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J.K. Rowling
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Specific Books & Authors > J.K. Rowling - Bad Writer? Plagiarist? The Debate Continues...

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message 1: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan (LisaVegan) | 978 comments I love J.K. Rowling. I subscribe to the view that nothing is new under the sun, which is not the same thing as copying another's work. Rowling, as all good authors do, takes from previous works. She's a great storyteller. I don't always mind formula books and I love the Harry Potter books.

I have not read that book by Yolen but I'll bet other authors could claim she stole ideas from them.

So many common themes and plots!!

Rowling takes from mythology and history and so much that is in other books.

There have been many books with wizards, boarding schools, orphans, etc. etc. etc. I don't consider any of them stealing (except in one case - not Rowling - where I've been told the book is nearly identical to another!)

I'm multi-tasking so sorry for the nearly incoherent post.


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

Two answers. Rowling is currently being sued by this author's estate Adventures of Willy the Wizard: Livid Land #1. Here's the article:

Rowling lawsuit

I don't know what to think about it, since I have not read "Willy the Wizard," or Yolen's book. It is quite shocking to me that Yolen would make this accusation without just cause. It is also surprising that she wouldn't sue if she had a case.


message 3: by Sue (new)

Sue Did Jo borrow from Fairy Tales?? Did she make kids think about mythology and the meaning of the names she gives characters? Did she get kids excited about reading and did kids actually have midnight launch parties waiting for the new release of the latest books? I feel so blessed that my kids read the Potter books-listened to the incredible Jim Dale bring the books to life and read the books before seeing any movie. I have read some of Yolen's picture books, never read the Wizard book, but seriously every time a successful author launches a series, someone claims plagiarism... The story Jo writes has universal themes going back to mythology and fairy tales. Some of my best "Mom" moments were spent sharing these treasures with my kids. We'd drive around the block to listen to the end of the chapter. Put me on team Jo..I am a teacher and a mom who loves sharing the joy of reading with my kids..


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Second Answer. I enjoyed the Harry Potter books because they were pretty good stories. There was a lot of very interesting detail (the spells, the school, etc) and some interesting plot twists (the whole idea that Harry was the boy who didn't die). Sure, there were elements shared with other magical/fantasy stories. Her writing wasn't stellar. Sometimes the books were too long (Goblet of Fire and Deathly Hallows). I usually wanted to slap Dumbledore with his lame "Oh, Harry, I wish I had explained this to you" at the end of every book. And, the kids managed to do a lot of amazing and difficult things, but that's what book characters (especially kids fantasy) do. I've read all of the books, and even re-read my favorite bits a few times.

I think a lot of people dislike Rowling because she made a lot of money and she is a bit "puffed up" with her success. I really don't know if she has anything else in her, unlike someone like Yolen. I don't regret reading the books and nobody else should either.


message 5: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan (LisaVegan) | 978 comments Abigail wrote: "Given that all of these authors are drawing from the same body of ideas and themes, it seems a little silly to accuse any of them - in the absence of significant textual similarities - of copying one another"

In a much more clumsy manner, that is what I was trying to say in my post.

Chandra, That's sweet, but then I don't wish on you hosting a party with a bunch of authors writing in the same genre. ;-) Well, many do get along, actually.


message 6: by Gundula (last edited Apr 19, 2010 08:19AM) (new)

Gundula | 2073 comments I wonder if part of the reason is that in today's world, we believe that plagiarism is not only copying chapters etc. word for word, there is a tendency to believe that any idea etc. that seems to be similar to another author (any intertextuality) is plagiarism, which I think is simply untrue. Especially with fantasy, which as both Abigail and BunWat have mentioned draws on an immense store of folklore, mythology and legends, you will always find repeating themses, scenes and ideas. For me it becomes plagiarism, if an author does not only uses similar scenes, but is seemingly using the same words and very similar story lines of another author. I have not read Jane Yolen's Wizard's Hall, but I honestly do not believe that J.K. Rowling deliberately plagiarised from her, wizard fantasy fiction has similarities, it is the nature of the genre.


message 7: by Gundula (last edited Apr 19, 2010 08:26AM) (new)

Gundula | 2073 comments Abigail wrote: "That's an interesting point, Gundula! I imagine that our contemporary idea of intellectual property, the ways in which it is legal for people and companies to trademark and copyright common phrases..."

It's so difficult to even know what can and cannot be done nowadays. I mean even with secondary material, it used to be absolutely acceptable to quote from secondary sources and/or to paraphrase secondary material, as long as you acknowledged your sources. Now, though, I have heard that in some cases, you actually have to receive permission from the author to quote from secondary materials. I don't know how true this is, but if there is any truth to this rumor, this could likely severely diminish both research and criticism.


message 8: by Gundula (new)

Gundula | 2073 comments BunWat wrote: "Well and look at Shakespeare for example. Almost none of his plots are original to him. Yet he's one of our greatest writers. Not for coming up with original stories, but for taking existing one..."

And, that was what in bygone days a good author was supposed to do, take existing ideas and story lines and make them into something novel and interesting.


message 9: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 3164 comments Mod
I am on "Team Jo" too. I absolutely love-love-love the Harry Potter books and while I agree that they may not be 100% original, I echo what others said/feel that it is simply the nature of the genre and of storytelling in general to have some similar themes. I think her characters are wonderful--they are what really makes the books for me--and so very rich and original. And I love her writing style. I was a late comer to the HP phenom--I admit I was probably a bit of a snob or whatever because I thought "there is no way something THAT popular could actually be good literature." But, I totally ate me some humble pie after I read the first book! :-)

I think, too, that it should be considered that it's not like JK Rowling went out there and self-published a book that became mega-famous. There were editors and publishers involved in the process and surely these industry professionals would be aware if there was some blatant plagiarizing going on, especially of such a well-known and respected author as Yolen.

I honestly think JK Rowling cares too much about the characters and world she created to have ever done something so intentional as stealing someone else's ideas. Perhaps she was inspired by other writings, but I think ALL writers are, to some extent. While I fully respect authors' (and all artists') rights to their intellectual property, and think they should stand up for themselves if they feel they are being abused, in this case it seems a bit of sour grapes and too little, too late.


message 10: by Ann (last edited Apr 19, 2010 08:55AM) (new)

Ann | 22 comments I'm posting before I read everyone's comments, but here are my initial thoughts from Chandra's post:

I sincerely hope its not true. I haven't read "Wizards Hall" so can't fully comment. But, I will say, that I'm a firm believer that there really are only so many "plots" out there. Good vs. Evil, Boy meets Girl, etc. Sooner or later, things are going to overlap. Just because Rowling wrote a book about a boy who has undiscovered talent and must fight a dark lord doesn't make it plagiarism. I think a good chunk of YA fantasy books follow that formula (substitute wizard for the genre of choice). And, okay, the ginger hair and the moving pictures is a bit coincidental, but I hope that's all it is. Bottom line, I *choose* to believe that JK didn't plagiarize. Her seven books flow too well and are too interrelated to be stolen, IMO. Which, brings me to part II. Her writing. I think in all seven books there are only two times I remember stumbling over JK's words, which, to me, makes her a good writer. I always had a wonderful sense of place and time, and her characters were very consistent. Most importantly, I trusted her as the author, sure that she wouldn't "pull a fast one" on me, that her magical laws were consistent, and that she had divulged the information needed to solve the mystery (if I as the reader was clever enough to pick up on it).
So, yeah, Team Jo. :)


message 11: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (last edited Apr 19, 2010 09:09AM) (new)

Kathryn | 3164 comments Mod
Abigail wrote: "Kathryn wrote: "While I fully respect authors' (and all artists') rights to their intellectual property, and think they should stand up for themselves if they feel they are being abused, in this ca..."

But while I don't claim to know all the motivation behind Yolen's claim, I do feel that the way she wrote about it was unprofessional--thus my "sour grapes" comment. I do agree that each case should be judged on its own merits, though, and did not intend for it to sound that I would defend one author simply because I liked his or her books better. But it seems that if Yolen truly believes she has a claim she ought to do more than complain about another author in an article. I don't know, maybe she has and we just haven't heard about it???


message 12: by Ann (new)

Ann | 22 comments Chandra wrote: "Really good points guys!

Can I make a little confession? As much as I do love Yolen when I've read excerpts from her blog she comes off as a bit of a crank. There I said it! Others may not ..."


I hear you, Chandra. I, too, always want "my favorites" to get along and adore each other! ;)


message 13: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (last edited Apr 19, 2010 09:15AM) (new)

Kathryn | 3164 comments Mod
Abigail wrote: "Sorry, Kathryn! I was using your comment to respond to a general trend I see, not trying to accuse you of anything - I should have been clearer! (Although I see I phrased myself poorly: "I disagree..."

No worries :-) I just wanted to make sure my thoughts were coming through as I'd intended them to ;-) I think it's so hard when authors see their "babies" being taken advantage of in some way or another--they are such passionate people and have poured so much time and energy and love into their work. I don't blame them for being defensive but I do think they need to maintain professionalism in public. Can you just see the tabloids and paparazzi photos now "Yolen and Rowling wage battle not seen since Harry took on Voldemort" !?!?! Eeek. They are both well respected authors and their intellectual rights deserve better treatment and consideration, from the public and from one another. I hope this one is settled amicably.


message 14: by Gundula (new)

Gundula | 2073 comments Abigail wrote: "Gundula wrote: "It's so difficult to even know what can and cannot be done nowadays..."

Yes, there does seem to be a tendency toward greater and greater restrictions, on writers' and researchers' ..."


I thought that Rowling's lawsuit against the man who compiled the lexicon not only completely unfounded and mean-spirited, but potentially very dangerous. Is Rowling now going to to try to suppress criticism about the Harry Potter books that are critical of her or condemn her? Personally, I thought that some of the Harry Potter criticism, especially from the Religious Right, to be atrocious and horrible, but I would not want such work suppressed, though I disagree with its message wholeheartedly.


message 15: by Ann (new)

Ann | 22 comments "Yolen and Rowling wage battle not seen since Harry took on Voldemort"
haha, nice!

It's hard. I've dabbled in writing myself and I can understand how offended I'd be if someone said I'd stolen their work (first, because accusing me of stealing, second, taking away from what I'd put years of my life into) but I also know how offended I'd be if someone did steal my work! Taking something I'd created and using it for their gain and taking the credit for it. So, it's a tough all the way around.


message 16: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (last edited Apr 19, 2010 09:40AM) (new)

Kathryn | 3164 comments Mod
I also think it's extremely difficult to prove cases like this, which may be one reason Yolen is not taking legal action but simply voicing her views. As Abigail said, it is possible that Rowling never even read Yolen's book. Or maybe she did and was somewhat influenced by it but its not as if she stole the entire thing. In the process of copyrighting my own work, I was really shocked to see that the copyright really only protects the exact way in which the words are written not the idea itself. "Copyright law is typically designed to protect the fixed expression or manifestation of an idea rather than the fundamental idea itself. Copyright does not protect ideas, only their expression and in the Anglo-American law tradition the idea-expression dichotomy is a legal concept which explains the appropriate function of copyright laws." WOAH! Indeed, when submitting to agents and editors, many have explicit legal information stating that you as an author have no legal recourse should they reject your work and then happen to publish a work of "similar content" in the future. Again, WOAH! All very distressing as an author. But, when you think about it, it's also probably very necessary because, as has been said by many of you earlier, there's really not much new under the sun. Imagine if suddenly all authors of books about teenage vampires at school got into it with Stephenie Meyer... So, again, not to completely dismiss Yolen or say Rowling is infallible, but just that I think this is all so very complicated especially when delving into the legal aspects of it.


message 17: by Ann (new)

Ann | 22 comments Yeah, and plus, sometimes verbal interviews can come off sounding/seeming very different when written, because inflection, mannerisms, etc. aren't always accounted for.


message 18: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 3164 comments Mod
Ann wrote: "Yeah, and plus, sometimes verbal interviews can come off sounding/seeming very different when written, because inflection, mannerisms, etc. aren't always accounted for."

Good point!


message 19: by Shannon (new)

Shannon (sianin) | 129 comments I have no comment on the pagiarism stuff but I did want to say tha talthough personally I do not find Rawling's writing to be particularly stellar, her stories capture the imagination, you care about the characters and my 8 year old son has now read the whole series and is about to start reading it in french.

I bow before any author who can do that for any child! Kudos to the whole Potter phenomena.


message 20: by Ann (new)

Ann | 22 comments Wow - that's great, Shannon!!! Kudos to JK AND your son!!! :D


message 21: by Gundula (new)

Gundula | 2073 comments Chandra wrote: "In terms of practicing reading a second language I've found that children's books, short stories and newspaper articles are the best! But then again I've fallen off my Spanish studies over the pas..."

I agree, it's great practice. I've read the first Harry Potter book in French as well, and it really improved my language skills. Also, because I had already read the English original previously, I found it much easier to read the French version, I hardly had to reach for my dictionary.


message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

My daughter read them in English and in German. She thought the German covers were pretty cool!


message 23: by Gundula (new)

Gundula | 2073 comments Jeannette wrote: "My daughter read them in English and in German. She thought the German covers were pretty cool!"

I actually have not read any of the Harry Potter books in German, but one of these days, I am going to read them in "Plattdeutsch" (Low German, some of the Harry Potter novels have actually been translated into it, and it's not at all the same as reading standard German, so it will definitely be a challenge).


message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

That is interesting, Gundula! I didn't know there were enough speakers of Platt to warrant the translation. My husband knew (and socialized with) some people who spoke Platt. Where did you find these books?


message 25: by Shannon (new)

Shannon (sianin) | 129 comments Wow! I think its great that so many of you have read these and any books in more than one language! I will post my son's thoughts on the book when he gets done (or has gotten far enough into it to have formed an opinion).


message 26: by Gundula (new)

Gundula | 2073 comments Jeannette wrote: "That is interesting, Gundula! I didn't know there were enough speakers of Platt to warrant the translation. My husband knew (and socialized with) some people who spoke Platt. Where did you find ..."

They were available on Amazon Germany a few years ago. I hope they still are available.


message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

I did indeed find Harry Potter un de Wunnersteen in Plattdeutsch! In the description they state that much of the "English word play" was left intact owing to Plattdeutsch being closer to English than High German. This would be fun to look at!


message 28: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan (LisaVegan) | 978 comments Abigail wrote: "I thought I was doing well with the English, German, classical Greek, and Irish! ;)"

Abigail, You are! ;-)


message 29: by Lisa (last edited Apr 25, 2010 08:49PM) (new)

Lisa Vegan (LisaVegan) | 978 comments I should try it in Spanish. The only "extra" edition I have is the UK edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and I haven't read it, but I've skimmed it enough to notice some differences from the American edition. ETA: I have a hardcover, not an audio, edition.


message 30: by [deleted user] (new)

Abigail wrote: "I'm very impressed that you're going to read Harry Potter in Plattdeutsch, Gundula! I thought I was doing well with the English, German, classical Greek, and Irish! ;)"

You can read Irish!?! That would be fun!

I was in a one hour "Intro to Japanese Language" demo this weekend and the presenter told us that in Greece they use the phrase "It's all Japanese to me!" (That's how difficult the Greeks consider the Japanese language to be!)


message 31: by Gundula (new)

Gundula | 2073 comments Abigail wrote: "I'm very impressed that you're going to read Harry Potter in Plattdeutsch, Gundula! I thought I was doing well with the English, German, classical Greek, and Irish! ;)"

Well, reading it in classical Greek or Irish would be much harder than me trying to read it in Plattdeutsch. And, I just want to read it, I haven't actually bought the book yet, I've been buying too many books again, so Amazon is off limits for a while.


message 32: by Byatt (new)

Byatt Was The reason there are so many similarities between Rowling's work and Wizard's Hall (or from any of the stories by the multitudes who have tried to sue her for plagiarism for that matter) is because her ideas are simplistic and cliched. As Byatt's old article stated, this can work well for children's stories and... well, that's about it. You yourself said you found the series had "formulaic/predictable elements".

As a writer, when you settle for genre stereotypes of plot, character and so on, you have to expect your work to be strikingly similar to many others, especially with a genre as broad and as popular as fantasy. Wizards with beards and pointy hats, talking animals, tables, portraits and other inanimates behaving like animates? How much creativity do you think that requires?

This isn't an argument that can be shrugged off by claiming there are no original ideas, with the logic that everything has been done before. While even the most unique story may bear resemblance to another based on that logic, it's clear to see that some stories are special, different and well thought out. Some are just about boy wizards who encounter a troupe of fantasy archetypes from one book to the next.


message 33: by Gundula (last edited Sep 04, 2010 11:15AM) (new)

Gundula | 2073 comments One of the reasons many adults enjoy the Harry Potter series is because it tells a simple, fun and good story. Nothing against classic and modern stories for adults, but they are so often "full of themselves" and seemingly teeming with internal dialogues, stream of conscience, and academic grandstanding that many adults turn to Harry Potter and other children's literature at times, because sometimes, all we want to read is a good story, a fairy tale, a school story, we don't want to be left feeling naive, unenlightened and ungifted (it tends to turn us, or at least some of us away from reading). I have had to read many so-called English, German and French literary classics for university, and while I have enjoyed reading many of them, the reading experience itself was, at times, both frustrating and hard work. And, yes, while I was writing my PhD dissertation, I read Harry Potter, I read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, I read Judy Blume books, Enid Blyton books etc. to keep me sane, to keep my love of books intact. And, there is nothing wrong with doing that, and no reason to criticise or slam adults who read and enjoy children's literature (and it is not as though I only read children's literature, I read a vast variety of books, but fiction for me needs to generally have a good and relatively easy to follow plot, a plotline that is too intricate, too convoluted, too internalised smacks of artificiality and grandstanding to me).

Also, I really wish people would not try to analyse Rowling's Harry Potter books as though they are meant to be adult books, they are children's books (not really even YA books), so the story has to be relatively straight forward, otherwise children would likely not care to read these. If the Harry Potter series were as intricate and detailed as, for example, most of the novels of Charles Dickens, kids would likely not have become enamoured of them (we had to read Dickens in high school, not a pleasant experience). The Harry Potter books are good, solid stories, meant to be simple and easy to follow.


message 34: by Gundula (new)

Gundula | 2073 comments BunWat wrote: "I have to say that dismissing Rowling's work as "simplistic and cliched" and filled with "genre stereotypes" doesn't much impress me as any kind of thoughtful critique. The notion that her fiction..."

Also, if that were to hold true, we would basically have to dismiss most fantasy books, most fairy tales, and even much historical fiction, because most of these genres rely on certain common images, ideas, philosophies etc. So, fiction that contains familiar elements and ideas is automatically flawed? That is not only an unconvincing, but ridiculous attitude (and, one that would basically condemn most fiction).


message 35: by Gundula (last edited Sep 04, 2010 11:17AM) (new)

Gundula | 2073 comments BunWat wrote: "There is also a difference between simple and simplistic. Lots of children's fiction is simple, in the sense of being uncluttered, straightforward, honest, pared down. But children's fiction that..."

I would rather read a simple, easy to follow, uncluttered and honest story than some of the adult stories that I've had to read. I found, for example, Umberto Eco's "Name of the Rose" a real pain to read because I felt that the book was not only too intricate and convoluted, I felt that the author was, in fact, talking down to anyone who does not have his level of education, it was a bit like reading literary snobbery and it is one of the reasons I often turn to reading children's literature, because, as you have stated, children will not take kindly to grandstanding and literary snobbery and books which promote this will generally (and thankfully) not flourish, not become all that popular.


message 36: by Byatt (new)

Byatt Was I thought I'd break these replies up into separate comments so it doesn't appear as such an overwhelming read (there's a lot), and so that people can see my responses to each individual's comments. I didn't see any listing for posting rules anywhere on the site, so forgive me if there's a guideline I'm failing to follow and end up cluttering your topic.

Chandra wrote: "I understand what you're saying, but I would maintain that old formulas can be retold in new and exciting ways."

This statement and the rest of your post is a good point. I'm sure some do find J. K. Rowling's version of this fantasy to be unique in its way. I'd like to hear exactly what you all think makes her rendition so special.


message 37: by Byatt (new)

Byatt Was Abigail wrote: "Any relation to A.S. Byatt, mentioned above? Or did you adopt that screen name in order to make a point?"

Goodness, no relation. Just wandered by and saw the discussion so I used the moniker to demonstrate my stance.

"In any case, I think perhaps you didn't read some of the preceding comments with as much attention as needed, as so many of the points you raise have already been refuted and/or challenged, and repeating them really isn't much of an answer."

Sorry you didn't like it. I did start reading the comments, but started at the bottom of the page to see what the recent activity was like. Since I found that the last 20 comments to not be about the original topic at all, but instead to be dealing with foreign languages, I admit that I lost interest and decide to just post.

"...children's literature is of a lower order, and that simplistic and cliched ideas will "work well" for it... young readers simply won't stand for the sort of self-indulgent grand-standing to be found is so much adult literature."

I certainly don't maintain that children's literature is of a lower order. Exupery's The Little Prince, while really only a children's book in disguise, could still be classified as a children's book, I think. My niece loves it, even if she doesn't understand the deeper meaning in it. Maybe some more applicable examples are in order: Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are or practically anything from Dr. Seuss or Roald Dahl are examples of beautiful children's books. Those examples probably aim toward a younger age group, but I'm certainly not up on my fiction for adolescents so it's the best I can do. Anyway, my point is that the reason I'm not keen on Rowling isn't because she writes children's books.

"...but to casually dismiss it as you have done, without making any effort to discover what it is about it that has drawn so many readers in, to me speaks of some kind of ax to grind - some preexisting prejudice that has nothing, in the end, to do with Rowling."

I only wanted to say my piece on the issue. I'd read the original article, found it intriguing, and thought I might have some insight. Furthermore, I've read two of her books and didn't like them. I'm here now, participating in open forum to share and learn about what it is that people find so appealing. It seems to me that I am very much making an effort, and that there is nothing casual about it.


message 38: by Byatt (new)

Byatt Was BunWat wrote: "I have to say that dismissing Rowling's work as "simplistic and cliched" and filled with "genre stereotypes" doesn't much impress me as any kind of thoughtful critique."

Well that's why I elaborated.

"An amish chair or a turned wooden bowl is simple, a chinese scroll painting is simple, but that doesn't mean they are artistically less..."

That's a very good example, and I believe Abigail followed up on this with the literary example of fables. I love fables. They're usually not flashy with their prose and have generic characters, but the story comes together to create something both thoughtful and clever in the end. I guess I don't see anything like that with Rowling. I find her stories to be watery, lacking substance. Nothing feels interesting. The characters aren't poorly developed, but they do seem "only just" developed. The prose is bad, but it isn't great. That special, intricate beauty that makes up a Chinese scroll painting, or a fable? I can't find it in Harry Potter.


message 39: by Byatt (new)

Byatt Was "Gundula wrote: "Also, I really wish people would not try to analyse Rowling's Harry Potter books as though they are meant to be adult books, they are children's books..."

That's fair. To be honest my critique mainly stems from her popularity among adults. I can see why her stories are appealing to younger readers, but I don't quite get why so many adults are so enthralled with her work. Though your posts above about wanting your fiction straightforward and honest shed some light on it for me.

"So, fiction that contains familiar elements and ideas is automatically flawed? That is not only an unconvincing, but ridiculous attitude (and, one that would basically condemn most fiction)."

I tried to be clear about it in my original post, but I don't mean to condemn her fiction because it contains familiar elements. Like Chandra said, seeing an old motif retold can be very entertaining, and it can be unique in its own way. To me, Harry Potter feels like every other fantasy story I read when I was twelve. I don't see what it does differently, and I don't get what is exceptional about what it does do.


message 40: by Byatt (new)

Byatt Was Abigail wrote: "What are these books, that people are drawn to them? ...What positive things draw people to these works? The critic who can't even bring herself to ask this question, is coming from an irrational position, and has little to contribute to the debate, as far as I'm concerned."

I saved this issue for last as it's probably the most important to me in this discussion, since I jumped in here to get a better idea of what was so great about Harry Potter.

Isn't what you're stating YOUR responsibility to the discussion. I mean, don't misunderstand, you don't owe me an explanation, but as I don't care for Rowling's stories and fail to see the appeal, shouldn't you be there to explain what I'm missing? I shouldn't have to guess at the positive points; they should be laid out by someone who knows them. And that's really the whole purpose of the discussion anyway, so everyone can see the differing points of view.


message 41: by Amy (last edited Sep 10, 2010 01:17AM) (new)

Amy I think all this stuff about the books have been plagiarised is nonsense- what storylines today are truely original? This is the classic good v evil story of old. I watched Star Wars last night and to me that confirmed my view. Have you noticed the similarities between the two? Voldemort= Darth Vadar, Dumbledore= Yoda, Harry= Luke Skywalker, Hermione= Princess Leia, Ron= Hans Solo. It even has the Aunt and Uncle who suppress his dream (although they don't treat Luke half as badly as Harry is treated!)

In response to her writing ability though, I would tend to agree, it's not particularly strong. But is that really important? Is it not more important that the story is engaging. She isn't a great wordsmith but an excellent story-teller.


message 42: by Gundula (last edited Sep 10, 2010 05:43AM) (new)

Gundula | 2073 comments Byatt wrote: ""Gundula wrote: "Also, I really wish people would not try to analyse Rowling's Harry Potter books as though they are meant to be adult books, they are children's books..."

That's fair. To be hone..."


I think you are right about saying that the Harry Potter series is very much like many fantasy series. For some, especially for those who don't like fantasy all that much, that might seem a bit trite and a bit repetitive. To others, especially to adults who have grown up reading fantasy, I think that the Harry Potter series is a comforting throw back to the fantasies of old they used to read, combined (as an added bonus) with the still popular British school story. I think many children see Harry Potter as simply an engaging story, while at least some adults are transported back to the children's fantasy and school stories they read as children; Harry Potter is a bit like a nostalgic read for them, a bit like tasting delicious candy you used to enjoy as a child.

I also don't think (and agree with Amy here) that Rowling is an amazing writer, but yes, she generally is an amazing story-teller, especially when she keeps her plotlines simple enough. Personally, I have found the books up to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire more enjoyable than the later novels. I tended to get a bit bogged down in some of the later novels, as Rowling seemed to be adding more and more information en masse, thus somewhat losing the beauty of her original simplicity.

I would also like to point out that simply because an adult likes the Harry Potter series does not mean that he/she necessarily thinks that J.K. Rowling is the greatest thing since sliced bread (so to speak), or that she is even their favourite children's author. For me, yes, I have enjoyed reading the series, but I would not go so far as to say that I consider J.K. Rowling my favourite children's author, or even my favourite children's fantasy author. My favourite children's fantasy author is probably the late German author Michael Ende. I love his "Neverending Story" but for me, reading the former always takes longer than reading Harry Potter, as the story tends to be very intricate. What I generally like about the Harry Potter stories (especially the early ones) is that J.K. Rowling tells an exciting tale, without much embellishment, a simple, intriguing and engaging story. Her simplicity of style, which might make the story problematic for those of us who always crave more complexity, makes the story engaging, easy to read and fun for children, and comforting and relaxing for many adults.

Finally (and, sorry for my wordiness), there is also some wonderful irony and humor in the Harry Potter series. In many ways, Rowling engages in some very sly and vastly funny satire of both fantasy and school story genre (and, the British school system in general). Many children would not likely get all of that humor and wit (nor likely all adults either), but for those of us who have a taste for the ironic, for word plays etc., there are some deliciously witty instances. For example, the killing curse "Avada Kedavra" does not only seem to be a re-rendering of the old Kabbalistic chant "abracadabra" (don't know if I spelled that correctly), but "Kedavra" also makes one think of a cadaver (it is the most devastating spell available, but it sounds like it's just creating a cadaver).


message 43: by Brenda (new)

Brenda | 191 comments Byatt wrote: "I don't quite get why so many adults are so enthralled with her work."

I'll attempt to give you one adults opinion. I am enthralled because for me it contains the elements of a story that I so love. It has wizards and witches, magic wands, alchemists, magic etc. It provides me an opportunity to read about faires, elves or bogarts even trolls. It takes me back to my youth a comforting place for me. I respect that it isn't everyone's cup of tea. It certainly isn't the only genre that I read. It is what makes us all so diverse in our chose of books we read.


message 44: by Gundula (last edited Sep 10, 2010 07:49AM) (new)

Gundula | 2073 comments Abigail, I felt the same way about Byatt's comments. I don't think I have to justify why I have rather enjoyed the Harry Potter series, just like I don't think I have to justify why I like to read children's books. And, I did feel a bit like I (and any one who has read and enjoyed the series) was being attacked to a certain extent by the critique, because "simplistic and cliched" is rather harsh to say the least. Also, by saying that "simplistic and cliched" works for children's literature, Byatt is basically (even if unintentionally) stating that children's literature is thus and that children are thus as well. It is not as bad as a really insulting review I read by Harold Bloom on the first Harry Potter series, where he called children something like the carrion eaters of literature (I have no more respect for him due to that), but it does tend to assume or state that children are not as discerning, easily manipulated etc. Fact is that children are far more perceptive than many adults give them credit for and they will simply not stand for the literary grandstanding so common in some adult literature.

And, yes, I originally thought that Byatt was in fact the author A.S. Byatt. To me it seemed as though he/she was doing her best not only to defend the latter, but to discredit with some sharp (but very sparse) critcism the fact that many adults like Harry Potter. And, like you, Abigail, I do not believe that Rowling is an amazing author, but she is certainly not cliched and simplistic. Her story is standard fantasy (and a bit of school story) told in a novel and engaging way.


message 45: by Brenda (new)

Brenda | 191 comments I agree Chandra it is so much like food and what we like and don't like. Thank you for the recommendation also.


message 46: by Tandra (new)

Tandra I have been a children's stalker, so I am new to posting but not new to the group. That being said, I felt I had to respond because I do love HP and gulped down each one as if it were a cold glass of water in a desert. Not so much because it was wonderfully written but because it was a wonderful story (yes in the familiar sense and the cozy sense). It was a fun story written with respect towards her audience. It think that people are unhappy with JKR because she has made so much money from the series, so they pick at the books. Is she the best writer? No, but not everything I love is written by the best writer. She can spin a good yarn, and I love being told or read a good story. I am willing to forgive some lack in writing style for a really delicious story. HP was delicious in the ice cream sense of the word, maybe not what I could be sustained on, but there is nothing like dessert. Is this the only thing that I read both in children's literature or literature in general. No, but it makes me feel warm. I do agree with the others that it transports me back to my childhood when I was reading fantasies and school stories. As to the point that the story was a mishmash of stories already told. Well, then many modern authors have a problem because stories outlines and ideas have been stolen since time began....how else can we explain the number of Cinderella Stories across the world, or the writer of Edward Sawatelle stealing Hamlet from Shakespeare. My feeling is just enjoy...if you don't, then don't read it. BUT don't look down your nose at some else's favorite.


message 47: by Brenda (new)

Brenda | 191 comments Tandra wrote: "HP was delicious in the ice cream sense of the word, maybe not what I could be sustained on, but there is nothing like dessert."

I love all of the food analogies! Nicely said Tandra. Thanks for joining in on the discussion.


message 48: by Gundula (new)

Gundula | 2073 comments Chandra wrote: "Hi Tandra and welcome! I admit I did a little double take at your opening sentence: I have been a children's stalker Ha! But I get what you're saying now ;-)"

So did I, for that matter, ha. But, I really like what Tandra has to say about the HP series, very much like what many of us have expressed, I want and need candy sometimes.


message 49: by Tandra (new)

Tandra Yeah, I meant to say a children's book group stalker...I agree with Bun Wat....let's just enjoy HP for what it is. There is a time and a place for all types of art, music and literature.


message 50: by Byatt (new)

Byatt Was Chandra wrote: "Hi Byatt! I'm glad you popped back in! I thought perhaps we'd chased you off!"

Not yet. I've just had limited access to the net lately. Glad I remembered to check back up on my post once I got the chance though.

Thanks to everyone who responded. I feel I have a better understanding of what adults find attractive about reading Harry Potter. Especially thanks to Gundula, Chandra and BunWat. I think, collectively, everything you all said was very informative.

And a note about the screen name I chose, since more than one of you thought I might be the NY Times article writer. It was not my intention to mislead. My actual screen name, as I entered it, was "Byatt Was Right". It seems my full screen name was shortened to "Byatt Was", and furthermore gets displayed as simply "Byatt" on the comments I leave. Sorry about that.


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Books mentioned in this topic

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Wizard's Hall (other topics)
Harry Potter un de Wunnersteen (other topics)
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Authors mentioned in this topic

J.K. Rowling (other topics)
Nnedi Okorafor (other topics)