Thursday, July 19, 2007


... it's only a few days until Harry Potter emerges. Oh, the joy. Seriously. I cannot wait. I just don't quite know what I'm going to do with friends / family / work until then. Seriously.

When I was in Madrid, many many years ago, an acquaintance somewhat berated me for reading Harry Potter; he didn't understand, he explained, when there was so much of the great literary canon to read, why you would spend time reading children's books. Today, Unsprung has a great article in riposte to that line of reasoning. However, I take issue with reading that being simply in response to the lack of leisure time US-dwellers have; why do adults in other parts of the world, such as France or Spain with their six weeks' annual leave, read them? (Hmm, having said that, never seen a French or Spanish adult reading them. Oops).

Anyway, I think we're delving into it too much; they're simply rollicking stories, even if the story-telling is not everything people would like it to be. I like them. Not everyone does; that's ok. Still, it's nice to not have reading be hard work all the time. It's not that one shouldn't reject the classics - they are so for a reason, even Wuthering Heights, and I am trying to to rectify my stultifying gap of that canon. It's just fine to balance them with something mindless, easy to manage and, quite frankly, fun. Because after something as dense, torturous and miserable as a Dostoyevsky, you want to relax. It's how I know I'm stressed when I didn't even realise it: I somehow end up coming home from the library with piles and piles of detective fiction. Further, there are those fab people who argue for reading for reading's sake, in general, and enjoying the lighter side of fiction - I wholeheartedly agree.

And for anyone who doesn't think children's books should be read by adults I have a few words for you: The His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman. It treats children like adults by according them respect and the ability to deal with death, God, existentialism and love. And those books are some of the few that I honestly re-visit every couple of years and continue to find something new, astonishing and beautiful about them every time. He also puts it best as to why we should read children's fiction:

We still need joy and delight, the promise of connection with something beyond ourselves. Perhaps children's literature is the last forum left for such a project.

So what, exactly, is wrong with that?

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