CuriousGeorgette

Harry Potter - good or bad? (split from original HP thread)

106 posts in this topic

most of the first one - by which I mean I suffered through the first few pages, skimmed the rest to see if it got better - it didn't. Seen bits of one or two the movies - didn't grab me any more than the books did. 

 

I found the writing to be condescendingly simple, lacking in good construction, short on creativity - it is SOOOOOO derivative - uninspiring, and appallingly insulting prejudiced against 'muggles' <- ie the reader that I'm surprised it has not come under more criticism for inciting hatred against any one who is different. Any one who has read Enid Blyton will recognise the hankering after this ridiculously outdated and idealised concept of the private boarding school - only Enid Blyton could actually write (but I can't stand any of the school books she wrote either) - where we are all jolly hockey sticks what ho! (Puke!). Harry Potter himself came across as hugely disrespectful of authority and I thought the lines between right and wrong are entirely too blurred to be appropriate for kids - the end NEVER justifies the means! The adults in the books are either stupidly authoritative - do as I say without question and I won't listen to you - or the enemy. Again not something one wants to be promoting for kids. Whilst SOME adults are like this (sadly) - one also wants to create the impression that there are adults who will listen if you have a problem and who will be supportive etc. Too many issues kids have go unreported and unnoticed because kids do not see the adults in their world as being the solution to their problems.

 

Well, there you have it. You cannot possibly be an authority on how good/bad the books are when you haven't even read them! And no, the 'first few pages' and 'skimming' doesn't count as reading (and therefore understanding) all seven books. And if you think you have read enough to be able to tell how bad they are, then let me assure you that you're wrong, because nearly everything you have implied about the books is wrong. If you had read more you would know that. The writing is simple, yes...because they are aimed at children! Did you expect to find something written by Nabokov? Do you mean that the story or the writing lacks good construction? I am a qualified, full-time editor and can assure you that the sentences, while simple, are constructed just fine. However, the later books could have been edited better (as most HP fans will attest), but by then there was so much secrecy surrounding the publication of the books that no single editor was allowed to edit the entire book.

 

I came to the series after the first four books had been published (yes, I was 'had' by those cunning marketers because I'm too stupid to think for myself or realise when a product is being pushed at me). I thought the first three books were good, not brilliant. But they were good enough to keep me going, and around book four I got hooked, and the whole thing started coming together for me.

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I don't think we can talk of  "badly writing" in a series like HP, because the style evolves with the maturity of the character himself. I mean, in the first book Harry is an 11 years old boy, but he's 17 at the end of the serie. And the style in writing slightly changes as he grows up. What is more, if it was only a bluff I reckon the popularity was meant to decrease through years: The Fifty Shade is now completely ignored now, in spite of the marketing behind the book. But young boys and girls still read and love Harry Potter, they have some paragraph on their school books (with dozens of estracts from other books) but they look for Harry when they go to the library. Why? Because Harry speaks like them, thinks like them, has the same reactions they have in sinilar situations. Harry Potter is somehow real to them. Harry takes the wrong decision sometimes and then he pays his faults. Children don't want to be taught through literature, they want to be heard. And Harry still speaks for them. I'm surely wrong, but I don't take decision or make opinions on a glimpse of a thing. I usually give everything a chance before deciding the quality of everything.

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Eleonora, I think that's a great point about popularity diminishing over time.  I suppose we can argue until we're blue in the face, but time will really tell, won't it?

 

I think of all the great paintings, books, music, etcetera that were considered absolute rubbish by the experts of their time, but have proven themselves to be some of the most influential, enduring, inspiring works of modern history. Those are rather subjective things, aren't they?  There will always be detractors, and they may or may not be justified in their objections, but when it comes to any form of artistic expression, what really matters is how the work speaks to the individual.  That's what allows a work to endure.

 

The "wizarding" craze has faded, because it was simply a fad generated by a marketing machine.  The countless spinoffs and copycats, including books written as addendums to the Potter series, have already gone quietly into the night.  As for the books themselves, only time will tell.   It has been nearly two decades since the original publication, though, and the books do seem to be holding up just fine.  Whether a new generation will find them just as appealing without a slew of toys, movies and t-shirts being released on a seemingly daily basis will be interesting to see.  

Edited by dtrpath27

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Why does it matter how it's written as long as it's a good story? 

 

Because it does matter. Junk does not stimulate the imagination, or encourage young readers to appreciate books, or teach them the good use of language or new words. Junk does not stimulate a life long passion for reading, for language, for books, for the world of the imagination. Lets not forget we are talking about CHILDREN'S books here, not escapist literature for adults. What adults choose to read in order to escape the daily drudge is their choice - but children's books are another matter entirely. 

 

 

I don't think we can talk of "badly writing" 

 

Yes we can. It is a matter of opinion, but quite a widely held one. I'm not the first person to think it and a great many other people with far more qualification than I (if you discount a lifetime of reading) have agreed - these books are badly written. Some even on this forum, in this thread to boot.

 

 

Children don't want to be taught through literature, they want to be heard. 

 

Children ARE taught through literature, and they want to be heard in real life, not so much in books, and it is the responsibility of children's authors to ensure some level of social responsibility in their writing. Particularly in todays' complex world that children have to navigate. This does not mean 'lecture', or speak down to, but the values espoused need to be clear moral choices. Children do not live in the grey world of adults - their moral world is far more black and white, right and wrong, good and bad. Confusing these things for them does not educate, does not help, does not give them a good grounding - it confuses them and loosens the soil beneath their feet. They need to know that right is right and wrong is wrong, and that the good guys win. Moral ambiguity comes later, but first it needs a solid grounding in what is clearly right and what is clearly wrong. 

 

 

You cannot possibly be an authority on how good/bad the books are when you haven't even read them! 

 

Aah yes the you-can't-know-what-you-like if you haven't read every word ... well when you look at the cover of a porn magazine do you have to examine every photo inside to know whether or not it is porn? If you pick up a book with a lurid cover with some demonic thing from some one's worst nightmare standing over a disemboweled corpse with blood on its fangs on the cover do you need to read every word to know what it is about and whether or not you will like it?

 

Can you read a large number of opinion pieces, quotes, extracts, reviews on a book, to get a feel what it is about and the values it has? Yes/No/maybe?

 

I don't like the books, and the way they are written, but they have sparked a huge amount of controversy for various different reasons and I have followed a great many of the saner debates on the books. (emphasis on saner as some are just totally froth-at-the-mouth ridiculous).

Edited by CuriousGeorgette

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So there you are: I know dozen of ex-children whose imagination was highly stimulated by Harry Potter. One became a published writer of children books. One of my ex teenagers writes and draws fantasy comics, and so on. If they all were son influenced by a book and they still read many other different books now they are grown up, it means Harry Potter is not junk for them. And that's the only thing that matters to me: they read a lot, they use thei imagination. Maybe they saw in that story something you didn't and that's why you can't understand.

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So there you are: I know dozen of ex-children whose imagination was highly stimulated by Harry Potter. One became a published writer of children books. One of my ex teenagers writes and draws fantasy comics, and so on. If they all were son influenced by a book and they still read many other different books now they are grown up, it means Harry Potter is not junk for them. And that's the only thing that matters to me: they read a lot, they use thei imagination. Maybe they saw in that story something you didn't and that's why you can't understand.

 

I think that you should refrain from making statements like 'you can't understand' - you have no idea beyond the opinion I have stated here as to what I can and can't understand.

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This writer had sour grapes about the whole Harry Potter phenomenon, but it rather back-fired on her.

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/lynn-shepherd/jk-rowling-should-stop-writing_b_4829648.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

 

Looks like I was right about other authors being pissed!

 

I saw that the other day, and some of the follow up articles on other sites.  It all seems a little pointless and bitter really, having a pop at a popular author in public just because they are popular.  Still, she's got some attention out of it herself.

 

I wonder if, down the road, she will think it was worth it.

 

ETA:

 

By the way, does anyone else think it's odd that in the Shepherd article above, she claims never to have read or seen a minute of Harry Potter, yet she then goes on to mention Harry's invisibility cloak?   Has that entered popular culture to such an extent?  Or is she more familiar with the franchise than she claims?

Edited by Raven

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I think that you should refrain from making statements like 'you can't understand' - you have no idea beyond the opinion I have stated here as to what I can and can't understand.

I'm sorry but I can't refrain: you are not in their mind so you can't understand what's inspiration for other people or what is junk for other people. You can accept, as I do, but you can't fully understand because you come from a different path and you've seen different things. So you can't understand as I don't understand most of the things other people do or think. I accept. For instance, I don't know why you value your opinion so much, what makes you so sure of what you say. I can't understand it, but I accept it and I accept your point of view even if I don't understand it.

Edited by Eleonora

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I read the Harry Potter series as an adult, not a child, and I love them .  When I read them I was there, a sidekick right along with Ron and Hermione, sharing in their adventures, terrors, and victories.  That is what gives them value.  Not the style, or grammar, but the authenticity of the experience for the reader.  When readers can live vicariously through the characters, then the author has earned distinction.  

 

Harry Potter might not be everyone's cup of tea, and that's okay.  However, I do agree with the others that said a reader should actually read an entire book and/or series before they are able to review it.  Otherwise it is bogus.  

 

I'll close my thoughts with my analogy:  A person might stare at a plate of broccoli for hours (yes, that is definitely broccoli), observe the color, feel the texture, and smell it, but until they take a bite and swallow, they cannot say with absolute certainty that they hate it.

 

 

 

Don't judge a book by it's cover ~ George Eliot

 

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Aah yes the you-can't-know-what-you-like if you haven't read every word ... well when you look at the cover of a porn magazine do you have to examine every photo inside to know whether or not it is porn? If you pick up a book with a lurid cover with some demonic thing from some one's worst nightmare standing over a disemboweled corpse with blood on its fangs on the cover do you need to read every word to know what it is about and whether or not you will like it?

I will humour you and go with your odd porn analogy: yes, you can determine something is porn just by leafing through the pages and seeing nudey pics. Porn is a genre, though, not an estimate of its own qualities: good or bad. Same as if you pick up a book which you then leaf through and notice to be a fantasy book. Knowing it's a fantasy book doesn't tell if if it's good or bad! You have to read a whole lot more than the first few pages to decide whether it's any good or not. And rather incredibly (!), the things you don't like are sometimes liked by others.

 

 

Edit: Just because you are willing to judge a whole book (and a book series) just by the first few pages, doesn't mean we have to do the same. And it's quite odd that you don't seem to be willing to listen to those members' opinions who've actually read the whole book (and the series) and therefore know about the books a whole lot more than you do. It's quite okay that you make up your mind so quickly about the books you pick up, but it's really not okay to expect other people to do the same. Personally, I don't even take your opinion on the matter very seriously because you simply haven't read the books. You don't know enough about them to really discuss the books.

Edited by frankie

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Question - why should I have to read something that I have already attempted and failed to finish reading because I found the writing to be so uncaptivating, irritating and just plain bad just so people like you, who in all likelihood still would not accept my opinion as valid, won't dismiss it as invalid. FYI my porn analogy was not so strange, by your criteria, one would have to read the magazine cover to cover with a magnifying glass before being able to venture any opinion on whether or not you a. liked it b. thought it appropriate or c. thought it was any good. Personally I have read enough, experienced enough, trust my judgement enough to know what I like and don't like, and can determine from a small sample if something is of interest to me, worth reading further, reasonably good or not, and worth spending time on. Life is too short to force myself to read stuff I know I won't like just so some one can't say "but you didn't read it" when I express my opinion.

 

Edited to fix typos.

Edited by CuriousGeorgette

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I can mostly judge if I will like a book or not on the very first page. If I can't identify with the writing style from the beginning, I wan't get a good grip on the book until the end. But that can happen with famous books, where I can even say they're well written and well researched. I may even read them for that reason.

So, yes, you can say after a couple of pages, they're not your cup of tea. You can judge that very fast.

But I wouldn't say that you can judge the objective quality of a book from the beginning, if you can ever. Tastes are different, and I don't believe, there's ONE book in the world, which is either liked or disliked by everyone who read it!

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Children ARE taught through literature, and they want to be heard in real life, not so much in books, and it is the responsibility of children's authors to ensure some level of social responsibility in their writing. Particularly in todays' complex world that children have to navigate. This does not mean 'lecture', or speak down to, but the values espoused need to be clear moral choices. Children do not live in the grey world of adults - their moral world is far more black and white, right and wrong, good and bad. Confusing these things for them does not educate, does not help, does not give them a good grounding - it confuses them and loosens the soil beneath their feet. They need to know that right is right and wrong is wrong, and that the good guys win. Moral ambiguity comes later, but first it needs a solid grounding in what is clearly right and what is clearly wrong. 

 

 

Bolding above, mine.  I like this, and fully believe it is true.  If a person is not taught the difference between right and wrong, they'll never have the basis for deciding for themselves, later in life. 

 

As I've stated before, I've only read the last book, and didn't think much of it.  Whether or not it is fair to judge a series by the last one is debatable, however it did not move me to read the other six that are sitting on my shelf at this moment. 

 

I can usually tell in the first several pages if I'll like a book or not, like the style of the author or not, or like the story.  I've bulled my way through books, many a time, and in the final analysis, have regretted it.  I hardly ever do it now.  If it doesn't gel by say the first few chapters or so, or on occasion a few pages, I ditch it.  There is a great test...........the page 69 test.  If you read the first page, and page 69, and still think it's ok, it probably is. :)

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It's not like HP is for kids under ten, but for teens. And I don't think that on a moral basis HP is very different from other Y/A books.

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Oh, by the way, that test is great, pontalba. I don't stick to a certain page number to dicide, but you don't live long enough to waste your time with books you consider as bad!

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I read somewhere to read the first 50 pages before giving up, so I try to do that now, even if it's sometimes an uphill battle.

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CG, what you stated is how we all feel to one extent or another. I think there're point people are making is that based off our personal experience and the things we like or don't like, we chose to read HP.

 

I think what has people on edge about your comments is that you seem to think that you alone have the ability to choose intelligently what constitutes great reading and the rest of us are unable to do so without some entity leading us by th snout. You have to see how insulting that can be.

 

Personally, I don't care about their marketing strategy because if Im going to buy it I will and of I'm not, I won't. I decide what I do or don't do.

 

We all have life experiences. You don't have to like the book but insulting the intelligence of those who do just ain't cool.

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I read somewhere to read the first 50 pages before giving up, so I try to do that now, even if it's sometimes an uphill battle.

 

That's a good way too.  I have to say that I actually read 500 pages into 2666, and finally couldn't stand it anymore.  Haven't finished it yet, and it's unlikely I ever will. 

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It's not like HP is for kids under ten, but for teens. And I don't think that on a moral basis HP is very different from other Y/A books.

 

I think perhaps you are out of touch with the age groups that are / were reading the books. My daughter was in grade 2 when all her friends were reading the books. Perhaps there were teens who were reading the books, but from what I remember of the photos of the queues etc for the books the readers were all largely younger. The Kids Family and Reading Report of 2006 reports that the average age for children to start reading Harry Potter is 9 with readers as young as 5 starting on the series. 

 

 

I think what has people on edge about your comments is that you seem to think that you alone have the ability to choose intelligently what constitutes great reading and the rest of us are unable to do so without some entity leading us by th snout. You have to see how insulting that can be.

 

No that is just the perception of how I express myself. I'm in the minority here and I'm upsetting the apple cart by not falling in with the prevailing opinion that the books are the best thing next to sliced bread, combined with a certain amount of pre-existing tension because of the fact that adult readers think they shouldn't be reading kids books and many of you probably have already come under some criticism or been aware of the criticism of adult readers of the series. 

 

Now you can't know this but that is the very last thing I would object to - I am a regular reader of children's books myself. I'm of the opinion that GOOD writing for children works for adults as well. I'm just not of the opinion that Harry Potter stands in the same league as recognisably good children's classics despite its popularity. 

 

What you also don't know is that this current train of thought with me started with reading a review of Ursala Le Guin's Earthsea series which started with:

 

To understand A Wizard of Earthsea, we have to start by imagining what the world was like before the Harry Potter books (we know, tough to imagine).

 

which absolutely horrified me. IF Harry Potter does do all the wonderful things for reading that people claim - why do we have to 'IMAGINE' a world in which the books do not exist - surely these avid readers Harry Potter has created will be reading widely enough outside the books, not to have to IMAGINE such a thing?  Any way that got me wondering just why the heck the books were so popular, what factors contributed and that is what led to the discovery of the article and dissertation that I shared which I thought was interesting when read in juxtaposition - IF the books are considered bad by people who should know the difference between good and bad (an opinion I just coincidentally share, but I would find the phenomenon just as interesting if my opinion of the books was different. In fact my negative opinion of the books is secondary to my interest in looking at how the marketing worked.) then the whole dissertation on the marketing behind the book becomes both relevant and interesting, particularly when you take note of the fact that the initial print run on the book was 5 000 copies. What changed between that and the 30 000 copies it had sold by the end of year 1? How did it change? Why did it change - if the quality of the writing was such that not even the publisher had that much faith in it from the get go (5000 copies remember) .... how did it become a best seller ... and while part of that is certainly that for some reason people liked it one can't dismiss the impact of the marketing machine and how that all works. I'm not insulting any one by saying you were had by the marketing - the forces at work in how these things influence people are powerful and subtle. We are a generation defined by marketing, from what we eat, wear, think, and vote and to think or say otherwise is to be deliberately naive. However, when one becomes aware of it, one can try to be a little more autonomous in our choices and thinking, to look beyond what the media tell us, to find more opinions, to seek out divergent opinions, or as much of the truth as we can, to form an informed opinion rather than the one fed through the media. It isn't just about Harry Potter - the books are just an illustration of a much wider reality in our society today.

Edited by CuriousGeorgette

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That's a good way too.  I have to say that I actually read 500 pages into 2666, and finally couldn't stand it anymore.  Haven't finished it yet, and it's unlikely I ever will. 

 

Well, I call that admirable perseverance Pont!!  You're fully justified to put any book down after that, if you're still not enjoying it :D When I was younger, I made myself finish any book I'd begun, but now :shrug:  ....life's too short and all that.

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I agree, Poppy. The older I get, the less time I have left to read all those books that are out there...!

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Well I have just read the last two pages of posts and there are a few things I would like to comment on.

1. There has been quite a few comments along the lines of - 'they can't be bad because they were a best seller' now my question is (and I have puzzled over this for years) if I go into a book store and see a new book for sale and it has just been published how can it be a best seller? WHO has been buying them? If you just follow the logic for a moment, a book can't be brand new AND a best seller AT THE SAME TIME! So are they good or are you just being taken for a ride?

2. I am young enough that growing up my friends were all reading HP and if your thoughts are that as a child I must have instantly loved them you are wrong, my brain almost melted! The horror of how bad the writing was and the plot! But then at that time I was reading Black Beauty, Lassie and Narnia so I might have been already too exposed to too many good books to fully appreciate the HP books.

Oh and P.S I have never been so patronized in my life as when I read those few pages of HP.

3. You can say that a book is all about what you get out of it and connecting with the characters and yes that is a big part of it but it still has be be well written!

4. As I child I hated books that tried to be all "let's all sing together and no one is all bad" and as for seeing myself in the characters? Ai! What I wanted was my bad guys to be truly evil with a capital E and the good guys to come along and kick their bottoms! And my heros to be heroic and not all human, they are the good guys! But then that might have just been me, I was always a bit odd. Oh and I liked my books to be something that I could learn from and enjoy at the same time, not all children want easy books that are no challenge to read.

5. If I have followed your logic correctly you think that I have to read every book that I start to the end in order to know if that book is good or bad, yes? But in the few posts above this one you have all been admitting to not finishing books because they were not for you or you thought them bad, yes or no? So if I have read a bit of a book say HP and then did not finish it as it was bad does that mean that it was actually good and I just didn't read the good part and should have wasted my time and finished all of the books or that it was bad and that I had a right to stop reading it? Just a thought.

Edited by Vimes

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Vimes, your point of view is highly respectable. The whole point is: everyone has his own tastes and everyone should be free to find or find not his own "something" in a story without being attaked or insulted. That's all. You dont' have to read a whole book if you don't like the way it's written or something, but it's not fair to judge in a bad way people who enjoyed that book. As I told you, I accept that you didn't like Harry Potter, but why can't you accept that I enjoyed it and not because it was a best-seller and not because of the marketing behind and not because people around me liked it too? For every single thing in the world I think everyone has the right to like or dislike it without being judged.

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Question - why should I have to read something that I have already attempted and failed to finish reading because I found the writing to be so uncaptivating, irritating and just plain bad just so people like you, who in all likelihood still would not accept my opinion as valid, won't dismiss it as invalid. FYI my porn analogy was not so strange, by your criteria, one would have to read the magazine cover to cover with a magnifying glass before being able to venture any opinion on whether or not you a. liked it b. thought it appropriate or c. thought it was any good. Personally I have read enough, experienced enough, trust my judgement enough to know what I like and don't like, and can determine from a small sample if something is of interest to me, worth reading further, reasonably good or not, and worth spending time on. Life is too short to force myself to read stuff I know I won't like just so some one can't say "but you didn't read it" when I express my opinion.

 

Edited to fix typos.

 

You are absolutely right: you are the best judge on the books you will like, and of course you can decide whether you will like a book or not after a few pages. My point it, you can't really argue the book's qualities on a larger scale with other people who've actually read the book, if you haven't read it yourself.

 

What baffles me is why do you spend so much time on this thread, making all these negative points on the book, when you've read only a few pages of it. If I read two pages of a book, decided it was not for me, I wouldn't go in the thread of that book on here and go on a rampage, telling people how much I thought the book sucked (and only later saying I only read the first few pages).

 

I'm not saying you are not allowed to express your opinion on here, I just cannot understand why you are against the series, so utterly and venomously, when you honestly, simply, have not read the books. :shrug:

Edited by frankie

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I'm not saying you are not allowed to express your opinion on here, I just cannot understand why you are against the series, so utterly and venomously, when you honestly, simply, have not read the books.

 

sorry but that is just your perception. As I have said more than once now ... I'm not the only person to think these books are bad - it is a widely held opinion by people who should be considered capable judges of these things - I have stated my opinon when asked but I did not use my opinion as the basis of the discussion I was raising. I'm fed up now with trying to explain it to people who refuse to discuss anything further than attacking my opinion.

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