Art, Books, Books, Culture, Lifestyle, Modern

The Magic of Reading

adults reading Harry PotterI’ve never really understood the depth of bad feeling that “proper readers” have towards “grown-ups” reading Harry Potter books, it smacks of adolescent elitism and a condemnatory bias based on a book’s sleeve (Hey there should be a saying about that?) for surely by their own logic they couldn’t have read the books themselves? So it’s hardly the strongest base from which to attack?

J K Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series is about to release her new novel “aimed at adults” and I wonder if the Potter snobbery will cling to this new title as well. I will not critique the original books themselves (I’ve only read a couple) beyond saying that I found them hamstrung by their own logic until the point in the story where it was no longer convenient for the plot progression, at which point new rules were added which circumvented the bothersome pre-established rationality – the resulting inconsistencies got right on my tits.

J K Rowling

J K Rowling authour of the Harry Potter Series

But it happens in this particular genre due to the flexible nature of magic (Witness Aslan’s resurrection and the subsequent awkward exposition in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe). The concept of a normal boy (or girl as in the worst witch series which trod very similar ground over a decade before) finding that they are chosen for a higher destiny undeniably appeals to something primal in all of us, whatever age, it taps in to the hope that we are all special, that the mundanity of our normal lives can be shed: that adventures are waiting for us all. My fondness for this series though, is as a way of reintroducing those that would never normally read a book to the power of fiction. The real magic of the Potter phenomenom was that children and adults were and are picking up books again; they’re discussing characters and motivation,  asking themselves what they would do? Morality, hypotheticals, nomenclature, relationships, adolescence and at a stretch war, racism, betrayal, propaganda, tragedy, love and loss are all in there. What’s not to like? And if that leads someone to pick up another book on a similar theme and then another on less similar theme until they are in the habit of reading then surely it is to be applauded? Often the disinterest or even the fear of reading starts at school where the chosen literature has a profound effect on reading appetites – if reading feels like work then it is work. I would far rather give a class of 11 year olds a Harry Potter book – which for many might be the first real book they read, than say, Wuthering Heights which remains a staple on the curriculum? I don’t know too many 11 year olds that fully appreciate the destructive force of Heathcliffe’s love or the inherent elemental symbolism, in fact, I can see certain children being very confused by such adult subject matter and put off books for a good long while following such a baptism of fire. That doesn’t mean Wuthering Heights is not a far superior book, it just means, perhaps, it’s something to work up to.

Children reading adult books

A recent study suggested that a fifth of teenagers leaving school in the UK cannot read or write, making them virtually unemployable – I can only imagine how angry and scared and let down that must make them feel.

We should try to avoid making the same mistakes as the schools in that we should ask no more than books must be intellectually accessible to their own audience, it is not up to us to judge or dictate that audience.

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About James Conmy

I like things and stuff. If you do too try this http://conmy.wordpress.com

Discussion

3 thoughts on “The Magic of Reading

  1. Harry Potter is OK. When I was growing up my parents thought I would never read a book for the pure fun and sheer imagination of it. The librarian whispered to me one day – what about trying a Nancy Drew? Well, I was hooked, and have never looked back. Nancy Drew was not high literature but it opened my imagination to the written word; drawing pictures in my head as I read. I was 11 years old, very bright at school. Without reading these books I would never had achieved anything. As a scientist, I read all the time. Reading is power.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post and for reminding me of the joy of childhood reading.

    Posted by shacklefordlb | March 28, 2012, 10:34 am
  2. I am glad you enjoyed it. I was very lucky that I got into reading aged around 10, but I remain mystified as to the types of books that 11 and 12 year olds are expected to read at school, the subject matter is so alien to them that it is difficult to establish empathy with the characters and therefore the book…….

    Posted by James Conmy | March 28, 2012, 10:47 am
  3. Very nice pattern and fantastic content material , absolutely nothing else we want : D.

    Posted by Ester Magoon | July 15, 2012, 4:41 pm

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