Stephen King claims that critics didn’t do the Harry Potter series justice. His main beef: “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?” (His italics.) Well, name one hard-core Harry Potter fan who didn’t wolf down the final book in quite the same way, The problem with King’s assessment is that he doesn’t exactly come across as the populist Lionel Trilling ready to atone for these apparent critical inadequacies — which, in indolent fashion, he does not cite. With King, we get such critical insights as “the Potter books grew as they went along,” “the hypnotism of those calm and sensitive voices, especially when they turn to make-believe,” and “[h]er characters are lively and well-drawn, her pace is impeccable.” I have long defended Danse Macabre as a thoughtful populist meditation on horror films and literature. But if King cannot offer examples from the text as to why Rowling’s voices work and if he must stick to Bart Simpson-style observations (to claim that the books “grew as they went along” is to simply observe the rising page count across the volumes) when he has about 1,800 words to rant, then he is clearly not the guy to fulminate on the subject. King made this exact speech before, actually suggesting that the works of John Grisham should be treated with some reverence. Such ridiculous posturing — particularly when it includes a repeat offender like Grisham (and I have read two of his books) — does all books a disservice. Is there not some middle ground whereby the critic can recognize the literary merits of a popular book while also recognizing egregious assaults upon the English language? (via Smart Books)
Speaking of disgraces along these lines, I have learned that Marilyn Stasio will be reviewing Rupert Thomson’s Death of a Murderer in this week’s NYTBR. My own considerable thoughts on this volume will hopefully be revealed later, but I’ll simply say that a book as complicated as this one really can’t be summed up in a capsule. Don’t tell this to the Tanenhaus crew, who regularly espies phrases like “mystery” and “science fiction” and immediately throws the tomes into the newspaper equivalent of Section 8 housing.
Well, if Stu Bykofsky is going to adopt such a hysterical polemic (he can’t be serious, can he?), I’d say that the best thing for America is to have a group of people beat the shit out of Bykofsky. And then once Bykofsky has recovered, another group can do this three thousand more times: one beating for every life lost during September 11th. The unity brought by all of these attacks, alas, won’t last forever. (What kind of sick bastard would write such a thing? I can’t be serious, can I?)
I can assure Bob Hoover that I’m not “safe and warm in the Carpathia.” But if bloggers are rescuing print journalists to some degree, I should remind Mr. Hoover that the Carpathia was sunk by a U-boat. That’s the thing about sailing out here on the waters and making waves. Nothing is impermeable, particularly when hubris and political diatribes replace reason while maintaining the ship.
Elton John wants to shut down the Net. Personally, I think it would be more beneficial if the Net found a way to shut down Elton John. His extraneous position has been tolerated by music listeners now for far too long. The time has come to deactivate him. (via Books Inq.)