Harry Potter Readers Are Stupid

I won’t lie, when I first read this it made me so mad! This is a blog post that has inspired mass debate (and hysteria) and I think it is clear to see why… Robert Bruce over at 101 Books posted an excerpt of an interview given by A.S. Byatt in 2003 (author of Possession), where she claims, among other things, that Harry Potter “…is written for people whose imaginative lives are confined to TV cartoons, and the exaggerated (more exciting, not threatening) mirror-worlds of soaps, reality TV and celebrity gossip.”

Where do you stand on this issue? Do you think Harry Potter is over-rated and for the “simple minded” or do you think it is one of the greatest stories of our time?

101 Books

So says A.S. Byatt, author of Possession. I’m paraphrasing.

The more I read about A.S. Byatt, the less likeable she seems.

Last week, we talked about her dismissiveness of bloggers and social media. This week, let’s talk about how much she dislikes Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling. How fun!

Byatt comes across as the quintessential book snob. The complex, fantastical world of Harry Potter isn’t good enough for her. J.K. Rowling is just a simpleton, parroting old clichés.

This comes from an op-ed Byatt wrote for the New York Times in 2003.

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9 comments

  1. I personally loved the Harry Potter series and the books appeared on the reading list for a module I did on my Literature degree. If they were just for the simple-minded I doubt they’d be getting the academic attention they’re receiving now

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    1. I am a massive HP fan (I maybe should have made that clearer in the post?!), and I’ve seen that there are academic courses on the study of HP (where was I when this was happening?!). There really is an incredible depth to the novels, from names and meanings to the sheer volume of background work JK Rowling did on each character (there’s an old documentary floating about where she had actual files and folders full of “information” on each character). I think the movie adaptations are also a testament to her work, as they stayed pretty true to the novels and translated very well on the big screen. Perhaps this is a case of jealousy on behalf of A S Byatt?? R x

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      1. Oh don’t worry I felt the Harry Potter love oozing out of this post, it’s one of the reasons I chose to comment 🙂

        And I completely agree! It would be impossible for the movies and subsequent theme parks to have such depth to them without all the initial work J. K. Rowling put in. When I studied the books it was amazing just how many themes the books cover!

        Maybe A. S. Byatt should turn her hand to the genre of children’s fantasy writing, I think she’d soon change her views.

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      2. *Phew*

        Glad the HP obsession came across accurately! I haven’t studied the books in any great detail (other than reading them at least 10 times each and watching any documentary I could get my hands on) but the sheer amount of research and time that went into creating that world was crazy, even names of small-part characters were rarely picked out of thin air, they always had an underlying meaning and were related to one of the main themes in some way, for a book for young children who are, at that age, practically oblivious to undertones and hiding meaning, is phenomenal.

        I wonder if A.S Byatt genuinely feels this way about the HP books (in which case we are all entitled to an opinion…even if it is wrong! Joking, sort of) or if she would change her opinion today seeing that over 10 years later they have to be one of the most talked about, most read and most watched stories ever… The original article was written in 2003, which from memory was when the HP mania was starting to gather speed (HP and the Order of the Phoenix was out that year) so maybe it was just a case of sour grapes…

        R x

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      3. I think reading the series 10+ times counts towards some sort of study in my opinion, or dedication at the very least!

        I think authors, generally speaking, court controversy whenever they have a book to promote. So maybe Byatt had a closer to home motive for critiquing Harry Potter?

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  2. A.S.Byatt is a literary giant.She won the Booker Prize and many other awards.She was listed in 2008 by Times as one of the greatest British writer since the 20th century.I think sooner or later she’ll also win a Nobel Prize.Although I totally disagree with her,I don’t think she has another motive behind her statement.

    People who haven’t read any HP book will never understand the appeal of this series.They look down on HP readers and think they are just people who follow the mass.I was 13 or something when I started reading HP and it is this book which introduced me to the world of reading.I was excited every time I heard that a volume was to be released! I was lost in Rowling’s world and I’m thankful for that! How many ”Potterheads” are known avid readers thanks to Rowling? Millions I bet!

    As I said in my last post,I don’t care if J.K.Rowling’s prose is rubbish or if her work is poor,what matters the most is what she gave us! I will never forget my time reading the HP series when I was a little boy! I rank her next to A.A.Milne (Winnie the Pooh) and J.M.Barrie (Peter Pan),to cite only these two.She has given created and given us magic,and she’ll forever be remembered for that!

    Funnily enough,there’s this hypocrisy that I can’t stand.People who read Lord of the Rings usually are the ones who look down on HP readers.I remember one day a guy who is a big fan of Lord of the Rings calling HP ‘literary garbage’! And he was seconded by the teacher! Likewise you barely see any renown author saying bad things on J.R.R.Tolkien.The latter was denied a Nobel Prize because his prose was very very poor and heavy! Even the Tolkien fans know this,but won’t admit it! I bet if J.K.Rowling and Tolkien had written their series in each other’s time, people would be idolizing Rowling and bashing on Tolkien….

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  3. I just read three academic articles on the Harry Potter series. I’m guessing much of the academic attention is due to the massive popularity of the series (just like with The Hunger Games), but massive popularity happens for a reason! The elite can have their exclusivity if it makes them feel superior at night, as long as the rest of us realize that the elite can only maintain their status as elite if they make themselves exclusive. Bashing a popular series is just a way to justify snobbery. Psh.

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    1. Hey Tara,

      Do you have links for any of the articles?? I’m so jealous that people study HP!! I had to do Frankenstein… I spotted a book by a UK professor a while ago that went into the novels in great detail and was meant to pick it up. I agree, the attention is obviously because it has become such a big deal and also I think because of the sheer complexity of J. K. Rowling’s writing, I don’t think laypeople always recognise that and give her enough credit, girl did her research! Haha I love your last comment!! Book snobs are a massive pet peeve of mine! I may boycott A. S. Byatt, power to the people!

      By the way, I was nosying at your new site a few days ago and stumbled upon your “Best of” section. I was hooked. I’m pretty sure I read them all. Love your posts, your blog was a big inspiration for me to go ahead and put up my own – so thanks! 🙂 R x

      R x

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