Harold Bloom's Reviews > Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
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May 29, 07

bookshelves: therabblement
Recommended for: children, the carrion-eaters of scholarship
Read in June, 2000

Can 35 Million Book Buyers Be Wrong? Yes.

Taking arms against Harry Potter, at this moment, is to emulate Hamlet taking arms against a sea of troubles. By opposing the sea, you won't end it. The Harry Potter epiphenomenon will go on, doubtless for some time, as J. R. R. Tolkien did, and then wane.

The official newspaper of our dominant counter-culture, The New York Times, has been startled by the Potter books into establishing a new policy for its not very literate book review. Rather than crowd out the Grishams, Clancys, Crichtons, Kings, and other vastly popular prose fictions on its fiction bestseller list, the Potter volumes will now lead a separate children's list. J. K. Rowling, the chronicler of Harry Potter, thus has an unusual distinction: She has changed the policy of the policy-maker.

Imaginative Vision

I read new children's literature, when I can find some of any value, but had not tried Rowling until now. I have just concluded the 300 pages of the first book in the series, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," purportedly the best of the lot. Though the book is not well written, that is not in itself a crucial liability. It is much better to see the movie, "The Wizard of Oz," than to read the book upon which it was based, but even the book possessed an authentic imaginative vision. "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" does not, so that one needs to look elsewhere for the book's (and its sequels') remarkable success. Such speculation should follow an account of how and why Harry Potter asks to be read.

The ultimate model for Harry Potter is "Tom Brown's School Days" by Thomas Hughes, published in 1857. The book depicts the Rugby School presided over by the formidable Thomas Arnold, remembered now primarily as the father of Matthew Arnold, the Victorian critic-poet. But Hughes' book, still quite readable, was realism, not fantasy. Rowling has taken "Tom Brown's School Days" and re-seen it in the magical mirror of Tolkein. The resultant blend of a schoolboy ethos with a liberation from the constraints of reality-testing may read oddly to me, but is exactly what millions of children and their parents desire and welcome at this time.

In what follows, I may at times indicate some of the inadequacies of "Harry Potter." But I will keep in mind that a host are reading it who simply will not read superior fare, such as Kenneth Grahame's "The Wind in the Willows" or the "Alice" books of Lewis Carroll. Is it better that they read Rowling than not read at all? Will they advance from Rowling to more difficult pleasures?

Rowling presents two Englands, mundane and magical, divided not by social classes, but by the distinction between the "perfectly normal" (mean and selfish) and the adherents of sorcery. The sorcerers indeed seem as middle-class as the Muggles, the name the witches and wizards give to the common sort, since those addicted to magic send their sons and daughters off to Hogwarts, a Rugby school where only witchcraft and wizardry are taught. Hogwarts is presided over by Albus Dumbeldore as Headmaster, he being Rowling's version of Tolkein's Gandalf. The young future sorcerers are just like any other budding Britons, only more so, sports and food being primary preoccupations. (Sex barely enters into Rowling's cosmos, at least in the first volume.)

----------------------------

The first half of a little piece I wrote from the Journal in July 2000. Rest is available at [http://wrt-brooke.syr.edu/courses/205...].
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 295) (295 new)


message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

An insightful online columnist years ago criticized the "Harry Potter" books as children's literature and, strangely, recommended the "Gormenghast" books. I think they're a bit much for your preteen--or teen, for that matter--but I will be forever indebted to him.

So ... good has come from "Harry Potter" in the annals of literature! He'll encourage people like yourself and my Peake angel-guide to recommend better stuff.

Cheers!


Evan I can't imagine anyone who would argue that the first book in the series is the best. I waited until this year to read the series and flew through books 1-3, knowing they were nothing more than basic, light fantasy stories. As you have probably been told 100s of times at this point, Rowling 'opens up the world' in book 4. But she's not a great writer and the pressures of keeping the series moving prevented her from really fleshing things out. Plus, she kept the books accessible to teenagers. so, the world is opened up, but also simple. After reading the entire series, i will say that she made some interesting choices in characterization. anyway. just thought I'd share my thoughts with you!


message 3: by Edmond (new)

Edmond wow if only all the world coule be as pompous as yourself. obviously you buried your inner child in a cold dark place.


Chloe
While the HP books are far from the greatest works of literature on the face of the planet, and you have every right to dislike them, your review was sadly poor. First of all, most of your review isn’t even about the book’s merit (or lack of merit). In fact, by the time you actually address that issue, you have very little insight. Basically, you think it’s bad and… that’s that. Maybe you address the subject further in your column. However, that also turned me off. It seems as if you are simply desperate for readers. Otherwise, I think you could have skipped right to the review and cut out the bits about the New York Times (since WHEN is that considered counter cultural?), and so forth. Then maybe you could have illustrated your opinions with examples and backed up your argument a little.

At any rate, calling children the “carrion-eaters of scholarship” is really pushing the limit. Children are not idiots. Children, I find (as a tutor), are often more insightful than adults. They also tend to think outside of the box more often and have better imaginations. As Einstein said, imagination is more important than knowledge. Regardless, name-calling is never a good idea. If you must resort to name-calling then you probably are not very credible. If you must resort to poking fun of children, well credibility is saying “bye-bye”. Name-calling is verbal bullying. Calling children names and claiming to be intellectual is no different than punching a child and claiming to be tough. It isn’t witty; it isn’t even needed. As Franklin said, any fool can condemn, criticize and complain, and most fools do. What do you expect from children? The educational level and emotional development of college graduates? I was prepared to take your review seriously. I cannot do so now.



message 5: by Gareth (last edited Mar 01, 2008 11:27PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gareth Bogdanoff Wow. You manage to insult anyone who likes Harry Potter, without ever telling us WHY you don't like it. This is simply not a meaningful review in any way. For the record, I happen to love Wind in the Willows and Alice in Wonderland. Liking Harry Potter does not make me shallow.

BTW, did you join GoodReads just so that you could bash Harry Potter? I notice that it is your only book.


Anthony Michael If you were the real Harold Bloom you'd be too busy giving five stars to Hamlet to pick on kids books.


message 7: by Hannah (last edited Jul 25, 2008 05:01PM) (new)

Hannah  Messler Ha ha ha ha Harold Bloom!


Noelle Can one person be wrong? Yes. I'm pretty sure your opinion isn't going to make a difference to the millions of people who would give this book no less than 4 stars.


message 9: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2008 01:25PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Becky I hope that is not the actual column that you submitted, as I counted six (6) grammatical, spelling, and capitalization errors while reading it.

After reading this amusing little diatribe, I had to view your profile. This is the only book that you have listed. It seems rather odd to me that you would create a profile here, even go so far as to add the most pompous (and vastly amusing!) "quote" about yourself, only to add and review the one book that you seem to abhor above all others -- or so it seems, given that you have apparently read and reviewed no others, at least on GoodReads.

Also, I must say it is rather embarrassing for a Tolkien lover, such as myself, to read your "review" and see that out of three mentions of Tolkien, you spelled his name wrong twice. (That would be 2/3 of the time, for those of us keeping track.) For such a learned man as yourself, I am embarrassed FOR you.

Feel free to enjoy all the "difficult pleasures" you want in the books you choose to read. I read what I enjoy, and often. A good book should transport you away... and I don't mean to the E.R. with a migraine.


message 10: by Karen (new)

Karen I disagree with your opinion about the first Harry Potter book, but that's not why I'm commenting. Why do you say it's more worthwhile to watch the Wizard of Oz than it is to read the actual story? The book's a much more imaginative, rich, and complete story than the movie.


Eduardo Melo The book is about a wizard orphan boy with magical powers named Harry Potter and gats taken to a wizard school. He didn't know, but he was very famous in the wizard world and when he gets to hogwarts the school for wizards strange things start to happen. For example his head starts to hurt a lot when he is around a teacher and all the teachers tell him that he is very powerful. After a while of being there Harry makes some very good friends Hermione Granger, who is extremly smart and Ron Weasly who is there always to help. Harry and his friends are always getting into things they're not supposed to get into and they hear about a very special stone that's called the sorcerer stone and tht it can get you anything. So one night three friends go through a 3 headed dog where is had been on a spell so they passed it very easily. After that there is a huge chess game and with the skills on Ron they pass through quickly to the next room. In the last room there is a mirror and there is the badest and most dark wizard of all Voltemort. Voltemort had killed Harry's parents. After a some fighting between those two the sorcerer stone suddenly appears in Harry;s pocket. With the help of the stone Harry make Voltemort disappear and saves all of the wizard school from basically getting killed. So Harry and his friends saved the day


Melyssa Edmond wrote: "wow if only all the world coule be as pompous as yourself. obviously you buried your inner child in a cold dark place."
That was my exact thought. Whatever happened to his inner child. I love Potter and have enjoyed the series many times over.
Poor Mr. Bloom.


Travis Is this the real Harold Bloom? If you, let me take this time to say you are a blundering idiot who fails on every level of literary criticism. I read your pitiful Modern Criticism of Catch-22 and I can tell that someone is a little jealous that his books haven't sold nearly as many copies as Heller managed to do. Oh, you also seem to be jealous that his work is regarded as literary masterpiece and your work will sink into the abyss of forgotten time, remembered by no one, not even your grandchildren.

It must suck to be a Yale professor and still have the obvious insecurity of a prepubescent Magic the Gathering card player.


message 14: by Micah (last edited Jun 30, 2009 01:32PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Micah Persell Well, sir, I do admire your courage in carrying the torch through the dank cave of Potter criticism. It did earn you quite a few scaving comments...how dare you have an opinion, yes?
However, allow me to respectfully disagree with your evaluation of the caliber of J.K. Rowling's writing. I believe her to be a brilliant author. In my exit project for my literature degree, I examined her use of classic British symbolism in the stag Patronus, unicorn, griffin, pheonix, and other mythological and real creatures. I also analyzed her series' content for what can only be described as allegory, much similar to what can be found in Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. I would encourage you to continue your exploration of Harry Potter into the other books, specifically 3-7, and then post another review. I would be fascinated to see what you think.


Mmldog Dear Harold Bloom,

I will not engage in what these other commenters are doing, by insulting you. I believe that the only way to get my point across is to talk calmly and rationally. First of all, I have to tell you that even at the first line, you were so unthinkably rude that I wanted to hit the computer. It said that you recommended this book for "Children, the carrion eaters of scholarship." And sir, you are therefore implying that this girl replying to you is a "carrion eater of scholarship". That's right. I'm 12. And, sir, with all due respect, I believe that you are a truly wonderful writer, but I must say that you insulted young, innocent children for having a different viewpoint than you. If you insult people, and then expect them to be helpless, I have to disagree.
And by the way, I must give you props on the whole Yale thing. I want to go to a high end school like MIT or Harvard one day.


Siera First of all, I would like to tell you that your assumption that those who read Harry Potter do not read "superior fare" is WRONG, although the word superior is relative. However, I have read Lewis Carroll, Jane Austen, Harper Lee, etc, and yet Harry Potter remains my favorite series. And you say that she "uses" bits of everyone's books to form her own - it's called genre!! Just because she didn't make up a whole new one, it doesn't mean that her work is unoriginal. And I have never read a book that does not in some way resemble another. Anyway, your pompous style of writing and criticizing only tells me one thing - of COURSE you wouldn't like Harry Potter, because you clearly can't appreciate anything magical, fun, and good hearted.


message 17: by Erin (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erin im not going to whine and complain about this review...your opinion matters but i have to say J.K. Rowling had good enough writing to only only write great stories, but also intrigue kids that wern't actually avid readers to get off the couch and read. That is one thing that many authors cannot do. I applaud J.K. Rowling for that feat.


Brandon Mr. Bloom, I don't know if you realize this, but you were never Rowling's base. Cheers.


Andrew I think you said something about the "epiphenomena of Lord of the Rings waning"? Well it seems to me that the past 50 years disprove your theory and since Harry Potter is still relatively new to the scene we'll see how it plays out for Hogwarts. . .


message 20: by James (new)

James Harold Bloom,
You are an idiot, keep your head in the elitist 17th century where it belongs. You have no idea what you are talking about when it comes to children's literature. No, Harry Potter is not Hamlet. No, Rowling is not Shakespeare. But the motives of children's literature and adult literature are wholly different. Kid's books are meant to get kids to read, and these books are obviously doing that (I quote you with the number 35 million copies sold). But like I previously said, you have no idea what you are talking about. Spending your life arguing about your opinion on literature doesn't make you the god-judge of literature. It just means you wasted your life living in a fantasy world. You wasted what once could have been a brilliant mind talking about books. Why don't you try to write something that does more than Rowling has done and then... still don't talk because nobody cares about your old world view of things.


message 21: by Katie (new)

Katie I find it fascinating that you say that you review new children's literature, yet you are so out of touch with reality. Referencing some book written a hundred and fifty years ago as Rowling's base for her series? Hardly. I don't know anybody who has heard of that which you referenced, and considering that the books are written for children, why should they? Are you going to dump on the Babysitter's Club or Bernstein Bears next?
The writing of the first book (and the next two, come to think of it) is kept simple to reflect the voice of the protagonist, who is still a child. It's not going to be complex, because most 11 year old boys aren't. Also, this would be why sex is something that "barely enters Rowling's cosmos". They're CHILDREN! They are the equivalent of American sixth graders, for pete's sake.

Lastly, I found it a little insulting and presumptious that you declared that people are reading her books because they won't read more "superior fare". I'm not even touching on that superior fare nonsense, but I began reading Harry Potter when I was in first grade and have been in all advanced and AP English classes, with a significantly higher reading level than my peers. I frequently enjoy reading more challenging works, but that does not mean I can't enjoy more fun, light works like Harry Potter as well. I suggest that you learn to do this as well before you suck all the child-like joy out of children's literature.


message 22: by Marcus (new)

Marcus Please find out what grade level it takes to read the Harry Potter books. As a reader, you can choose to challenge yourself and read something that makes you think, or you can read something like Harry Potter.


message 23: by James (new)

James It is a 3rd-4th grade reading level, personally when I read it the first time I was challenging myself. As an adult you can do both at once, there is value in simple literature as well as complex literature, especially for people who aren't snooty. Simpler texts lend themselves to promoting cognitive tasks like visualization through being easier to understand. Learning doesn't always have to be difficult.


message 24: by Edward (new)

Edward HP is a story. The way that it is conveyed may be to your taste or not. The quality and depth of the characters may be to your liking or not. But like it or not one must at least approach these topics in a literary review. Name dropping and name calling simply does not cut it.


Devin I think you should take a look at yourself before criticising how the greatest novelist of the century writes. That review was awkwardly written with numerous grammatical errors, and you try too hard to use big words that you don't understand properly. You can't spell **Tolkien, and I wonder if, like Hamlet, you will suffer terribly in the future for "being do nice and sarcastic".

Maybe it's an element of your writing being to poor to reap the benefits of Jo's?

Also, this is most definitely not seen as the best of the Harry Potter books, more widely recognised as the worst, maybe trailing behind Chamber of Secrets.

Regardless, I feel that you are trying too hard to find faults in the global phenomenon of Harry Potter, trying to go against the current of the rest of the world just to be different. Your critiques are shallow and superficial, your writing pathetic and your attempt to defame this literary masterpiece an utter failure.


Devin so*


message 27: by Edward (new)

Edward Followed the link to find the rest of your review. It is not there. Is the link correct?


Parchmentproffesser Evan wrote: "I can't imagine anyone who would argue that the first book in the series is the best. I waited until this year to read the series and flew through books 1-3, knowing they were nothing more than bas..."I you feel that shes not a great writer, than why don't you write your own fantasy novel to rival Harry Potter?


message 29: by Serina (new) - added it

Serina Noelle wrote: "Can one person be wrong? Yes. I'm pretty sure your opinion isn't going to make a difference to the millions of people who would give this book no less than 4 stars."

Exactly. = )


message 30: by Eden (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eden Dear Harold Bloom,
While you have every right to dislike Harry Potter, when criticizing a book series that's sold over 400 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 67 languages, keep in mind that a.) you don't have to start name-calling - VERY immature - and b.) after you're done worshiping Lewis Carroll and Kenneth Grahame, it may be nice to actually see listed a few reasons why you don't like Harry Potter; I've gained from your review that you think it's bad . . . and that's it.

Just a few things to keep in mind.

Cheers :-)


message 31: by Mark (new)

Mark C. I can understand Mr. Bloom's point, though I thought that his one-star rating was harsh. I think he hit the nail on the head (sorry for the cliche) when he brought up the point of whether or not the Harry Potter books are a good thing as long as they succeed in getting millions of people--especially kids--in the habit of reading. What I liked about this book is how it combined education with magic and made reading seem like a fun and exciting activity that gives children special powers. Kids who learn and like to read end up developing cognitive reading and learning skills--very powerful abilities--that give them far greater advantages later in life than their nonreading peers. I otherwise agree that the book is neither especially well-written or poorly written. I also agree that the book is somewhat confusing in its careless and unoriginal use of (apparently) Classical, Germanic, and Nordic mythology.


Raeleen Lemay The Harry potter series is fantastic. No matter what you say


message 33: by Skye (new) - rated it 5 stars

Skye You're fucking 80, man. You're trillion page review of this book is meaningless to the world.


message 34: by Cami (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cami Harry potter is actually amazing. And if what you said in your reviw was all you got out of the book then you obviously didn't understand it and I feel bad for you because your missing out on the most amazing hin that's ever happend to this world. Harry potter is amazing and JK Rowling is an amazingly tallented writer. She was able to create anoher world with loveable characters and it was amazingly interesting. I'm not just saying this because I'm 14 (because your basically calling children stupid in your review)
but I'm saying his because they are truely great books. And I am very well-read. I've enjoyed many classics like "to kill a mocking bird" and "withering heights" and "phantom of the opera" but In my opinion the Harry potter series are the best of them all. They're imaginative and full of life lessons and I really strongly dissagree with you review. But I wouldn't expect you to understand how fantastic Harry potter is, your just a muggle.


message 35: by Kati (last edited Nov 01, 2010 09:11PM) (new)

Kati Dear Mr Harold Bloom.

It seems to be a tragic accident that you have received a wizarding surname, which begs me to ask. Are you squib? My friend from the Bloom family has no recall of any squibs in her family, but squibs tend to hate our world. It seems most likely for you to be a squib since you are so bitter to my world.
I do not, however, appreciate you saying my world is less then a childs novel. How would you like it if i went around insulting your muggle/squib world? It wouldn't feel to nice.
Now maybe you should think about the others feelings next time you dare to insult our world. You should be glad the hero Harry Potter killer he-who-must-not-be-named in 1996 or muggles/squibs like you would not last long (not that them...) but anyways. I'm sorry your family got to attend Hogwarts and you were left to attend a simple muggle school. That must of been embarrassing.

Maybe you should change your surname? It confused us wizards and witches.


message 36: by Camille (new)

Camille Kati wrote: "Dear Mr Harold Bloom.

it seems to be a tragic accident that you have received a wizarding surname, which begs me to ask. are you squib? My friend from the Bloom family has no recall of any squibs ..."


BBBBUUUUUURRRRRNNNNN!
you tell em kati!
noone messes with my man Harry!!!!!!
you are my favorite person.
mr.bloom, your just lucky that all wizarding families arnt like the Malfoys...


Brianna Marie The book was amazing. It didn't deserve a one-star rating just because a little more emotion and detail would make it better. There is no perfect book.

Five-Star!


George There are two possibilities:

1) This really is Harold Bloom's profile, and he made it just to post this one review. This way, when he's bored, he could sit back and get a hearty laugh at the expense of all of the offended HP fans.

Or......

2) Some [non-Harold Bloom] person made this profile, and that person is periodically checking the comments and grinning (or laughing hysterically) with pure self satisfaction.

Either way, the joke's on everyone who was angered by this particular review. But still, whether or not he ever actually read any of the comments, I'm sure it felt nice to vent some anger toward this grouchy old man.

Here's his full review:
http://www.opednews.com/populum/linkf...

In its entirety, it's way worse.


message 40: by Caro (last edited Nov 30, 2010 03:33PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Caro Skye wrote: "You're fucking 80, man. You're trillion page review of this book is meaningless to the world."

I haven't read the Harry Potter series yet, even though I'm hoping to get to it soon. However, whether it's good or bad (and that's highly subjective), everyone has the right to give their opinions of it, regardless of their age (which I'm guessing is a sensitive topic to you).


message 41: by Steve (new)

Steve wake up people! This is not Harold Bloom. Just like all the fake celebrities on here.


message 42: by Ana (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ana Edmond wrote: "wow if only all the world coule be as pompous as yourself. obviously you buried your inner child in a cold dark place."

Um, no. I'm only 13, and I certainly can agree with this guy.


message 43: by Ana (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ana Cami wrote: "Kati wrote: "Dear Mr Harold Bloom.

it seems to be a tragic accident that you have received a wizarding surname, which begs me to ask. are you squib? My friend from the Bloom family has no recall o..."


...Is it unnecessary to remind you that the characters are all FICTIONAL? No, apparently not...


message 44: by Ana (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ana Kati wrote: "Dear Mr Harold Bloom.

It seems to be a tragic accident that you have received a wizarding surname, which begs me to ask. Are you squib? My friend from the Bloom family has no recall of any squibs ..."


You just don't get it...I'm sorry to be the one to break it to you, but wizards AREN'T REAL!


message 45: by Camille (new)

Camille Ana wrote: "Kati wrote: "Dear Mr Harold Bloom.

It seems to be a tragic accident that you have received a wizarding surname, which begs me to ask. Are you squib? My friend from the Bloom family has no recall o..."


excues me? harry potter is the most real thing ever. ill have you know that im in my 5th year at hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry right now and you expect my to believe that wizards arnt real? pppsssshhhhhh.


message 46: by Ana (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ana Cami wrote: "Ana wrote: "Kati wrote: "Dear Mr Harold Bloom.

It seems to be a tragic accident that you have received a wizarding surname, which begs me to ask. Are you squib? My friend from the Bloom family has..."


Really? I'll have YOU know that I'm a Dark wizard. AVADA KEDAVRA! You're dead. How sad.


message 47: by KB (new) - rated it 5 stars

KB Love is our weapon "HE WILL NEVER HAVE TRUELY LEFT THIS SCHOOL AS LONG AS THOSE HERE ARE LOYAL TO HIM!!!!!!"


Sophie i agreee with KB


Ashley You wrote all these things that make Harry Potter sounds like such a terrible book, acting like you're such an expert, while you keep misspelling J.R.R. Tolkien's name the whole time! I'm sorry, but I really cannot take you seriously.


message 50: by Damons (new)

Damons Girl omg its not even called harry potter and the sorcerers stone its called harry potter and the philosphers stone come on people am i the only one who noticed this


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