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Outside Gaimancon in Melbourne, the weekend also saw the release of the new Harry Potter, which meant that for one weekend, millions of people stayed home and read the same book.

Personally, I've no time for Rowling's books. I'm an adult and I thus enjoy adult themes, adult words, and adult writing. When I don't have these things, I feel dissatisfied with the reading experience. If you don't, good for you... but me, I want my literature to be complicated. You might be thinking that it's unfair for me to make this statement about a series of books that I've read thirty odd pages off, but that's your problem, not mine. I don't enjoy children's literature. Lately, it feels like saying this is the equivalent of saying, "I don't like speculative fiction," and while many might argue that it is, I don't think so. There's a day coming, I think, when we'll be able to say that fantasy has become, by and large, a genre that is aimed at young adults, but there will always be exceptions to this. However, children's literature, it's own genre, is something that I find very empty and not for me because I am, in the eyes of the courts at least, an adult.

In the last couple of years I've read two young adult novels on my own. The first of these was Michael Chabon's Summerland, a nicely written book with about the intellectual depth of a wading pool. The second was Neil Gaiman's Coraline, a reasonably written book that was about as scary as a wading pool. To compare either book to the author's adult orientated work (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier the Clay and American Gods to pick the last, large meaty outing of each) is ridiculous. You can't compare. One is for children. One is for adults. It's not just the use of the word fuck that makes each different.

Be as that may, I've long gotten over my urge to tell adults who love children's literature that they're idiots. Apathy is the great motivator, but also, if I were being honest, I think I just grew to accept this as one of those things. Rather like fan fic. I don't have any urge to write fan fic, and I don't think it's the best way to encourage a creative art, but plenty of musicians learn by playing covers, and in the end, I think there is a lot about community in fan fic that is often overlooked. So whatever people get from it, you know? The same for children's literature and Rowling's books and all of that other stuff I don't understand and wish would go away, such as organised religion.

However, what has surprised me, is the desire a lot of people have to spoil The Half Blood Prince. In the car yesterday, whoever the host was on Triple J in the afternoon had dedicated his show to telling people what happened in the book. There were blogs like this one that were about reading it and spoiling it at the same time. People dropped idle notes into blogs. I'm pretty sure some of these people bought the book with the intention of spoiling it for people. I suppose it's just a reaction to the hype, a backlash that has been building since the last book, and the news that Rowling is richer than the Queen of England. Still, one would figure that not caring would be easier. I mean, embrace it or don't... that's what's so good about it.

In addition to this, there were also the authors to read instead of Rowling posts. I'm sure there were more, as there really did appear to be a lot of people dedicated to sending those who read Rowling off to something good, with the principle being that these authors are better than Rowling. Since neither wrote about particular books, I guess it's just that all the authors are better, even if comparing Avram Davidson and Rowling is rather like comparing milk and cheese. You can have both and not feel like it comes from the same animal. More than this, however, is should any Rowling fan actually take it up to buy one of Davidson's collections (since they are more readily available than his novels) how would you contextualise it for someone that has had a steady diet of Rowlingesqe fantasy?

You might argue that you don't have to contextualise it. You drop them in, and they sink or swim, and you look down your nose and ignore those who get it or don't. Which is fine. I've done that. But if you're serious about bringing an audience to a something different than to what they usually read, you have to consider this. If you tossed Davidson's Limekiller to someone who had just finished The Half Blood Prince and claimed that because they liked the latter, they'll like the former cause, fuck it, it's better... then you'd be suggesting to that person that they would find something similar in Davidson's work that was in Rowling's. When that person doesn't find this, they will stand up, hand you back your book, and walk away and find some some other kind of fantasy book on their own, and it will most likely have hobbits.

It might sound like I'm saying that you have to hand feed new literature to readers, and maybe I am. I don't see it that way, but maybe you will. All I know is that when I teach speculative fiction, I get a better response when I contextualise it. Even if, taking the example of Fritz Leiber's Our Lady of Darkness, which I taught on Friday, it is simply by pointing out how much of Leiber's own life is found within the novel, from his dead wife, his alcoholism, and the very sight of the city that he saw out of his window. Without that, they just don't get it.


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Jul. 18th, 2005 05:01 am (UTC)
I was one of those sad kids who stayed home to read Half Blood Prince, yes even on my birthday. It was (still is) a let down. Now, I'm off to read better things.
Jul. 18th, 2005 05:09 am (UTC)
actually, i think it's cool millions of people stayed at home to read. i like that. i'm sorry you didn't dig it as much, though.

and you know i wish you b-day joy, right?
Jul. 18th, 2005 07:11 am (UTC)
Yes, thanks. :)
Jul. 18th, 2005 07:17 am (UTC)
If you tossed Davidson's Limekiller to someone who had just finished The Half Blood Prince and claimed that because they liked the latter, they'll like the former cause, fuck it, it's better... then you'd be suggesting to that person that they would find something similar in Davidson's work that was in Rowling's.

This is why I think genre is bunk. Saying that Shadow of the Torturer is fundamentally the same sort of thing as Conan Slaps the Darkies About Some More because they both have swords and supernatural events is just stupid.

Good writing is the only point of comparison that ever means anything. And yeah, adult writing at that - because even the most polished and clever children's book is ultimately a work deliberately devoid of texture, and that's what pumps my reading nads.
Jul. 18th, 2005 11:22 am (UTC)
i reckon you can still argue genre similarities, from the point of view that the wolfe book and the conan darkie slapping book (i love that) can use the similar genre perch as a starting point in a reader's mind. of course, i say this, perhaps with the argument that genre thus becomes nothing more than setting and costume. maybe it is. who knows anymore.

texture is love, though.
Jul. 18th, 2005 02:50 pm (UTC)
What bothered me more about the "read this instead" stuff was the elitism running from the words, and the frequent assumption made by posters that people who read J.K. Rowling don't know what "real" literature or good writing is. Hey, I was one of those who bought the book and read it on Saturday, but that hardly means that I was comparing The Half-Blood Prince to, say, Shakespeare.

(I also read Christopher Moore, and, I admit in shame, a very junk mystery novel. I read all kinds of things.)

I know what I'm getting when I read a Rowling book, and it isn't Avram Davidson (who I also read.) If I want to read Jane Austen, I read Jane Austen. If I want to read Rowling, I read Rowling.

Jul. 19th, 2005 05:45 am (UTC)
yeah, there is an arrogance in it, but it's flawed. those recommendations don't come free of personal relations, you know? but perhaps it's just cynical of me to suggest this. still. you know.
Jul. 18th, 2005 02:56 pm (UTC)
i just can't believe how many people got conned into joining the harry potter madness. a lot of these people come from the "i haven't read a book since high school" group and here they are picking up a book that's good, maybe great but not crash hot.

Jul. 19th, 2005 05:47 am (UTC)
i think there's a communal thing to reading harry potter. like watching a tv show--you can discuss it with your friends, you know? so i think a lot of people are bought in by that aspect, which i think might be the true key to being successful, in that it becomes something communal.
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