Customer Review

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Worst of a really bad subgenre, August 13, 2001
This review is from: Beacham's Sourcebook For Teaching Young Adult Fiction: Exploring Harry Potter (Hardcover)
This is the worst of a flurry of milk-the-Harry-Potter-craze books, surpassing the pathetic JK Rowling biography and the abysmal "We Love Harry Potter!" book. Padded with pseudo-intellectualism, every strained comparison and mythical nuance, it drones on for about 500 pages on topics that have very little to do with Harry Potter. If you don't take it seriously, it has a certain comedy value--because it DOES take itself seriously. Riddikulusly so.
The uneasy feeling began when I read "NOT approved by JK Rowling" on the cover, and was compounded when I read the introduction: "Harry represents an archetypal hero who would have been as familiar to ancient Greeks as he is to modern suburbanites." (And I may be mistaken, but I thought the plural of kibbutz was kibbutzim. Editor, please?) It immediately launched into stuff about Harry Potter merchandise, fans, newspaper and movies. It also, rather sneeringly, goes over the people with concerns about Harry Potter comments, as well as lumping them all into "conservative Christian" category (which is inaccurate, as I've met Jews, Muslims, atheists who were anti-HP) and apparently dismissing their concerns.
The book is tiresome for a long while, engaging in media name-dropping and burbling about the various prestigious shows that JKR has been on and all the awards the books have won. The author also feels it necessary to go over the various words that might be too tough for the uneducated masses ( "foreshadowing"; "Beatles"; "anomaly"; "Rolls Royce"...) Oh, and there are spiky, unattractive pictures scattered through the book.
After about forty pages of such drivel, we finally get to the actual content on the books and characters. Unfortunately, the book is so bogged down by pseudo-intellectualism and the obsession with symbolism that any coherency (not to mention rationality) is rapidly lost. After a few pages of actually talking normally, the author felt it necessary to start off by explaining the significance of the names. Though some undoubtedly have meaning ("Lupin," for one) they then degenerate into talking about how Hedwig inspires Harry, and theorizing that Crookshanks, rather than just being a bow-legged cat, is named after the fantasy illustrator George Cruikshanks.
We are also given material that will put any 9-12 student to sleep, as well as many adults. The book cheerfully gives us a geography lesson on the UK, and a long listing of seeming irrelevent Greek mythology. Then King Arthur, then fairy tales. These send the author into a new spin of babbling: "Only the arrival of the Dementors [...] rouses him from his unconscious stupor, but ironically the Dementors' Kiss, an act in the normal world that represents warmth, causes the complete absence of a person's conscience as in the Kiss of Judas."
Other examples of pathetically strained thinking are: the connecting of Dudley's name with Dudlachd, the winter months of Scotland; the connecting of Celtic holidays with Hogwarts' Halloween party; respect of elders is equated with ancestor worship (WHAT?); Harry's infant swaddling of blankets is compared to Moses's basket (it stops just short of saying "Harry is Christ!"); and claiming that Dumbledore is similar to Merlin (somehow he strikes me as a watered-down Gandalf...).
I hate to offend anyone, but frankly NO BOOK ON EARTH has this much symbolism and interwoven meaning in it. Not even Lord of the Rings. The fact that the book was not approved by JK Rowling indicates that her thoughts and intents were never consulted. This person is simply loading what would be a slim volume with pseudo-intellectualism and a lot of babble, drawing from every source with even an imaginary connection to HP. (I can't imagine that when Rowling wrote of baby Harry in a bunch of blankets, she was thinking of Moses)
I give it one star for being entertaining. It's so ridiculously earnest that it comes across as comedic. It's silly, overworked and overburdened with information that does not have anything to do with its sources. So, read it for the comedic value and a good laugh or two. As a genuine work of "exploration," it's a dismal flop.
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E. A Solinas "ea_solinas"
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Location: MD USA

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