Sunday, July 15, 2007

Pottermania

In just a few days, Americans of all ages will be treated to the seventh and final Harry Potter book. For an intriguing critique of this decidedly odd cultural phenomenon, check out this opinion piece from the Washington Post.

As a member of a thriving community of Baptists, I occasionally find myself confronted with the religion question: Is Happy Potter an evil book? Inevitably, we compare the Potter books to those of Tolkien and Lewis, as they all deal in fantasy. However, I must admit that Rowling's tales tend to blur the line between good and evil, and her books' link to the occult cannot be easily overlooked. On the other hand, I can't see the books as producing any more real-life witches than pirate novels have produced pirates.

What really concerns me (and Karen) is the cultural question: Is Harry Potter a good book? Having read them all (and seen the dreadful movies), we conclude that they are of only an average quality. They are mildly entertaining, rather like eating a snickers bar--junk food for your brain. The sad truth is that the emperor has no clothes. But how could millions of Potter fans be wrong? As the article points out, they have bought not a book, but an experience. Millions will read the book at the same time (and, in a few years, watch the horrid movie version). They are not becoming readers--they are only participating in pop culture.

So where does this leave us? I advise caution in exposing your children to the later volumes, as they tend to diverge from the playful, childish innocence found at the beginning. Yet, I doubt your teenager will start dressing in black and brewing potions in her bedroom simply because she read through the series. If you feel you must avoid them completely, I can fully respect your conviction. If you do decide to read the Potter books (or finish the series with book seven), try not to stop there. Read other books--maybe even some of those "classics" from your high school English class you skipped through, or ones you heard about in college. Will I be reading the new Harry Potter book? You bet.

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