Monday, August 10, 2009

Series Review: Harry Potter and the Author Who Didn’t Know When to Stop

You're going to hate me now...

click on images for sources

For more than 10 years the world has been suffering from Harry Potter mania. In 1997, J.K. Rowling released the first Potter book. Today, with books, movies, video games and other merchandise, the Harry Potter brand is now worth $15 million (exchange4media). Rowling’s seven books have been translated into 64 languages and sold over 375 million copies (Glovin). She is now the highest earning novelist in history, a history that has included the likes of Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde and C.S. Lewis and for that I have to respect her. But 4,126 long pages after I opened the first installment of Harry Potter to when I closed the last book, I still have no idea why the series has became a worldwide phenomena. It’s just not that good.

True, the books are an easy read with a fairly entertaining plotline but they’re not much more than that. Readers around the world have been arguing about whether or not the books contain any social implications, but after reading them all you can find is the classic good versus evil conflict (Bristow). Compared with books like The Chronicles of Narnia in which messages about religion and humanity were cleverly tucked inside enthralling children’s stories about a secret world, Harry Potter seems flat.

The characters themselves are one dimensional, Hermione is the brains, Ron is the comic relief, and Harry is the Average Joe who succeeds with a lot of help from his friends and more than a little bit of luck. Rowling claimed that the latter half of the series was more mature, but all that happened was a few characters were killed off in some deus ex machina plot twists and Harry became an angst ridden adolescent over his obviously doomed to fail relationship with the older, stereotypically named, Cho Chang.

Yet, even with all of these shortcomings the entire plotline of all seven books isn’t bad at all. It’s entertaining and simplistic, you can enjoy it without having to put very much thought into it, it’s literary fast food. The problem with fast food is that too much makes you sick and Rowling doesn’t seem to understand this. Several hundred of her 4,126 pages are not only pointless but also boring. She could have told the same story much more effectively in half that number pages.

Rowling not only violates the less-is-more guideline of writing by also the show-don’t-tell rule. After the release of the final Potter book, Rowling made an announcement that came as a surprise to many fans- Harry’s mentor and one of the main characters, Dumbledore was gay and had a love affair (Siegel). Once a book is published a writer shouldn’t be able to announce parts that she neglected to actually write in the books. A series like Harry Potter needs to be a complete world on its own, just as The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of Rings are. If anyone can read more than four thousand pages of a seven book series and not know that one of the main characters is gay and lived a full, but secret, life then the writer of those pages has not done her job.

Oh, and just in case this essay isn’t clear, it was supposed to be about how Harry Potter is actually a great literary work, I just neglected to mention that.

Works Cited

1. International: Harry Potter, the $15 Billion Man. 5-26-08. 7-16-07

2. Glovin, David. Rowling Warns of Potter Plagiarism in Trial Testimony (Update4). 5-26-08. 4-14-08.

3. Bristow, Jennie. Harry Potter and the Meaning of Life. 5-26-08. 6-19-03

4. Siegel, Hanna. Rowling Lets Dumbledore Out of the Closet. 5-26-08. 10-20-07