The Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows discussion over on Pandagon – The Life and Loves of Severus Snape – is a thing to be hold, weighing in a something like 892 comments so far (including mine, added below the fold here).
Including some excellent dissection of the book, the series, the author, and an interesting discussion of its place in Great Literature of The Ages that is the only subject I responded to after enduring several pompous lectures on the subject from a twenty year old calling himself “Opoponax.” Snore. You’re not the first guy to read Joyce in the history of the world, kiddo.
The one thing I wrote, which may or may not make the cut as far as comments go:
opoponax: “The fact that many people in this thread don’t know that “serious” literary authors like Dickens were once considered writers of very well crafted popular “fluff” is telling…”
From what I can see by scanning the entirety of the 891 comments so far, only one person stated they weren’t aware of that. That’s not “many.” This is a pretty good example of why people are reacting badly to your comments, opoponax. You’ve made a few assumptions about others in the thread, and some of pronouncements about what constitutes quality that seem to be based more on your personal opinions than on ideas that are universally accepted as true.
I’m 39, and in that time I’ve read every single author that you have mentioned in this thread so far, plus a lot of others that are considered “classic” or “canon” by various teachers and professors over the years. Like many people here, I do differ with you on many points about what constitutes great literature. There are quite a few authors (some of whom you mentioned) who are extraordinary examples of literary craft, that I’d say should be considered “canon” but frankly, only for people who are English majors interested in achieving a complete understanding of fine literature.
For others, there’s not really a point in reading them other than as a cure for insomnia, just as I’d recommend reading the Chilton, Haynes or Bentley manuals for your vehicle only if you’re interested in actually taking your car apart – otherwise the driver’s manual from your glovebox is probably all you need to really have a rewarding driving experience.
Of these, I’d say especially Joyce, Proust and Thomas Mann are good examples, and for most people, Faulkner, although I like him a lot. On the other hand, no one can go wrong with Austen, Shakespeare (performed in addition to being read) and Fitzgerald, to name a few worthies that everyone should enjoy.
Hemingway… After reading The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, The Old Man and the Sea and A Moveable Feast (all against my will) #8 on my list of “Things To Do When I Finally Invent That Time Machine” is “find Ernest Hemingway in his crib as a child and strangle him before he discovers pen and paper.”
I think it’s interesting that Dickens and his serialization came up, for a couple of reasons. One of them is that he was serialized in chapter form, which is quite noticable when you read some of his novels, because they… lurch forward in places, and sometimes meander strangely, probably because of the format for which they were written. Also, a couple of Dicken’s books are really not that great, frankly, but he’s fun, so people are inclined to be forgiving.
Dickens is probably the closest author I’d compare Rowling to, actually, because of the serialization, the mass popularity, and the rich and imaginative characters. He may have been “fluff”in his day, but many of his novels have stood the test of time, and I think Rowling will also, and not just because of the wild popularity, which is a factor that you’re discounting too heavily, I think, but because of the other reasons I mentioned.
You compared Rowling to some children’s authors – Lewis is charming for children but doesn’t stand up for adults the way Rowling has, and other people’s criticism of the crappier books in the series is dead on, I think. Tolkien was meant to be a movie all along. Like C.S. Lewis for Madeleine L’Engle, Judy Blume, Beverly Clearly, or Roald Dahl – any appeal they have to adults is nostalgia-fest for adults who read them as children. Hand them to any adult who didn’t read them as kids and they’d look at you strangely when finished.
Of course, all of my statements are subjective opinions, not pronouncements from On High, based on my beliefs about what I’ve read, and what I have gleaned about the reading habits of others, be they English majors or “unwashed masses.”