JK Rowling is without a doubt one of the most influential authors in the world. Despite whatever critics say about her work, twenty years from now parents will read Harry Potter to their children and remember it as a book they loved from their childhood, something to share and pass on, the way people have passed on Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and Anne of Green Gables. If I had children, it would be the first two, not the third (which I’ve never read), The Great Brain series, the works of Jack London and Gordon Korman’s Bruno and Boots series, which he wrote the first book for when he was in grade 7.
Those books we read and loved as children stay with us over the years. Perhaps it’s because we read them at an age where it was still possible to believe a magic world was waiting on the other side of a wardrobe. Perhaps it’s because the greatest thing about being a child is having the ability to escape from the harsh realities of the real world without having the same experience of those realities that most adults have had to face, and returning to those books is like returning to a gentler time in our lives, when things weren’t so complicated.
Whatever the reasons, things we grow to love as children do stay with us. And for this reason alone, I admire JK Rowling.
Okay, so I haven’t read the books. I have read a few reviews, so I’m aware of the criticisms. I’m an author, so I’m aware of the jealousy factor. I didn’t read the books for a variety of reasons. One is that I have a bit of an aversion to anything too popular. I tend to catch on to things in syndication. Northern Exposure, for example. I’ve seen more of Seinfeld and Friends as repeats than I ever did when they were actually on air.
Another reason is that, limited as my reading time is, I’ve chosen to focus on the genre I write in with most of my reading. This was necessary over the past few years as I covered a lot of ground and explored the genre.
And then there’s the part of you that gets sick of hearing about it. Much the same reason I never read Dan Brown.
I do think it’s fair to say that deep down, every author wants some recognition for their work, and they’d like to be successful. And so it’s fair to say that some of the most popular best-selling authors out there – John Grisham, Michael Crichton, James Patterson, Dan Brown, JK Rowling – find themselves often on the outside, alienated from their peers to some degree. (I haven’t read any of them, btw.)
There’s a really interesting opinion piece in the Scotsman on the topic of Rowling resentment. It got me thinking, not so much about JK Rowling, but about why it is we’re suspicious of success. We seem to have this idea that anyone too successful must have sold their soul to Satan, be involved in witchcraft, have slept their way up the ladder, or have good access to blackmail material. We seldom trust success.
I think this is especially true when success comes quickly. We hear the stories, how Grisham couldn’t get a publisher so sold his first book out of the trunk of his car then got a movie deal, thus doing an end-run around the publishing business. Boom, instant success, right? Only in our eyes, because we heard of him after he had a movie deal and then got scooped up by a publisher. Hardly instant for him.
But it’s enough to persuade some to try self-publishing, vanity presses, anything, to get out there… Because perhaps they’ll catch on the same way. And if they don’t, then it’s easy to look at the ones who did make it and resent them.
A great thing I heard from another author: No other author’s success diminishes my own.
I’m not in competition with JK Rowling. If anything, I owe her my thanks. She has encouraged children to be passionate about books. My niece and nephew were at a midnight costume party for the book launch. Children going to book launches. That’s fantastic, because years from now a lot of those children are going to be adult readers. They’ve experienced the magic of the written word, what it is to be caught up in a story, and that will stay with them.
So, although I’ve read the spoilers, and then read a few of the reviews, Harry Potter mania isn’t much of an event for me, personally, but I do appreciate what she’s done for the book industry.
And I hope the reports of her potential new writing project are correct. Whatever she does, all the best to her. Whether you like it or not, JK Rowling has left her mark on the literary world.
Although I think my niece now admits to liking Eragon a bit better… Of course, that may be a defense mechanism, to be less upset by the end of HP.
But if you want a different view on the brouhaha, read the July 20 entry here. (No direct links to posts on this blog, so you may have to scroll down.) Just don’t drink anything before you read.