Will Potter be read?

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Posted by Robert Hill on January 11, 2006 at 01:46:53 from user eclrh.

In Reply to: Re: JKR's time (was Will Potter be read/was The 'N' word) posted by RichardG on January 10, 2006 at 13:29:18:

I'm as bemused as RichardG by Mike Dennis's suggestion that the Potter books are too closely tied to their time. Some of the attitudes and habits in Rowling's wizarding world seem to be anywhere between 20 and several hundred years behind the real world. Hogwarts is lit by candles, and they write with quills on parchment. There are occasional references to Dudley's Playstation or whatever but they are utterly incidental. There is some youthful slang but very little that's strongly of the present time.

I think the error in the argument 'Rowling is not a great stylist, therefore her works will not last' is that if a writer has enough other good qualities, their work can last at least a substantial number of decades even without what an academic or professional critic would call great 'style' - see for example Agatha Christie, or Conan Doyle, or Buchan.

Rowling is not hot on descriptions, and admits that she skips geographical description in reading other people's books. She uses too many adverbs. She is no mathematician and there are numerical and chronological inconsistenceies in the series. But she does have many strong points, including an almost Dickensian range of characters with a highly Dickensian array of names (the study of her characters' names can be an education in itself), complicated mystery plots, a great variety of incident, and a constant interweaving of often quirky humour. Her hero and his friends are full of human weaknesses. What seems like a throwaway line in an earlier book often turns out to be of vital importance in a later book. Sometimes you can find subtle hidden linkages on third or fourth reading that you missed previously.

Clearly her merits as a writer don't work for everyone - but how many writers could claim genuinely universal appeal? But for those who do 'get' Rowling, she is a compelling page-turner, and her writing can be genuinely moving too - read the scene with Neville's parents in St Mungo's hospital in chapter 23 of Order of the Phoenix. But she's never sentimental, and in that scene, just as you feel ready to weep, she throws in Lockhart's farcical line about joined-up writing to end the chapter.

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