Bloom: Harry Potter is stupid crap; NYT is "counterculture"

Brad De Long delong at econ.Berkeley.EDU
Tue Jul 11 16:42:55 PDT 2000

>Wall Street Journal - July 11, 2000
>Can 35 Million Book
>Buyers Be Wrong? Yes.
>By Harold Bloom, a professor at Yale. His most recent book is "How
>to Read and Why" (Scribner, 2000).

I found Harold Bloom's denunciation of Harry Potter and of J.K. Rowling [in the July 11 _Wall Street Journal_] extremely sad.

It is not clear why Bloom denounces Harry Potter. While his manifesto is long on "I feel" words, it is short on examples and arguments. But he makes his distaste very clear: he speaks of her style "heavy on cliche," of the setting of the novels as "tiresome," of the author's lack of "an authentic imaginative vision." He denounces Harry Potter as leading and exemplifying the dumbing-down of culture in an age of "ideological cheerleaders who have so destroyed humanistic study." He concludes that the "millions of reader non-readers" who buy Harry Potter novels are simply "wrong."

Yet my ten-year-old brought home the latest Harry Potter last Saturday, inhaled the 720 page novel in four hours, and applauded it as "an excellent book." He has been turning its characters, episodes, and themes over in his mind ever since. He is eager to tell us of the book's events and incidents as his mind tracks back over what he read.

Note that we are not talking about some semi-literate "reader non-reader" here. Already in fourth grade he is the spelling champion of his *entire* elementary school. Piled on his bedside table right now are K.A. Applegate, _Elfangor's Secret_; Stewart Atchison, _A Wilderness Called Grand Canyon_; Aaron Allston, _Star Wars: X-Wing Iron Fist_; _Dorling-Kindersley Pocket Book of Cats_; E. B, White, _The Trumpet of the Swan_; Norman Schmidt, _Best Ever Paper Airplanes_; Walter Myers, _The Journal of Scott Pendleton Collins_; and John Muir, _The Mountains of California_--in addition, of course, to J.K. Rowling, _Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire_.

My ten-year-old has never heard of the "ideological cheerleaders" whom Bloom loathes so. He finds J.K. Rowling's style not cliche-ridden--remember: the first hundred times you read a cliche *it's not a cliche*--but vivid and readable. He finds the setting of a school for wizards not tiresome but intriguingly bizarre. And so he enters fully into J.K. Rowling's rich imaginative vision.

Why the difference between my ten-year-old's and Harold Bloom's reactions to Harry Potter? The first is a child, and loves to read. The second is not, and cannot recall if there was ever a time when he was one.

And that is very sad indeed.

Sincerely yours,

Brad DeLong

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