Mania - Over And Out

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Harry mania...and there may be more - Times Online

Readers are like cattle. Most of the time they �browse� contentedly. But, every so often, they stampede. There are innumerable examples of literary manias. Psychiatrists, for example, routinely refer to something called the �Werther Effect� � copycat suicide. So popular was Goethe�s 18th-century novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther, that all over Europe young men donned yellow trousers and shot themselves in the head, in imitation of Goethe�s doomed hero. The �Potter Effect�? On the Today programme, a young Pottermaniac, queueing at the witching hour, was recorded saying: �I�m so happy, I could die!� Not literary criticism, but mania. And, one must say, more fun than lit crit, even on the rainiest night of the year. Literary manias expire with horrible suddenness.... JOHN SUTHERLAND

On the same page Nicolette Jones gives her view of the final book, but I recommend in particular the Sutherland take on the whole Harry Potter saga, which has been, roughly speaking, ACHUKA's stance from the outset. Indeed, we have not been all that popular for failing to join the mania.

Of all the millions of books passed over counters yesterday, one wonders how many will actually be read from cover to cover. A good few of them, yes. (Of those bought at midinight, one would hope a large proportion). But I watched many familes grabbing their copies (in Waitrose, in W H Smith and in Waterstones) in the full ight of day and it looked more than ever to me as if people were simply grabbing the must-have thing. Bear in mind, large numbers of the children these books are being bought for will not have read the earlier Harry Potter books (though they may have seen the films).
My own experience of seeing primary children reading Harry Potter in school has been that the mania amongst children themselves was at its height about two-thirds of the way through the series. Tellingly, it is extremely rare to find children reading the books except around the time of publication or of film release. And then, because of the size of the books and the stamina required to get from cover to cover, it has only been a very small number of primary aged children who have actually read these books for themselves.
As Harry has got older so has the target audience. The Harry Potter effect on the reading habits of young teenagers has been dire. I was an ordinary enough 15 year old in the mid 1960s, and it is inconceivable to me that a fantasy like Harry Potter, either in book or film form, would have carried any credibility for me or my peer group. 15 year-olds "in my day" were reading George Orwell, Evelyn Waugh, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Alain-Fournier, Alan Sillitoe, Jack Kerouac, J. D. Salinger not to mention any number of contemporary poets and playrights, nearty all of whom were available on the shelves of small provincial libraries. I dread to think what I'd see, other than Harry Potter, on the shelf of a 15 or 16 year old reader in 2007.
Of course, the big difference between 1965 or even 1967 and 2007 is that in the intervening years, beginning with writers like Robert Cormier and Alan Garner, the genre of 'young adult' literature has come of age. Despite my championing of YA authors and titles over the years since ACHUKA was founded, there are VERY few such authors I'd recommend to a 15 year old in favour of the authors I was reading at that age.

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This page contains a single entry by achuka published on July 22, 2007 10:03 AM.

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