Saturday, July 16, 2011

Critical Linking: Harry Potter Edition

The Ape's weekly link-fest finally returns, this time with a special all-Harry edition.


From one of the first news stories about Rowling, published just a few weeks before the first book appeared:
The eponymous hero of Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone is an orphan who is brought up by a cruel aunt and uncle. He discovers he is a wizard and passes through a time warp into a world of make-believe.
This description seems like a time-warp into a world of make-believe.


From The New York Times' review of the first movie:
To call this movie shameless is beside the point. It would probably be just as misguided to complain about the film's unoriginality because (a) it has assumed that the target audience doesn't want anything new and (b) Ms. Rowling's books cannibalize and synthesize pop culture mythology, proof of the nothing-will-ever-go-away ethic.
What, pray tell, does "pop culture mythology" mean? And how do you both cannibalize and synthesize something?


A Philadelphia minister gets nervous:
"It deals with things of the unseen world that can be played with and that puts both adults and children at risk," Mr. Dear said. "The Bible says that Satan is alive. He is a real being, and both he and his agents that are demons use people to advance his cause, and these things we are not to fool with."
Weirdly, his problem is not that the books are unreal, it's that they are too real. 


From the introduction to Critical Perspectives on Harry Potter:
When narrative text and images become such a pervasive part of the cultural environment, they also become part of the identity of the people who read and consume the images and narratives. Harry Potter then is not just books we read or movies we see or things that we buy. The text and images of Harry Potter become part of who we are. This is true of individuals and it is true of “us” as a global culture. Harry Potter books have been read, discussed, celebrated, and vilified in Taiwan, Mexico, Mozambique, and Russia. They are read by children in Harlem, children on Indian reservations, and children in Siberia. To a large degree (as Jorge Luis Borges has famously suggested) we are what we read. So, what does the popularity of Harry Potter suggest about who we are? What do the books themselves have to say and how do they say it?
If there's anything less cool than being a complete Harry Potter nut, it's writing an academic essay about Harry Potter nuts. And if there's anything less cool than that, it's linking to it. 


Finally, from Lev Grossman's moving review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows:

We did something very rare for Harry Potter: we lost our cool. There is nothing particularly hip about loving Harry. He's not sexy or dangerous the way, say, Tony Soprano was. He's not an anti-hero, he's just a hero, but we fell for him anyway. It's a small sacrifice to the one that Harry makes, of course, but it's what we, as self-conscious, status-conscious modern readers, have to give, and we gave it. We did and do love Harry. We couldn't help ourselves.

Hope all who want to are out seeing the movie this weekend...

Cheers, The Ape


  1. When we cannibalize one another, as in feeding on each other, the body then synthesizes the elements as nutrients, at least as far as biology is concerned.

    What I find unrevealing is that there are and were people who viewed Harry as a negative icon, negative input into our lives. No big surprise there either. If something is popular, oppose it and gain your 15 minutes of fame.

  2. Dear Ape, I love you, and by you, I mean you and your blog and your passion for narrative. But with love comes the privilege of exercising the third greatest pleasure of all time - the pleasure of criticising others. I urge you in the strongest possible terms to eliminiate advertising from your very fine blog. It's unnecessary, unless you're living paycheck to paycheck, and they distract from your content. You can quote me on that. If I've offended you, oh well, worse things have happened, and I know, because I love you, you'll forgive me. Cheers, Kevin 

  3. Oops, my lame Twitter handle somehow got pushed along: should be or @interpolated.

  4. Even less cool than linking to an academic article about Harry Potter is leaving a comment agreeing with said link.  


  5. The series became popular when I was stationed at the American Embassy in Moscow. On a colleague's recommendation, I borrowed the first volume from his 11-year-old son, who probably had the only copy available in all of Russia.

    That I loved it surprised no one. (I'll read almost anything, including an occasional ghastly Barbara Cartland romance.) That my husband kept losing my place when he was sneak-reading the novel late at night surprised us all: he's addicted to The Economist and dry hardback tomes of military and diplomatic history, & his prior fiction reading list seemed limited to a few sci-fi novels and the Master and Commander series.

    Regardless of any deficiencies in the narrative, real or imagined, the novels earned a permanent place on our family bookshelf; I'm not sure I want to overthink the reasons for this. We're taking the boys out to see the last movie this week - a Family Movie Night, probably preceded by dinner at the local Chinese buffet (whose culinary flaws far exceed any literary or cinematic problems in the Harry Potter series). 

    'Fess up, Ape. You're going to see the movie too, aren't you?

  6. And how do you both cannibalize and synthesize something?I believe that would be Soylent Green.