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July 25, 2010

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Ian Thal

I don't think it's that big a shift. Earlier generations were accustomed to either reading or using Biblical references that are obscure to most people these days, or to classical mythology.

What's more interesting is that there was an interval during which the audience's familiarity with mythology and folklore had evaporated and become mostly superficial-- because that period seems to be the aberration.

Josh

This is slightly off topic, but I was just remarking to Keith how frustrating it is to me that kid's today can't really handle menace. Or, at least, aren't really presented with it. This came from his four year-old nephew being too scared by "Where the Wild Things Are." The book, not the movie. I was like, "Are you fucking kidding me?"

Am I old school for thinking that a little bit of fear is healthy for kids? Shouldn't our kids be learning about courage, bravery, adventure?

Wade

I'm not a fan of Byatt's fiction, generally, but I must admit that what she says about Harry Potter sort of rings true for me.

isaac

I guess what aggravated me so much about the Byatt article is not the attacks on Harry Potter which, whatever, I mean we can debate whether the books are good or not til the cows come home, but rather the really ugly school marmish attack on *anyone that would dare disagree with her and like Harry Potter*. That she would presume to know why people like the books and what is "wrong" with them in that reasoning is the height of arrogance. That she also essentially calls harry potter fans uneducated, bad readers or people who watch too much television and have no imagination is kind of hilariously wrong headed.

Wade

Great point. There's a difference in the A.S. Byatt article between what she has to say about the Potter novels themselves--which strikes me as fairly accurate and persuasive--and what she has to say about the people who read and like the novels--which, you're right, is dismissive and patronizing. (Though it seems reasonable to hypothesize and analyze why something is popular, shifting the locus of the argument from the work's popularity to the people who make it popular suddenly makes the enterprise feel abusive, and like mind-reading besides.)

For the record, an effective and thoroughly entertaining fictional critique of Rowling (and Narnia along the way) can be found in Lev Grossman's terrific novel "The Magicians."

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