J.G.’s review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1) > Likes and Comments

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message 1: by Scott (new)

Scott I didn't like Harry Potter either but their must be something different about it because every "fairly standard kid's fantasy fair" does not sell 100 million plus copies.


message 2: by J.G. (new)

J.G. Keely The only thing unusual about the series are its sales. Popularity is not an indication of an innovative, remarkable work, but of a staid, comforting one. The fact that Rowling's book became a runaway success instead of some other YA fantasy series has more to do with luck and marketing than uniqueness.

Rowling was lucky in that she was wealthy enough to take years off of work to write the book, and that she started in the small pond of British publishing before trying to take on the American behemoth.

Someone always has to be the next big thing, and it's not necessarily talent that is the deciding factor. Rowling can create engaging characters and writes in a very digestible style, but she isn't remarkable enough to account for her great success. Success is rarely so meritorious.

Dan Brown sold a lot of books despite being late to the game as far as Rosicrucian conspiracy thrillers are concerned, and the whole basis for his book was a French hoax debunked in the 1970's. Transformers 2 made 800 million dollars, but I'm not convinced that's an indication of its cultural or artistic worth.

Like Peter Frampton, Rowling has indicated an untapped market. Time will tell whether she proves any more influential than he was.


message 3: by Dr M (new)

Dr M Rowling can create engaging characters and writes in a very digestible style

Yes, but you avoided adding that she also knows how to entertain. Because, let's be honest, that is what the Harry Potter books mostly are: entertainment. Now, one may sneer at "mere entertainment" if so inclined, but I have yet to see any good argument for why entertainment is not a literary quality in its own right. This, of course, isn't to say that any given person will or should find specifically Harry Potter entertaining, though I will gladly admit that I did. And good entertainment sells, original or not. (As does all too often bad entertainment, but I don't think this applies to the HP series.)

This as a comment to Keely's comment on regarding sales. About the book, I find myself more or less in complete agreement with the review.


message 4: by J.G. (new)

J.G. Keely Well, I guess I'd say entertainment value is not a literary quality in itself because entertainment value is the sum of the literary qualities of a book.

A book is entertaining when it has engaging characters, good pacing, vivid descriptions, a good plot, &c. You don't need all of them, but it's usually some combination of those elements.

Entertainment value also has an interesting relationship with originality. Many people are very comfortable to experience the same thing, over and over, in slightly different shades, and so such rehashed stories can continue to be entertaining, especially with competent execution.

Except for a particularly obsessive minority of readers, most readers want some originality from the story, so that it doesn't feel predictable and old-fashioned. However, whether a story is predictable depends greatly on the depth of experience of the reader.

Not only is entertainment value subjective, it is built up from other subjective elements, each of which would probably be better served by adressing them individually rather than under the generalized heading of 'entertaining'.

Just a few thoughts. Perhaps you have a more interesting definition of 'entertaining' that I have not yet come to recognize? In any case, thanks for your comment.


message 5: by Skye (new)

Skye Comparing Peter frampton to JK Rowling is ridiculous and is an awful comparison. JK Rowling is a multi-billionaire and Oprah is a millionaire. I think it's apparent who's more influential. Kids are the future, not those who watch/read/follow oprah. Rowling is at the top, friend.

And every book ever written is in some way a ripoff of previous literary works. It's how they're altered that makes the difference and millions of fans can't be wrong. Maybe you need to have an open mind.


message 6: by J.G. (new)

J.G. Keely I mention Frampton because his album, 'Frampton Comes Alive' was more successful than the record companies thought an album could be, cluing them into an untapped market. Rowling achieved a similar effect in publishing, and for YA in particular, who have been rushing to capitalize on the fervor her series unleashed.

I also mention him to cast doubt on whether Rowling will be able to continue her success or whether she, like Frampton, will falter under expectations. It's already been several years since the series ended, not that I begrudge her a rest. She continues to assure fans that her latest project is nigh complete, but we shall see how that goes.

As to your next point:

Oprah: 2.7 Billion
Rowling: 1 Billion

For whatever that's worth.

It's true that all books are influenced by those that come before them, so the question becomes whether they live up to them. I compared her to other British fantasy authors here because I felt she did less with her fantasy world than they did with theirs.

If millions of fans can't be wrong, then I guess the Harry Potter series must be at least as good as Hannah Montana and Twilight. Of course I'm joking, but neither monetary success nor mass popularity have ever been reliable markers of quality.


message 7: by Takipsilim (new)

Takipsilim Good posts Keely.


message 8: by Phoebe (new)

Phoebe Hmm. I've only ever read the first two of these (the horror! I know! As everyone who reads/writes YA tells me weekly) and I'm considering taking a look at them again and/or reading the rest. Your review resonates with what I recall about the first, at least. Maybe I should skip straight to the third.


message 9: by J.G. (new)

J.G. Keely Well, if you already read the first two and they didn't do much for you, I see no reason to read them again, especially when you have the movies there to catch you up, if you need catching up.

There do seem to be a lot of people who feel strongly about the series, and I understand the urge to try to share the experiences of the people in your social circle.

Unfortunately, I don't think the last two books are particularly good, either, but maybe you'll get more out of them than I did. Let me know how you fare if you do decide to tackle them.

Oh, and a belated thanks to Takipsilim for the nice comment.


message 10: by Phoebe (new)

Phoebe Well, it's sort of a weary concession I'd be making. The series was transformative for many YA writers just a few years younger than me, but I was too busy reading Mercedes Lackey and Anne McCaffrey to pay them any real mind at the time (not that those are particularly great authors, either; I'd hazard a guess that they're around the same level of quality, really), but I know I'm missing out on some of the cultural conversation by not being really familiar with the intricacies.

I really like the Dahl comparison, by the way. I remember the first of this series reminding me quite a bit of Edward Eager in terms of the tone of the narration and the sort of tongue-in-cheek magical rules, too, but I think Dahl is a more precise analog.


message 11: by J.G. (new)

J.G. Keely Lackey is better than Rowling in a few regards, mainly plotting and naturalism of her characters. I know the fact that I haven't read McCaffrey makes me a pretender to the boast 'Fantasy Fan'.

I know Rowling felt like a revelation to a lot of people in the YA field (particularly the accountants) but I think in this review I'm trying to point out that to anyone familiar with the British Fairy Story tradition, she doesn't really stand out as an author.

I'd brought in Dahl only as a commentary on Harry's family, but now that you mention it, there are other parallels in her secret world, magical systems, doddering bureaucracy, and of course the school.


message 12: by Phoebe (new)

Phoebe Ooh, careful about calling McCaffrey a fantasy writer! She considers herself a real science fiction writer (though it's only the softest of SF!). The first few Pern books are probably worth a read if you like Lackey, and the brainship books aren't bad. Sort of fluffy sci-fi, with a rich sense of place.

I'll definitely drop a review or two on here if I ever do get to the rest of the HP books--with trepidation, of course, seeing as how nuanced reviews of Rowling's stuff goes over about as well as negative reviews of Stephenie Meyer's work. Which is to say, stunningly poorly.


message 13: by J.G. (new)

J.G. Keely Haha, quite. I was wary of Potter because of the hype. An ex had me read them, and I wasn't impressed. Some good stuff in there, but as I said, she pales in comparison with other authors in her subgenre.

Then I posted the reviews on here. The reaction actually hasn't been as violent as I'd worried they might be, but it's always draining and rarely fruitful to talk with rabid fans.

After this experience, I decided not to bother with Meyer. Her wave of popularity will die off, like all the rest, and I didn't see much upside in subjecting myself to a long series of average books just so I can argue about them with a lot of irate people.

But I'm sure I'll get around to McCaffrey eventually, though I'm not sure how stringently SF you can be when dragons are involved . . .


message 14: by Phoebe (new)

Phoebe Hehe, the first McCaffrey novel I ever read was Dragonsdawn which is all about how Pern is a space colony where they genetically engineered dragons. Psychic and teleporting dragons, of course. So, uh, clearly . . . science(TM)!


message 15: by Raeann (new)

Raeann I'm not going to argue with your opinion on the book as I assume I won't be able to change it. I do want to point out though that you're wrong about Rowling taking years off work to write Harry Potter. She was a single mother at the time she wrote the first book and was on welfare. So, in no way was she weathly or just lucky enough to take off work to write. She was taking care of a child by herself, without a job and writing the book at the same time in cafes.


message 16: by J.G. (new)

J.G. Keely Hmm, you could be right, but according to my understanding, she had a job as a teacher when her daughter was born and chose to quit and go on welfare in order to write. Then she won a prestigious grant which gave her more money to live on, which is very unusual with a writer who had not yet achieved anything in her field. She has said, herself, that the 'rags-to-riches' story is more a romantic invention of the press (and her promoters) than a truthful account.


message 17: by Raeann (last edited Jun 24, 2011 03:21PM) (new)

Raeann Ah well I hadn't heard that it was mostly the press who invented that story. Then I take back what I said, I guess she did get lucky then,ha. :)


message 18: by J.G. (new)

J.G. Keely "I guess she did get lucky then,ha. :)"

Seems like you have to get lucky to be a successful writer, it's a hard field to break into. Thanks for the comments, see you around the site.


message 19: by Bookworm (new)

Bookworm "She has said, herself, that the 'rags-to-riches' story is more a romantic invention of the press"

Really? I do know about her clearing the rumor about her having to write in napkins 'cause she could not afford papers, saying something in the lines of that the reality itself was pretty harsh to begin with, so the media need not twist it.


message 20: by J.G. (new)

J.G. Keely According to my understanding, she quit her job and went on welfare to write the book. It doesn't mean it wasn't difficult for her, but it's hardly the story we tend to hear.


message 21: by Melissa (new)

Melissa It may be the standard British fantasy fare, but it made her the richest women in England, has spawned 7 well written and lucrative movies, and a theme park based on her books. So much for standard, eh?


message 22: by J.G. (new)

J.G. Keely Hmm, and here I thought vast popularity and monetary success was often a strong sign of mediocrity, suggesting the cultural object is blandly familiar enough to capture an undifferentiated crowd. The highest grossing movies, best-selling books, and popular songs are often unremarkable.

Transformers 2, Celine Dion, Walmart, and The Da Vinci Code have all been wildly successful, but I'd argue it's because they offer products of middling quality with an aggressive ad campaign. I mean, when I see a banker in an expensive suit, I don't think to myself 'there goes a superior, intelligent person with a comprehensive philosophy and well-developed moral center', I just see someone who has found a way to take advantage of the average person's lack of discernment.


message 23: by Matt (new)

Matt One other comparison I have come across before is between Harry Potter and Ender's Game. Just wanted to add that.


message 24: by Matt (new)

Matt I too am puzzled as to exactly how certain things gain such huge popularity. In the case of Harry Potter I think it has to do with the fact that it was perceived as original because frankly no one is very familiar with (if at all) people like Dunsany. Rowling incorporated a lot of fantastical/folktale elements that people weren't very familiar with but were easy to latch onto as "cool". Things like centaurs, the philosopher's stone, broomsticks, etc. Also, her characters are easy for people to figure out pretty early on: Ron is the buddy, Hermione is the egghead, Dumbledore is the mentor. They have visual elements that distinguish them. The whole idea of different "houses" was easy for kids to latch onto as something to pick a favorite or to dress up as. I am not saying that any of these things give it any literary value, but I think it explains some of the success.

One book that I just finished is "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo". I was going to say that I was puzzled by the massive success of this one, but given what you've said I've done some reflecting and I think I have a better handle on what exactly makes books like this one such a surprise hit. Publicity, comfortable prose and something put in to make you go "wow" or "ew". In the case of Harry Potter it was fairy tale elements that people latched on to. In the case of Dragon Tattoo I am thinking it is probably the "weirdness" of Lisbeth and the very messed up sexual content of the book for "shock value".


message 25: by J.G. (new)

J.G. Keely Thanks Nafiul, glad you liked that bit.

"I think I have a better handle on what exactly makes books like this one such a surprise hit. Publicity, comfortable prose and something put in to make you go "wow" or "ew"."

Yeah, that sounds about right.


message 26: by Will (new)

Will Stokeley Just read the book, then this review and its spot on (The review that is). My feelings about this book summed up more eloquently than I could. Hats off to you, Keely.


message 27: by J.G. (new)

J.G. Keely Thanks, glad it resonated with you.


message 28: by Charlotte (new)

Charlotte Although I don't often agree with you on many of your points, I like that you have such a clear and confident opinion . I can understand where you come from, and can see that you put a lot of thought in, and though sometimes I feel angered by what you write, I think that's actually a rather good quality. It's rare that I find reviews provoking emotion. That's a skill.

I would like to point out, however, that 'Rowling was lucky in that she was wealthy enough to take years off of work to write the book' is completely off. She was and English teacher in Portugal, got married and had a child. The marriage broke down, she was struggling for money and couldn't renew her visa. When she moved back to England, she was completely alone, since her mother had passed and she was estranged from her father. She had a few part time jobs but found life difficult with her daughter. In her time when she was looking for solutions and other work, she wrote the book.


message 29: by J.G. (new)

J.G. Keely Thanks for what you say about my writing, I'm glad that, even if you don't agree, it still makes sense to you.

About Rowling's finances, my understanding was that she quit her teaching job of her own volition and went on 'the dole' in England and began writing. She was then given a prestigious grant, which was extremely unusual in her case, since such grants are usually given to struggling artists who have already shown some promise, not those who are still working on their first expression.


message 30: by Bookworm (new)

Bookworm "Rowling's prose is quick and simple"

What about her dialogues? Asking as you've not commented on this aspect of novel-writing in any of your HP review. I always thought despite her mediocre prose, her story was elevated by apt and memorable dialogues - they were a mixed bag of jokes, witty one-liners, some insightful quotes and the likes. In fact one reason why her characters feel so real is probably because of her dialogues - you can literally look through the characters by what they say, how they say and in the manner it is told - giving us an insight into what they feel, think and who they are. At least that was the case when I read the books.

Just some thoughts.


message 31: by J.G. (new)

J.G. Keely That could certainly be true--I do think of her characters as being the strongest aspect of her writing. Unfortunately, I don't remember her dialogue as particularly strong or idiomatic, but then it's been a while since I read these books, so I don't feel especially fit to judge stylistic particulars.


message 32: by Bookworm (new)

Bookworm "That could certainly be true--I do think of her characters as being the strongest aspect of her writing."

Well dialogue is one of the most important tool by which authors 'flesh out' and individuate characters, so her dialogues must have had some substance to create so many diverse and vivid personalities. Also considering that we have absolutely no direct clue of what's going on inside the head of any of the other characters, and nor do we ever completely see them performing actions beyond what our hero notices (rest are all described through dialogues and interactions between various characters), her dialogues must have done the job of developing the characters. I mean she never got the opportunity to show us something from the POV of the other characters, and instead had to rely merely on their words to let us know them.

In terms of being memorably quotable, I think some particular dialogues by Dumbledore are pretty strong; I found it amazing how she balanced the eccentric, childlike humorous side of Dumbledore with the genius aspect of his personality, creating a very unusual, well-rounded character. His dialogues almost always alternately switch between some silly jokes to more serious issues dealing with life and death. I also like some by Fred and George, Luna and there are some good ones scattered throughout all the other characters. Ironically enough, I find most by Harry to be sadly dull.


message 33: by [deleted user] (new)

"But I'm sure I'll get around to McCaffrey eventually, though I'm not sure how stringently SF you can be when dragons are involved . . ."

I don't think it's for us to say that dragon's couldn't exist on another planet. Couldn't that just be some broad range of speculation? I mean, I think sentient species are nearly endless.


message 34: by J.G. (new)

J.G. Keely Yeah, I was mostly being silly.


message 35: by [deleted user] (new)

Keely wrote: "Yeah, I was mostly being silly."

Ahh, my apologies.


message 36: by J.G. (new)

J.G. Keely No worries.


message 37: by Harold (new)

Harold Smithson (Suicide punishable by Death) I grew up with Harry Potter as a prominent component of my childhood. That being said, I look back now and I see that the books have lost some of their appeal since then, at least in my mind. I retain a fond memory for them, but it's not like Calvin and Hobbes or Winnie the Pooh where I can look at it now and safely say that the works are as good as I remember them.


message 38: by J.G. (new)

J.G. Keely Yeah, some age better than others.


message 39: by Leajk (new)

Leajk This might be an old debate, but it's one that I've had from time to time with people regarding Rowling. So I'd really be interested to see some sources to where it says she quit her English teacher job in Portugal to write, rather than to escape her failed, possibly abusive, marriage.

According to wikipedia she was not allowed to teach in the UK, since she had not earned her certificate, until after she already finished the book. Same goes for the award, she got it after the book was finished and accepted for publishing according to wikipedia. But as I said if you have some other information I'd be really happy if you shared it, it make my future discussions on the subject a lot more interesting.


message 40: by J.G. (new)

J.G. Keely Oh, I wouldn't deny that the awful marriage situation wasn't the prime motivation for her to leave, or that it wasn't terribly difficult to be driftless and unemployed afterwards. However, she was able to live unemployed with heat and food and spend most of her time writing, which doesn't sound to terribly bad to me. Of course, depression doesn't care if you have food or shelter, I'm not trying to deny the hardship she went through, I'm just saying it's less 'rags to riches' than 'fairly privileged middle class to riches'.

I did look for some more references about it, but the internet is so full of exceedingly long, fawning articles on the subject that it hardly seems worthwhile to dig through them for whatever that might achieve.


message 41: by Leajk (last edited Dec 10, 2012 10:14AM) (new)

Leajk Well I agree that she had a priviliged upbringing and in that sense she had a head start compared to other writers.

What confused me though was when you wrote that she was "wealthy enough" to take time of. I don't see how living on welfare makes one wealthy. It might mean that you're living in a wealthy country who can afford such benefits, and you might even be priviliged to live in such a country, but I wouldn't say it makes the person in question very rich or wealthy.

I was mostly curios since you seemed to have read things about her life that I hadn't heard about. As I said I've kept having this debate with people who seem to be enraged by the 'from rags to riches' story (which she partly have been refuting herself saying she did have heating etc). It does seem to be someting of a sore spot with many people. I find it interestin and I'd say this story is far more widely discussed than Bill Gates very priviliged background for example.


message 42: by Harold (last edited Dec 10, 2012 10:59AM) (new)

Harold Smithson (Suicide punishable by Death) I've actually heard some of the things Keely's talking about as well, and I certainly sympathize with his reluctance to comb through extensive propaganda for the truth. I remember reading back in fifth grade or so (I'm actually sixteen, which explains my quasi-educated English)that she wrote the names of the characters on the back of a plane's airsickness bag, which I'm not sure if I should believe and don't care to validate. For all I know it could be true but it would be such a pain to find a reliable source. (Unless there's something obvious that I'm missing, then I'm just stupid)


message 43: by Harold (last edited Dec 10, 2012 11:03AM) (new)

Harold Smithson (Suicide punishable by Death) By the way, there's something I'm curious about. Keely, are you a professor or something? You seem like the type and from implications in your Paradise Lost revies, you seem to know Latin.


message 44: by Leajk (new)

Leajk Harold wrote: "I've actually heard some of the things Keely's talking about as well, and I certainly sympathize with his reluctance to comb through extensive propaganda for the truth. I remember reading back in f..."

Ok, so should I interpret "things Keely's talking about" as saying that you've read/heard that she was actually secretly rich while living on welfare? Or merely that the extent and depth of her poverty has been exaggerated in media? And would the latter be the "extensive propaganda" you're referring to? Then I could probably agree with you. I think media love and exaggerate the 'from rag to riches' story, and many people seem to blame Rowling for this personally.

But as I was saying I was just interested in hearing of some dissenting sources. I fully understand that Keely don't remember where he got his view from. The Internet is a really big place. I do think there are ways of validating sources, e.g. the reputaion of the publication, their sources (are they first hand sources, official reccords, and so on) and uncontensted. I think it be such a big scoop by now for journalists that Rowling somehow was rich while writing the first book that the article revealing that would be of major public interest. But I might be wrong.

And there are much more interesting thing to talk about regarding Rowling's, so I'm content moving on :)


message 45: by J.G. (new)

J.G. Keely "I don't see how living on welfare makes one wealthy. It might mean that you're living in a wealthy country who can afford such benefits . . ."

Yeah, I do think of that as a kind of wealth--the idea of living in a country with an economy bolstered by the slave and poverty labor of the rest of the world. If you ever read firsthand accounts from the Victorian period, you might notice that people who are considered 'middle class' would have full-time servants, and would make as much in a month as poor people made in a year.

I tend to think that industrial revolution and outsourcing of labor didn't get rid of that slave class, it just moved it to other countries where it's now mostly unseen. We used to have a house servant who washed our clothes, now we have someone in another country working for a pittance who builds our washing machine. To me, it adds up to the same thing: the sort of 'poverty' Rowling went through would be considered wealth if one takes into account the average way of life in the world.

I wasn't trying to imply that she was conventionally wealthy by first world standard, so when I say 'wealthy enough to take time off to write', I mean precisely that: she was, through social privilege, able to take that time, which other people (myself, for example), would not be able to do.

"Keely, are you a professor or something? You seem like the type and from implications in your Paradise Lost revies, you seem to know Latin."

Well, I took Latin for three years in high school (followed by Italian in college), so I do have some basic knowledge, even though I've forgotten most of it by now. As for Milton, my specialties in college as an undergrad were the epics and the metaphysical poets. Plus, after my first semester, I stopped taking 100-level classes and switched to upper-level and grad school classes full time, since intro and intermediate classes were so dull, it was hard for me to concentrate on them.

So no, I don't have a PhD or a Master's, though I have been thinking about it, and I took the GRE this past year and did well. But then I took the Subject Test in English Literature, and since my education was mostly classical and the test was largely on American Modernism and post-structuralist tautology, my score wasn't good enough to be competitive at a top program offering a stipend.

So now I have to decide if I want to get back into debt and go for an intermediary Master's or if I want to wait until programs start dropping the Subject Test requirement, which many are starting to do, because it is such a generalist's test that it's all but useless to anyone with a strong specialization, despite the fact that PhD programs tend to be run on specialization.


message 46: by Leajk (last edited Dec 11, 2012 03:46AM) (new)

Leajk Keely wrote: ""I don't see how living on welfare makes one wealthy. It might mean that you're living in a wealthy country who can afford such benefits . . ."

Yeah, I do think of that as a kind of wealth--the id..."


That's an interesting analysis.

"Yeah, I do think of that as a kind of wealth--the idea of living in a country with an economy bolstered by the slave and poverty labor of the rest of the world."

Yes, slave labour was an important part of building the economy of the West. That is a shameful fact that there is no denying it. But it is not only true for Rowling's UK, it is also true for your US. The US built much of its' economy on slave labour and is today the richest country in the world.

So why is Rowling more priviliged than you? Her country is not richer though it was so historically. I think the 'privilige' you're after comes down not to how rich your country is, but to what kind of redistributional policy your country has.

Saudi Arabia has shown fantastic economic growth, and now hires and exploits many Asian labourers, but have redistributed very little of its' wealth beyond the ruling classes.

India are a middle-income economy, but with a slower growth rate than Saudi Arabia and it still has many poor people. They have on the other hand choosen the path of redistribution and welfare.

The UK and Sweden are not as rich as the US, but are probably easier countries to live in if you have no job and suffer from a depression. That individual is priviliged and lucky since the country is wealthy enough to afford this system, but in a democracy one can vote for or against these types of systems so it is also partly a matter of choice.

"If you ever read firsthand accounts from the Victorian period, you might notice that people who are considered 'middle class' would have full-time servants, and would make as much in a month as poor people made in a year."

I am aware of the historical class system of the UK. But that is history, middle class people in the UK today do not have servants. In fact from my experience of living in California I'd say it's much more common there (my family were advised to have a at the very least a Mexican gardener even though our lawn war barely wide enough to take three steps across) than in Europe.

It is certainly not common to have servants in Sweden anyway, and neither have we had slavery in Sweden since 1337. Yet somehow we have a welfare state.

"I wasn't trying to imply that she was conventionally wealthy by first world standard, so when I say 'wealthy enough to take time off to write', I mean precisely that: she was, through social privilege, able to take that time, which other people (myself, for example), would not be able to do."

Im sorry but I didn't get that "Rowling was lucky in that she was wealthy enough to take years off of work to write the book" was meant to be considered from a Western privilige, it seemed to me you were comparing her to other Western writers in general.

But yes, she was richer than most people of non-Western countries, but this is true for most Western writers, so I don't see why it's significant for her especially?

Other than that's she's British and that her country has a welfare system, but that we already discussed above.


message 47: by J.G. (new)

J.G. Keely "I think the 'privilige' you're after comes down not to how rich your country is, but to what kind of redistributional policy your country has."

Mmhmm, that is what I was getting at. The US certainly has a great deal of wealth, but it also has large wealth disparity. In my understanding, the real difference between the US and countries like the UK or the Scandinavian welfare states is the poverty rate.

The UK poverty rate is lower than that in the US, and the Scandinavian rates are exceedingly low. Indeed, people often spout out how low the US ranks in education and testing, but if you correct for poverty rates, the US is actually still top in the world. Scandinavian countries simply don't have the huge poverty population pulling down the averages.

So, in terms of social welfare, the US has a much larger, much poorer population to support and hence, the welfare system here is much more strained and inaccessible to the average person. More than that, the history of anti-communism and the strength of the evangelical religious voting bloc tend to oppose welfare programs of any kind.

"she was richer than most people of non-Western countries, but this is true for most Western writers, so I don't see why it's significant for her especially?"

Only as a counter to the claim that hers is a rags-to-riches story.


message 48: by Harold (new)

Harold Smithson (Suicide punishable by Death) "Strength of the evangelical religious voting bloc tend to oppose welfare programs of any kind?"

I apologize if I'm pestering you with my ignorance, but can you elaborate, please? This is the first time I've ever heard that.


message 49: by Leajk (new)

Leajk Keely wrote: ""I think the 'privilige' you're after comes down not to how rich your country is, but to what kind of redistributional policy your country has."

Mmhmm, that is what I was getting at. The US certai..."


This is nice, I think we're finally understanding each other. So as I've said in a comment previously I agree that the media loves a from rags to riches story and tend to exaggerate them.

But as far as I've seen Rowling have been quite humble saying that she did not sit in cafés for heating, she in fact had heating, etc. so I haven't felt the need to blame her personally for this.

I just watched an interview with Mo Yan yesterday where he explained that he indeed sat in a unheated room in the Chineese countryside writing his first books. He was also at one point so poor that he was begging on the streets. I think it is really impressive to write under those circumstances, much more impressive than Rowling. But compared to Western authors I'd say that Rowling's feat is more impressive than many of theirs.

It is true that the income inequality is much larger in the US than in many European countries this is quite interesting.

This is partly related to the heavy taxation in Europe. There may not be any 'European dream' (of people coming from nowhere and gaining massive amounts of money, unless you're Rowling of course;)), but on the other hand we don't have the same lows to the same extents as the US. It's two sides of the same coin.

As for the demographic discussion of the US compared to the UK or Sweden that's quite a complicated debate. You could argue that on state level many US states are comparable with European countries in size, so within the state resdistributions should not be impossible. Although as I understand the social security and medicare budget in the US is organized on a federal level, rather than on state level so by that account it doesn't really work. While I'm not convinced that the size of an population is ultimatly a very important factor for welfare, I'd say it is more a question of decentralisation vs. centralisation, I'm happy to leave this very complicated question alone.


message 50: by J.G. (new)

J.G. Keely Yeah, certainly not something that's easy to pin down.

"But as far as I've seen Rowling have been quite humble saying that she did not sit in cafés for heating, she in fact had heating, etc. so I haven't felt the need to blame her personally for this."

No, I don't think she's at fault, it's just something the media and fans like to spout.


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