SK on HP

I agree with nearly everything Stephen King says about the Harry Potter books. (The one exception is that while he’s right that “sometimes – often, really – the magic does go away”, I think of it as a tragedy rahter than a normal part of life.)

Another thing he says makes me feel a bit better, or at least in better company. It’s a truism among a lot of people who are serious about writing that Rowling is not particularly good at it. If they love her books, it’s in spite of that; if they hate them it’s because the prose is too “klunky” (a frequent-used word) and the characters and plot too derivative to keep them hooked. I can’t complain about the second batch; if you’re not hooked you’re not, and to read the book would be useless and unnecessary torture. And I agree with the first batch that a plot and characters that keep you hooked and following breathlessly in their wake can overcome a lot of technical issues, as long as no infelicity hits so hard as to flip you off the hook.

But I have to confess something: all that “klunky” prose? I never noticed. Her metaphors and descriptions generally work for me, they don’t go on long enough to lose me, and her prose works for me as a clear window to the story rather than (as in more avowedly lit’ry works) art glass that distorts and veils the view or (as in books so badly written that I can’t read them) a dirty window that obscures it. I’ve read so often that Rowling’s writing is bad that I’d begun to assume that if it didn’t bother me I must just be an uncritical hick never to have noticed the glaring flaws. That’s part of the truth; I am an uncritical hick on some matters of writing style, and another part is that quite a few of the people whose blogs I read, who have criticized Rowling’s style are not average readers, but are themselves writers or critics who study their craft carefully, who take a professional lens to flaws.

(I’m not saying I can’t see any flaws in her work; the pacing of the middle of Book 7 is one that springs instantly to mind. There’s a big difference between “flawed”, as any human is flawed, and “bad”.)

I don’t think Stephen King is considered a great stylist himself, though I also don’t think people who know about writing scorn his work the way they do some bestselling authors. Still, I am pleased to have his company in the camp of those who love Rowling’s work without a “But-” attached.

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1 Response to SK on HP

  1. l'empress says:

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say Rowling’s writing is bad. I don’t care if it’s not perfect; she has some wonderful turns of phrase that we love. I enjoy some invented words that talk to my experience with languages; I’m sure you do too.

    I had finished the book and begun writing about it just before my husband got sick. I can’t remembe a thing I had to say… (But he’s gonna be fine.)

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