrow without telegraphing how IRONIC everything is and how they're really IMPORTANT ACTORS who are only doing this fantasy kids gig because they NEED THE MONEY TO PAY FOR THE MALIBU HOUSE -- excuse me, I got a bit off the track.

Anyway, I like the Harry Potter series, but when I moved I gave the books away, because I was tired of carrying about so many books, and they'll be in print for years anyway. BUT -- I refuse to read the final novel until EVERY LAST ASSHOLE IN THE KNOWN UNIVERSE QUITS JABBERING ABOUT THEIR IMPORTANT NOTIONS ABOUT IT.* And for God's sake, will the last person who knows that the "magic" in Tolkien's world did indeed have obvious and heavy costs and that said theme was in fact one of the central themes of Lord of the Rings please go to Miss Megan McArdle's column (on the Grauniad? WTF?) and set her straight? On second thought, never mind. These people are the ones with "minds of wheels and metal" that Tolkien was talking about -- there isn't any way of communicating with them. Mention "sense of wonder" and they think you're talking about admiring a skyscraper.

One more thing: her "thesis," such as it is, falls apart almost immediately, in the first paragraph:

Why are books about magic so exciting? The lure is almost tautological: magic is compelling because it allows us to imagine doing the things we cannot ordinarily do.

In what way is this "almost tautological"? A tautology is something that is always true because it can't ever be untrue. So is the "lure" of "books about magic" always exciting because they "allow us to imagine doing things we cannot ordinarily do"? I can tell you right now they aren't for me -- I'm not interested in being able to do magic myself, that's not why I read books with magic as one of the plot devices. (You might as well know: I read them for the same reasons I read anything else -- to be entertained by a story with compelling characters and interesting events.) So her "tautology" falls apart on those grounds.

But maybe she doesn't mean that at all. Maybe she means to use "tautological" in the sense of "needless repetition." But she isn't repeating herself here -- she isn't saying "books about magic are exciting because they're exciting." Or maybe she is -- the rest of her column is a boring digression on how magic makes no economic sense, or something -- I couldn't be bothered to read the rest, after that opening. I think she just threw a big word in there because economists = logical and people who read fantasy (and don't worry about how magic fits into a capitalist economy) = fluff-minded dreamyheads who need to be led by the hand to the dinner table.

By the way, why does an economist pre-order a book that will be available for quite some time to come? Fantasy fan that I am, I didn't put myself on any stupid "pre-order get it hot off the press" list because I know I'll be able to get it off the shelf six month or six years from now when I finally have money to buy books. I suppose I can understand the need of some people to avoid learning the ending, because no one knows how to shut up anymore, but I do believe the New York Times already blew the lid off the book, so that ship has already sailed. Anyway, I always look at the end of books first.

*Except for mine, of course. Mine are always important and worth reading.

Comments (3)

Could be worse there are people looking at the death/not death of Harry in odd ways.

So, will you be terribly offended if I blog on what it all means?

Actually, to me it's interesting how little the books are really about magic. Harry could be changed to a boy chosen to go to Star Pilot's Academy where he will learn to use light sabers and matter-transporters, and the books could still have much the same plot.


Oh I'm only half serious, of course. I just get sick of people 1) misinterpreting the books (especially in a pretentious "I know better than you" way), and 2) writing at length on how they don't like the books/don't read them/all fantasy sucks, etc. If you don't like the books why even mention them? To get into the game anyway?

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Don't worry, he's just chopping broccoli.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 22, 2007 7:09 PM.

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