Byatt said: “It is written for people whose imaginative lives are confined to TV cartoons, and the exaggerated (more exciting, not threatening) mirror-worlds of soaps, reality TV and celebrity gossip.”
For me, one of the strongest indications that she may be correct in saying that would be the story I read in the copy of the Daily Star that the guy next to me on the train was reading this morning. The basic thrust of the article was something along the lines of “snobby author thinks you’re thick but she’s wrong”, backing this up with facts like a comparison between the sales of Possession and the Potter books, as if sales have anything to do with literary value.
Personally, I never really bought into the Potter thing, and reading some of the first book recently did nothing to change my mind; I find the whole thing rather depressing actually, but I don’t want to drag up the old “it’s just a children’s book” argument here. Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with reading a children’s book; the problem is if that’s the only book you read, which somewhat negates the “but it gets people reading” argument, but I digress.
Anyway, I continue to be amazed by the sheer number of people reading the massive new book. Everytime I get on the train and think that no one is reading it, I look up the other end and sure enough someone is. I mean, I struggled to cart Underworld around for weeks, and that’s nothing compared to the Rowling’s huge hard-backed yellow opus.
So, in honour of Richard Herring’s number plate game (for he, too has seen through the Potter lies), I propose a new game: the Harry Potter game; it’s open to anyone making regular train or bus journeys across any major city in the UK (or further afield I suppose). The object of the game is to see how many people you can spot on any given carriage of a tube/train/bus reading the book at the same time. I think my best so far is 6. Can you do better? Answers on a guestbook or the back of a stuck down email…
Oh, and you’ll need a flask of weak lemon drink.