Monday, April 24, 2000

The Cult of Harry Potter

While in Grand Rapids this weekend, Melissa lent me Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the second book in the series. It's hard to say much that hasn't been said by others about this book (witness the 1304 customer reviews at Amazon). I decided I wasn't going to miss out on this cultural phenomenon just because I wasn't a kid and didn't have any. So I started reading the series, and I was very glad. Rowling takes many of the best elements of fantasy fiction and adapts them for a younger audience without dumbing them down. Very, very enjoyable.

One of the things that struck me about the 2nd book was the consistent disparagement of hero worship. Of course there was the insufferable Gilderoy Lockhart, who was derided and punished for the crime of being too full of himself and holding himself out for others' undeserving admiration. But there was also a lot of mention of Harry Potter dealing with his fame, as he acquired his first two groupies. And their groupie-ness didn't seem to bring them much luck, I think I can say without giving too much away. Someone once said that all good literature is subversive, and it's nice to see the Harry Potter books tweak the pop cultural worship of idols. It's nice to think that kids will be reading this and get the idea that just because someone is famous, they don't deserve blind devotion. At the same time, the books stress the earned respect Harry Potter has for Dumbledore and others, so it's not exactly anarchist. (I didn't see any of the World Bank protestors with these books under their arms.) Anyway, I liked it, but not quite as much as the first book. Looking forward to getting my hands on the 3rd. 4 stars.

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