here be dragons

Not to be a spoilsport, but the Harry Potter thing: I confess I am a bit nonplussed. Um. So, what’s the big deal again? Why Rowling, exactly? Why not the amazing Richard Adams or Susan Cooper or Alan Garner or Russell Hoban or Robin McKinley or Robert C. O’Brien or Patricia Wrightson, for example? Why not the great, very unjustly forgotten Joan Aiken, whose “All and More” was my first seriously overdue library book, the year I turned 8? Why, for God’s sake, not the world authority on schools of wizardry, the immortal (I hope) Ursula K. le Guin?

I mean, no disrespect to the Harry Potter fans and all. Rowling is, well, fine, she’s perfectly okay, and I’m as thrilled as anyone else to see Cody’s et al stuffed to the rafters with kids: more power to them. But these other writers, they’re the business, seriously, they’re the ones that made me want to write. It’s much more than that, they’re the ones that made me fall head-over-heels in love with the novel at the expense of all other art forms. Phrases of theirs still haunt me: “prince with a thousand enemies”, “the dark bright water”, “stone out of song”, “rules change in the Reaches”, pretty much every conversation between Tom and Jan in Red Shift, which is, God forgive us, out of print.

Hey wait a minute, I know what I sound like here: I sound exactly like all the REM fans who, when I fell in love with Automatic for the People, told me that the album sucked and that the band’s last decent work was Document or Green. I am, in other words, being indier-than-thou, which I swore I’d never be. So here’s the positive spin (per Grant: Features! Benefits!) If you like the Harry Potter series but feel vaguely disappointed with the latest installment, as it sounds like many critics already do, here are some other great works you may appreciate: Watership Down; The Dark is Rising; Red Shift and The Owl Service; Riddley Walker; The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword; Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, The Silver Crown and Z for Zachariah; The Nargun and the Stars, The Dark Bright Water and The Ice is Coming; The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and Black Hearts in Battersea; and above all, the jewel of my heart, the Earthsea series.

Here be dragons! Go, now! Read!

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