Review policy

Due to time pressures, I am unable to commit to reviewing books at the moment. However, please feel free to recommend or discuss by tweeting @MsTick68 or commenting on here. Thank you!

Monday 15 November 2010

Harry Potter and the Ivory Tower

This is not the post I was intending to write. I've been reading The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper, revelling in her descriptions of the Home Counties in winter, and reliving my memories of sitting in a temporary classroom at the age of 10 while my teacher, Mrs Stowell, read it to my class.More of that anon.

I am listening to Richard Bacon on BBC 5 Live. He is debating adults reading Harry Potter with screenwriter Charlie Fletcher, and Jonathan Myerson, lecturer in Creative Writing at City University. Jonathan Myerson wrote this in 2001. His premise is that adults reading Harry Potter are missing out on complexity of character- that in adult fiction no character is wholly bad or wholly good; that characters in adult fiction do go out to take over the world. Clearly, the man needs to spend some quality time with Ian Fleming. He also disliked Harry Potter as it is about wizards and magic, and not the "real world".

Charlie Fletcher disagreed. He is also the author of the Stoneheart trilogy, which I have added to my ever- lengthening list of books to read. (Please let me know what you think if you've read it!) He made the point that in Angela Carter novels and South American magical realism, magic does happen in the "real world", it is not only a metaphor: think of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years Of Solitude, where magic and haunting are treated both as "real" phenomena, depicting the Buendia family's fate to relive their lives, literally haunted by the mistakes they have made,  and as a device for portraying the history of Columbia.

Clearly a 24 minute debate, with two guests with such polarised views, is not the forum for considered academic debate. However, I was astonished to learn that Myerson has not in fact read a Harry Potter book (or indeed, it seemed, Philip Pullman, surely a writer that even the snootiest Creative Writing lecturer cannot deny writes novels of astonishing complexity). The reason that he felt qualified to comment on what he assumes is the simplistic world view of Harry Potter is that he has seen his children reading them. I found this  astonishing. This is akin to me going on national BBC radio to debate Homeric odes on the basis that I know that my dad studied classics at university. But also, how profoundly depressing that Myerson does not feel it important as an academic that he should test his theory by actually reading some popular children's literature. Maybe he should contact me; I'd be happy to guide his reading.


  1. I heard this discussion on the radio too - it was a wind up! The man struck me as extremely arrogant and not qualified to discuss the books or worthy of the air time. A lazy choice by radio 6 to give him the platform, classic 'dum down' that Bacon does. The recipe is 'take two people with EXTREME views and throw them together'. lazy programming.

  2. Thank you for commenting. Jonathan Myerson is entitled to his views, but I agree that it would have made a better programme to have had someone who had these views while having actually read one of the books!

  3. Well I loved the Harry Potter Books. I read the first five in one week (one a day) a few years ago when I had a week off work. I sat in the garden and turned every page with joy. I loved the characters and the plot - I was so excited - and couldn't wait to see what happened next. I liked the way the stories and the characters became darker and more complex as I read my way through the series. I can heartily recommed them to any child or adult (and often do) - age when I read them?...41!