Posted by: dougery | December 10, 2010

A Note on Harry Potter…

…which nobody will ever read because most of the folks who were really into this stuff read the last book over a single weekend more than 3 years ago so it’s not exactly a hot topic by any stretch of the imagination but it is sort of ubiquitous in the pop cultural landscape and for good or for evil has influenced authors and publishers and now my friends no longer have to leave the room when they want to discuss plot points of the Deathly Hallows I mean, if they still wanted to discuss them which they probably don’t because this has all gone kinda stale, right?

Anyhow, last night I finished the seventh massive tome in the HP series after years of struggling through the soggy middle of the Deathly Hallows. I will keep this spoiler free but there are a few things I’d like to comment on, about the series in general:

1. The series is imaginative and the scope ambitious however…

2. The author’s craft was often not up to par with her vision. In particular…

3. The pacing, especially toward the end of the series, is horrid and…

4. The prose occasionally becomes so clunky it disrupts the plot but…

5. The work as a whole is admirable, effecting and worthwhile.

And as far as the movies go, I really think that HP would have best been suited to a long running television series. The strongest aspects of Harry Potter are it’s brilliant depth, panoply of characters and wealth of detail, all of which could have been explored to a finer degree with more screen time, not less. Yes the films are like a million hours long, but they make sacrifices that needn’t be. Broken up into 43 minute weekly episodes, HP would have the leisure to spread and focus on character development, similar to Buffy.

Anyhow, back to your counting down the minutes to your weekend, reader(s).

Listening to: The Black Keys “Tighten up” Check it out, it has a wonderfully sweet and funny music video:

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Responses

  1. Well said. I think part of Rowling’s problem, like I said over at my blog, is that she started writing a middle grade fantasy series (books 1 & 2, full of cute whimsy) that turned into a YA fantasy series (books 3-5, darkness! angst!) that turned into an adult fantasy series (books 6-7; blood! guts! fascism!). And she had to cart along all the baggage from the first books, the cute Dahl-ish names and spells, which both gives the book its unique flavor (“and then Bernie Wigglebottom of Hufflepuff was violently disemboweled by a werewolf using the Disem Bowelus curse…”) and its fundamental weakness. I agree that Rowling’s vision outshone her ability, though I think that’s common in fantasy, a genre that doesn’t have a lot of critical and peer pressure on prose-craft. I just started reading Melville’s “Perdido Street Station” and while it’s gobsmackingly brilliant and at times beautifully written, I also dearly wish someone would take Meville’s thesaurus away from him.

  2. I’ll add here that George RR Martin is an exception. His prose is spot-on brilliant. He’s a great prose craftsman and his ability to write and chart characters is unparalleled by any writer writing today.

    And Susanna Clark is just an astonishing writer all around. Beautiful prose and vision.

  3. Oh, Perdido!

    I think you nailed China to a ‘T’. The opening passages of the novel where he introduces the city of New Crobuzon (the ‘character’ he is by far the most proud of) are simultaneously fantastic and frustrating and tell you everything you need to know about what follows. The thesaurus comment is apt. It is the Rowling argument turned inside-out, here we have a brilliant dude who can write the pants off most folks, and whose imagination is peerless (and alloyed to a knowledge of history that is enviable to put things mildly) but who lets the writing get away from him just as easily.

    Hang in there. And do read the Scar. It is a bit more reserved, or rather, it is just as wildly creative, but not quite as show-offish.

    PS, when do we get more Mab?

  4. I’m definitely hanging in there because there is much to love and I can tell that the $750 billion he spent on $5 words is done out of love, out of an attempt to give us the readers the same vision of N.C. he has in his brilliant, bald head. But yeah, it frustrates at times.

    PS: More Mab soon!

  5. Oh, and ditto on the Martin comment.

    I never get the ‘i’m way smarter than you so don’t bother’ vibe from him or the ‘maybe i should be writing as part of a team for a sitcom where half-baked ideas get thoroughly cooked or thrown out by one’s colleagues’ feeling.

    Also, he is a rabid NY Football fan, which if nothing else, makes me feel like I could sustain both a love for professional sports AND a career in writing.

  6. I was going to comment on Harry Potter, and then I got intimidated by this comment section.

  7. bah.

  8. humbug?


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