Brad's Reviews > Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
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's review
Aug 31, 09

bookshelves: fantasy, youth, read-to-bronte
Recommended to Brad by: Michelle Svenson
Read in August, 2009, read count: 5

Is there any point in saying anything about Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone anymore? Not really. Not as far as critiques go.

If I were to delve into some interesting critical analysis of an issue raised in The Philosopher's Stone, or take a critical look at Rowling's authorship, then maybe...but most everything that can be said about liking or disliking the book, about its excellence or its shabbiness has been said.

And while I feel I may eventually take a stand for those who appreciate JK Rowling's world of witches and wizards, who think that these books occasionally achieve real excellence, who connect emotionally to any one of the impressive characters she has drawn, I officially concede my inability to do so here.

But I will make this observation: those who equate the Twilight series to the Harry Potter series for entertainment value, quality of storytelling, cultural influence, influence on literacy, or the writing chops of their authors are people you do NOT want to be taking book advice from.

There is more than something in the Harry Potter series worth reading. I couldn't find anything worth reading in the works of Stephenie Meyer (except that it had been published).
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Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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Cathy Can't argue with your Twilight comment. Although I read and enjoyed them, I can't imagine they will have any lasting impact or value. I can only explain their great popularity by saying that there is just something in the female lead that strikes a chord with many women and girls about growing up and first love, despite the twisted and unhealthy love that it is.

There are only 3 comparisons between the series that I can see. The first is that they got a lot of reluctant readers reading with huge enthusiasm and made reading cool for a while. The second is that people strongly relate to the characters, although primarily only female readers of Twilight. And the third is that the huge fans are if all ages. Yup, there as many Twilight Moms and adults as kids. Oh, and a fourth, sales - pre-orders, midnight release parties, and now movies as well. But there is no comparison in quality of tale or telling, of lasting value, or potential to have a positive impact of the youth that are the primary audience, beyond the impact of merely reading in itself.


message 2: by Jon (new)

Jon Like another book I recently read almost under protest (Left Behind), it will probably be even longer before I delve into Twilight.

I have The Philospher's Stone waiting in the wings as an audio book, so I will get to it ... eventually.

Great review again Brad.


Brad I hear that the Stephen Fry version of the audio book is vastly superior to the other guy, Jon. I haven't listened to any of them, though, so my knowledge is second had, from a colleague.

The one thing I would say about both books getting "a lot of reluctant readers reading with huge enthusiasm and made reading cool for a while" is that those Twilight got reading were really the largest demographic of readers already. Women of any age read more regularly than men (very sad but true), and it seems to me that Meyer's books simply created a sensation amongst "readers," whereas Rowling's stories genuinely created new readers from every demographic, and generated enthusiasm for reading amongst groups where reading was only for homework.

I see your points about the way the sensations of both series have similar manifestations, even similar sales, though.


Sparrow I resist the comparison of the two series because it seems similar to the typical "low culture" stigma on women's literature. If it's directed toward girls, it's stupid, if it's directed toward boys, it's worthwhile. I tend to agree with the criticisms of both HP and Twilight, even though I really loved both. I think even Harold Bloom has a point in his HP review, which you seem to have found, even though he is a pompous nitwit.

Both provide sort of disturbing reflections on the groups they resonate with, though. In Twilight there's the body image problem Ceridwen so beautifully discusses in her review, but I think HP has a similarly questionable morality lesson in the idea that if he can become a warrior and kill his enemy, the world will be whole again. I don't think either lesson is doing irreparable damage to the kids reading the books, but I have a kind of knee-jerk reaction to the idea that the one is more objectively worthwhile than the other.


message 5: by Brad (last edited Sep 02, 2009 10:42AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brad You make a good point, Meredith, about the message of Harry becoming a warrior and killing his enemy to make the world whole again, and I have struggled with that a bit myself. I always hoped that only Harry's death would bring balance, thereby delivering a true and costly sacrifice to the readers, but it was not to be. Still, my disappointment is tempered with other significant sacrifices throughout the book, and Rowling goes a long way to avoiding a world of straight good and evil by muddying other characters, like Dumbledore and Snape.

In the end, I do still think that Rowling's books do much more as works of literature than Meyer's because they go beyond the straight tale and offer other, deeper things to consider -- racism, class (despite what Bloom says), politics, perception, and others (although not as much in The Philosopher's Stone as there is in The Deathly Hallows).

For the record, though, I want to add that my feelings about Twilight are not connected to the idea that if a book is "directed toward girls, it's stupid" (although I recognize this issue's importance, and I am pretty sure you weren't suggesting that I do feel that way). I am a big fan of some pretty "girly" books and writers (I just finished another Jodi Picoult and enjoyed it thoroughly), so my feelings about the books aren't tainted by the issue you are genuinely and validly concerned with. I am sure others are swayed in that manner, however.


Sparrow No, I definitely did not think that you implied that girl stuff is stupid. :) I guess I just think equating Twilight and HP is more useless than fallacious. I think people compare them because Barnes & Noble has midnight release parties for them, so they're party books. And they're underdog books - people were surprised at their popularity and influence.

Otherwise, I just think they're just not similar. It makes sense that HP would appeal to boys and Twilight wouldn't, but I really think that's personal preference, because they just seem really dissimilar to me. The one uses fantasy and the other romance (I know you can argue that the vampire thing is fantasy, but I think the vampire thing is pretty much a side-note, not the appeal of the books). I think it's fun the way both authors use traditions of their genres, but I don't think either defines the genre in a meaningful way. Both are fun and seem like they're having fun writing the stories. That makes them meaningful enough, in my opinion, without the argument that they are must-reads. But I don't think either Rowling or Meyers has the talent or true capacity for meaningful reflection on writing and culture that authors like Suzanne Collins or Kate Dicamillo, for example, have.


Cathy Your comment about the readers is interesting, Brad. I listened to the Jim Dale readings of the first 2 books and just loved them. I seem to remember him winning an award for his reading. I guess Jon has only good choices ahead of her! I would absolutely recommend the audio version, it was very fun and added a lot of drama. But it's slower, which can be agonizing when things start zipping along.


message 8: by Lalaine (new)

Lalaine I don't see any reason why they should be compared. yeah they're both best sellers and blah blah blah but to compare them and start rants from haters is just stupid drama


Brad Indeed, Lalaine. I agree.


message 10: by Jill (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jill I agree with the Twilight comment as I read the first book but I wouldn't read any more. I did make it through the HP series. After reading Twilight and starting to read Shades of Grey and not liking either of them, I feel that people like reading about that kind of "I can't live without you" love. They get caught up in the story and don't worry about the literary merits. I think it is the same with reality tv. You just get hooked on some aspect or character and continue to watch. As you already know, popular does not equate good literature, art, music, etc.


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