Never let it be said that I am out of touch with the populus. In a year where I’ve read more Middle English than your average preteen, I’ve also just finished a book nearly all of ’em will have read. Yup, having reached page 766, have completed my third read of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The film’s coming out soon, and I wanted to refresh my memory…
In the early days, when JK Rowling was producing one of the series a year, Harry Potter was the same age as me. I’ve had the opportunity to overtake him now, but even so, I wasn’t there from the outset. The first time our paths crossed was when I helped out on the school’s Carnegie Prize Panel (which didn’t have any effect on the actual procedure, but was rather fun) and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter III) was one of the choices. This was when Harry was big, but not huge. And I was hooked – part of me wanted to loath the book, but… no, I was hooked. I’ve yet to meet anyone who has read any of the series, and still dislikes it.
So what is it about JKR’s writing? Well, if I knew that, I’d probably be a millionaire by now. But we did have a lecture on Harry Potter at Oxford once, in the first week that I was at university, and the lecturer pointed out that JKR rarely used descriptive language, or anything which veered from the action-action-action. This, said Dr. Purkiss (herself, with her son Michael, an author under the pseudonym Tobias Druitt), was either incredibly clever writing, or incredibly bad writing. True, take any chunk of prose and Virginia Woolf it ain’t – but Rowling’s ability to make you read on is unparalleled. Who would have thought children would willingly read 700+ pages? And I read it over a single weekend, so that I wouldn’t have the ending spoilt by friends at school on Monday. Perhaps I’m not the best example of someone who needed persuasion to read, but you get the idea.
So. Where do my musings point? Nowhere, to be honest, except to demonstrate myself not quite the literary snob I might seem, and to hope lots of others hold up their hands in solidarity. No reason why one can’t enjoy Woolf and wizards; Shakespeare and Sirius Black; Austen and Aurors… you get the picture. Speaking of pictures, there must be a thousand sketches I could have done to accompany a post on Harry Potter. But I’m tired… so I’ve copied this one, which is hopefully the way things are heading for the next generation. Fingers crossed.