: In all the hyperactive hype over Harry Potter, it is accepted media wisdom that these long books are a good thing because they’re getting kids to read them.
Pardon me, but that’s like saying that Mary Higgins Clark is good because it’s getting middle-aged bon-bon eaters to read.
They’re not dissimilar. As narrative drama goes, Harry Potter sometimes displays the story-telling skill of a 6-year-old recounting a movie: This happened, then that happened, then this, then that. Resolution comes deus ex machina — when J.K. Rowling intervenes to solve the crisis with a magic spell or medieval gizmo rather than through the dramatic conflict and examination of conscience of the characters.
But my criticism isn’t with Harry Potter. If you like the books and movies, wonderful: enjoy. I’m the greatest fan of popular culture; being popular is the best review.
My criticism is with the media assumption that Harry Potter — just because it’s a book and more just because it’s a long book — is high culture. It’s an oddly snobby assumption. In my view, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is better dramatic fiction; so is Star Trek. They depend on human conflict to resolve dramatic tension rather than the sudden entrance of a monster. Yet they don’t get nearly the respect — or certainly the hype — of Harry Potter because they’re not thick books.
Just because it’s on paper, that doesn’t make it smart. Just because it’s long, that doesn’t make it smarter.