Stephen King Rails Against Deathly Hallows Reviewers

Stephen King has a really interesting article in this week’s Entertainment Weekly (issue #948, August 17, 2007) called J.K. Rowling’s Ministry of Magic in which he slams early critics of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, has some very good things to say about the book and J.K. Rowling, and talks about the state of kids’ literature.

Here’s an excerpt:

The problem with the advance reviews — and those that followed in the first post-publication days — is one that has dogged Rowling’s magnum opus ever since book 4 (Goblet of Fire), after the series had become a worldwide phenomenon. Due to the Kremlin-like secrecy surrounding the books, all reviews since 2000 or so have been strictly shoot-from-the-lip. The reviewers themselves were often great […] but the very popularity of the books has often undone even the best intentions of the best critical writers. In their hurry to churn out column inches, and thus remain members of good standing in the Church of What’s Happening Now, very few of the Potter reviewers have said anything worth remembering. Most of this microwaved critical mush sees Harry — not to mention his friends and his adventures — in only two ways: sociologically (”Harry Potter: Boon or Childhood Disease?”) or economically (”Harry Potter and the Chamber of Discount Pricing”). They take a perfunctory wave at things like plot and language, but do little more…and really, how can they? When you have only four days to read a 750-page book, then write an 1,100-word review on it, how much time do you have to really enjoy the book? To think about the book? Jo Rowling set out a sumptuous seven-course meal, carefully prepared, beautifully cooked, and lovingly served out. The kids and adults who fell in love with the series (I among them) savored every mouthful, from the appetizer (Sorcerer’s Stone) to the dessert (the gorgeous epilogue of Deathly Hallows). Most reviewers, on the other hand, bolted everything down, then obligingly puked it back up half-digested on the book pages of their respective newspapers. […] The blogs, by and large, haven’t been much better.

Further along, he talks about how kids are reading beyond Harry Potter.

…reading was never dead with the kids. Au contraire, right now it’s probably healthier than the adult version, which has to cope with what seems like at least 400 boring and pretentious ”literary novels” each year. While the bigheads have been predicting (and bemoaning) the postliterate society, the kids have been supplementing their Potter with the narratives of Lemony Snicket, the adventures of teenage mastermind Artemis Fowl, Philip Pullman’s challenging His Dark Materials trilogy, the Alex Rider adventures, Peter Abrahams’ superb Ingrid Levin-Hill mysteries, the stories of those amazing traveling blue jeans. And of course we must not forget the unsinkable (if sometimes smelly) Captain Underpants. Also, how about a tip of the old tiara to R.L. Stine, Jo Rowling’s jovial John the Baptist?

Good stuff!

7 thoughts on “Stephen King Rails Against Deathly Hallows Reviewers”

  1. My eldest finished off HP7 and started on Golden Compass. The youngest is now reading HP4 after starting the whole series a couple of weeks ago.

    In the past they’ve devoured books by Duncan Ball, Andy Griffiths, Morris Gleitzman, Juliet Marillier, etc (an Aussie bent because that’s where we live.)

    The Andy Griffiths book signing I went to a year or so back had a gazillion kids lined up for several hours, all clutching copies of his books and chattering with excitement.

    So don’t tell me reading is dead amongst kids. Sure, there are many who stick with the Playstations and Gameboys, but there are also many adults who watch TV a lot. Nobody said EVERYONE had to read, even though it’s a shame they’re not.

  2. Andy Griffiths wrote a kids book about his bum?

    I for one am very impressed with Stephen King. His unabashed love of the craft, his contributions to it, and his defense of others trying to do the same is what makes him one of the best authors of my lifetime.

  3. Not his bum, it was a kid in the book. Zombie Bums from Uranus was another one, and it was also wildly popular over here.

    And regarding Stephen King, his book ‘On Writing’ should be required reading for every creative writing degree on the planet. It’s a great biography even if you DON’T write.

  4. I admit, it’s very hard to review a book you’ve rushed through. That’s one reason I’m glad I review online rather than for a name publication—I can take as long as I need to with a book, and write a review of whatever length is appropriate to what I have to say about a book. I can’t imagine trying to review a Potter book for the most part. What could you say that hasn’t already been said? I don’t envy the reviewers who are supposed to do it.

  5. Suits ruin reviews. Truly, when (other than here where we aren’t marketing driven…. yet… John, do you even own a suit?) have you read a review from one of the BIG SUIT GUYS that wasn’t pandering to some marketing agenda? I actively seek out the “little guy” reviews just so I can hopefully get a fair shakedown on a book/CD/movie/game.

    What don’t “suits” ruin? I imagine “suits” ruin actual suit (apparel) reviews!?! :-@

    On point: Harry Potter 7 was excellent! Now I need to go find this book King wrote on writing books!

  6. Most of the “HP7 Day 1″ reviews were either very poor or mostly trying to gain traffic or buzz by revealing spoilers. Reviewers who tell others how a book or movie ends should be shot, and then drawn and quartered (or they could be quartered, shot, then drawn…etc.).

    And I agree with Mr. King and all of the above. All 7 HP books have been a great experience for my son and myself to read together or separately.

    My son who is now a junior in high school, in addition to the Artimis Fowl’s and Lemony Snickets has raced through R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt novels, and even tackled Dan Simmons Illium and Olympos, two gargantuan books he devoured with no hesitation.

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