Marvin Olasky

These last two weeks have featured buckets of buzz about books: first Hillary Clinton's memoir, then Harry Potter. But so what?

Mrs. Clinton is not my favorite politician nor Master Potter my favorite literary character, but neither is the devil and neither is as big a deal as they might seem from reading newspapers or their 24-7 video and print brethren, cable news networks and most Internet blogs.

The new Potter book, Order of the Phoenix, is long -- 870 pages -- and full of new gadgets, creatures and wizard jokes, which author J.K. Rowling throws in whenever the narrative flags. Harry storms through most of the book, adolescent anger smoldering just below the surface, erupting often in angry outbursts directed at teachers and friends alike.

The book reads less like an epic tale of good versus evil than a boarding school story pitting a petty and vindictive teacher against a particularly promising student. Rowling provides enough gross-out humor and action to amuse young fans, but adults who have been touting the series as verbal wizardry should be ashamed

The best comment on Harry Potter that I've seen comes from an unusual blogger, Jeff Jarvis, who wrote: "It is accepted media wisdom that these long books are a good thing because they're getting kids to read them. Pardon me, but that's like saying that Mary Higgins Clark is good because it's getting middle-aged bon-bon eaters to read. They're not dissimilar."

Jarvis continued: "As narrative drama goes, Harry Potter sometimes displays the storytelling skill of a 6-year-old recounting a movie: This happened, then that happened, then this, then that. Resolution comes ... with a magic spell or medieval gizmo rather than through the dramatic conflict and examination of conscience of the characters. ... 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' is better dramatic fiction."


Marvin Olasky

Marvin Olasky is editor-in-chief of the national news magazine World. For additional commentary by Marvin Olasky, visit www.worldmag.com.
 
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