Potter, that is.
With nearly everyone kvelling about the latest installment, I feel increasingly on the margin.
Out of the six books published so far, I've read none of them.
This comes as a surprise even to me. HP would seem to be a natural fit for me, a fan of Tolkien, Narnia and Dungeons and Dragons. A couple of years ago, I even reread The Phantom Tollbooth, with hours of pleasure. Naturally, as soon as a copy of HP and the Philosopher's Stone (that's the original British title, before it was corrupted by the American publisher) reached my hands, I opened it in anticipation and started to read.
I managed to plow through the first dozen pages or so before giving up.
Sure, it was clever, though not nearly as clever as its literary predecessors. But one characteristic of the book was so blatant I couldn't get past it to enjoy the story: It read like a children's book.
The language was oversimplified, with short sentences and simple vocabulary. However clever the story, the writing was unchallenging, as if it were targeted several years below the appropriate reading level. It was like a translation of television into print. Can't make kids work too hard or they'll turn on the Nintendo instead.
The American edition, aside from simplifying the title, even "translated" a host of British expressions unfamiliar to American children, lest the listless tykes be forced to use a dictionary, or Google.
When I read J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis as a kid, I had to stretch my mind to do it. I'm clearly not a kid anymore, but when I read HP as an adult, I felt Rowling was writing down to the level of her young fans, rather than challenging them to hone their reading skills.
Incidentally, I did see the film of the first book, and I got the same impression. It was styled as a children's movie, with all the subtlety and sophistication of a Disney cartoon. Less, even. How many times did we see the same shot of Harry, mouth agape and eyes popping in wonder at some new magical encounter?
There's nothing wrong with children's books or children's movies, to be sure. But with all the hype about Harry, I was expecting something a few steps beyond standard children's fare. Instead, I got the lowest common denominator of children's entertainment.
Am I being too harsh? I expect I might feel different if I had a 10-year-old to read it with.