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Harry Potter's Bookshelf: The Great Books behind the Hogwarts Adventures Paperback – July 7, 2009
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Summary is used sparingly but effectively. Even "literature geeks" who have read all these books and written papers on them will not find these sections tedious, and they may find handy reminders. Granger frequently unlocks useful insights with his characteristically friendly and accessible "voice." Readers familiar with Granger will not be surprised to see points on alchemy and on Rowling's unique twists on post-modernism, but those who have not read Granger's other works may now be tempted to go further into his work, like the Deathly Hallows Lectures, after getting hints of those topics here.
The text is well documented with readable apparatus, but an index would be nice. This is a valuable addition for any bookshelf of Potter studies, appealing both for novice readers and serious literature geeks. The text will not only help Potter readers to learn more about Rowling's world, but may very well be the key to lead them to read and enjoy the contents of the "compost heap" of literature that influenced Rowling; they may even find this book a safe path into the sometimes intimidating world of literary criticism. Don't worry about the Restricted section; the whole library is a wide-open wonderland with Harry and John Granger.
But this book does much more than pay respects to Rowling's excellent artistry in "rowling" together various genres, themes and ideas. It teaches us to think about what it means to be good readers, of Harry Potter and of countless other great books, and what it means to let our experience as readers change us. In his forthright, non-jargony writing style, Granger provides HP enthusiasts with teaching on symbolist literature and how it can and should be profitably read on four levels: the surface, moral, allegorical, and anagogical levels. He explains how this kind of reading, which used to be commonplace, is rarely now understood. And he looks at the Harry Potter books, in light of the great books that came before them, on all four of these levels.
If you've never deeply considered Harry Potter's literary family tree, which includes Dickens, Austen, Bronte, Stoker, Shakespeare, Swift, Chaucer, Goudge and Lewis, you will find much literary food for thought in this excellent guidebook. If I had to choose favorites, the chapters on Gothic elements in Harry Potter (Snape as Heathcliff and Harry as gothic "hero/ine") and on the alchemical scaffolding of the HP books are especially golden, but there is much to mine in every single chapter as we consider the amazing artistry of Rowling the postmodern symbolist.
I have no doubt that teachers wanting to mine the literary riches of Harry Potter with their students will be especially delighted with this book. Readers already familiar with Granger's work will find these ten chapters an excellent distillation of some of his most important teaching on narrative voice, postmodern literary characteristics, the hero's journey, literary alchemy and more. If these themes and Granger's work are new to you, I encourage you to step from the chapters you find fascinating here into some of his earlier books, especially "How Harry Cast His Spell," and "The Deathly Hallows Lectures."
A must have book for any Harry Potter fan who wants to know the WHY behind how Ms. Rowling was able to entice millions of reader down the rabbit hole into the magical world of Hogwarts, and then keeps you in this magical "wonderland" throughout the Potter series.
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