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Charlsie Kate

Don't get me wrong, I love the Harry Potter books, and I think they are amazingly entertaining. But in my opinion, the best part about Rowling's writing (besides the way she was able to incorporate a magical world full of broomsticks and black cats into the real world) is her dialog. The conversations her characters have with each other ring true - aand the witty banter makes the characters likable and entertaining.

Obviously Rowling is terribly imaginative. But I felt like some of her most powerful symbolism reminded me of things I've read other places. Like in the last book, when Harry encounters Dumbledore, and there is a creature there with them Harry wishes he could help, but who also repulses him, and Dumbledore tells him there is nothing that he can do - all I could think about was the ghosts in C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce, with Dumbledore coming down from the mountain to receive Harry, and Voldermort's soul being the helpless deformed creature who would never be able to bend the blades of grass or pick up an apple.

And the dead people in the water just reminded me of the dead people in dead marshes of the Lord of the Rings. Actually, the cave where Dumbledore takes Harry reminds me of Gollum's cave completely, with the treasure being safely hidden on the island in the middle where only gollum can reach it.

But then again, when that bridge collasped in minnesota last week all I could think was - VOLDERMORT IT BACK!

p.s. have you ever read C.S. Lewis' space trilogy? Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength? If not, pick them up, the last one, That Hideous Strength is amazing, it is the strongest example of Tolkien's influence on Lewis - the preface says - "Those who would like to learn further about Numinor and the True West must (alas!) await the publication of much that still exists only in the MSS. of my friend, Professor J. R. R. Tolkien." It was originally published in 1945.

Scott Scheule

I agree Rowling has a flair for dialogue--Dumbledore's is particularly realistic.

At any rate, I'm not sure what the good Scoplaw is demanding here. Apparently, he wanted more pubertal changes to hit the characters--but I think plenty of this goes on, in Harry for instance, who becomes downright embittered and angry midway through the cycle. Ron ends up with a gnawing jealousy of his friend. Hermione stays Hermione. But big deal--it's not character development that we're after per se, it's character depth.

And Rowling supplies this. Dumbledore and Snape are both made quite rich. Voltemort is strangely human. Harry doesn't want for individuality. Even Dudley's become interesting by the last book.

Now, to be sure, with the wide cast of characters some get short shrift, but ink and attention are scarce resources. Rowling uses what she has quite well.


Very much enjoying this post, and reading with curiosity having not explored H.Potter yet, although have seen the second movie. I know, I'm backwards!

(Charlsie, you've recommended my absolute favourite book...my copy of Perelandra is throughly dog-eared and love-scuffed! Hideous Strength does cleverly tie in the Arthurian legends and pagan mythology. I found it intriguing but at times felt like having it out with Lewis due to his sometimes simplistic portrayal of women and male/female relationships. Mind you, as you said it was published in the 40's, so no wonder!)

Charlsie Kate

Kat - you are so right - although some of my favorite quotes about men and woman are from that book! The first sentence is particularly entertaining -
"Matrimony was ordained, thirdly," said Jane Studdock to herself, " for the mutual society, help, and comfort that the one ought to have of the other."

Then there is the ridiculous part about how men and women can't work in the same kitchen together a man says - put this bowl up in that cabinet inside the blue bowl on the third shelf, and a woman says - put this up there in that on that. Ridiculous, but somewhat true.

Lewis was an interesting character.

Charlsie Kate

Oh, and Kat - you should definitely read the H.P books - they are too fun to ignore.


Sigh. I'm still more behind the 8-ball than I'd care to be, although things are going well. This would have been a conversation I'd have chipped in on a bit more had I the time (and a stable internet connection - that at least, was resolved yesterday.)


I have mixed feelings on Lewis, although Perelandra is one of the high water marks.

I think the 2nd HP film was probably the worst, actually, so if you got through that, the others are more rewarding.

And I still think that Rowling didn't write a bad series by any means, and I'm certainly glad so many kids read it. I don't think that I wasted my time by doing so either. However, I still don't think the characters don't actually evolve in situ - instead you get post hoc layering. It's a valid way to write, but compared to Prydain, or The Dark is Rising. . .

The Tolkien parallels, as Charlsie pointed out, are everywhere. Rowling is kind of in the Tolkien orbit, but she does not get sucked in nearly as much as others do (Brooks being a good example). But for that matter, the parallels with Nix's "Sabriel" are pretty strong (the Greater Dead Kerrigor v. Voldemort, the English school setting). So too the parallels with Prydain - Morda sealing his life into the piece bone which he then hides. . .

Anyway, sorry to do nothing but rehash, but I think I'll have to ramp back up to blogging, as I'm ramping up to work, cycling, and weaning myself off my bar-diet of red wine and ice cream.

Over, but not out,


Steve S

Brooks being a particularly egregious example, but really anyone in that Eddings/Jordan/whomever universe of mediocrities I enjoyed so much when I was younger.

It's interesting that you listed A Swiftly Tilting Planet, as that's where I gave up on the L'Engle books. Read A Wrinkle in Time in elementary school and liked it (though frankly much of it is way over the head of elementary kids), then read A Wind in the Door later on independently and loved it, probably would have ranked it among my top 10-20 favorite books for a while, and there were parts of it that scared the hell out of me. Then I tried to read A Swiftly Tilting Planet and never got into it or through it.

I'm trying to remember other excellent young adult fantasies with character growth: the John Christopher Tripods series is arguably SF but reads just as easily as fantasy, and Key's The Forgotten Door is another strong one. I think there's a lot of good stuff in the Narnia books as well, when he's not being too moralistic (or too dry and expository, as in The Magician's Nephew), but character growth is rather artificial. Lynne Reid Banks' The Indian in the Cupboard was pretty great, but the sequels got progressively sillier--definitely no growth there. Roald Dahl of course, though definitely no character growth there. He's just his own type of genius. Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth...now we're definitely into other territory.

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