How is it JK’s poorly written and conceived stories have grown into a worldwide industry? To begin with there is the average of five clichés a page and a plethora of ungrammatical sentences in her children’s tomes. Her prose style is plodding and pedestrian. I welcome creative writing and new sentence construction. I’m keen to learn and use new words. I don’t mind ungrammatical sentences if constructed as experiments but you won’t find that artistry in her children’s books.
Conventional adventures plus science fiction
Her plots are unoriginal and predictable. There is little if any suspense. Intellectual stimulation is skin deep. You cry out for the cleverness of Alice in Wonderland, or even the genteel anthropomorphism of Winnie the Pooh! The subtleties in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are infinite compared to anything of JK’s, and they relate to adult attitudes as well as fat, greedy children.
I guess she caught the adolescent zeitgeist. I’m just sad I wasted hours attempting to read her books. I did my best once, in Waterstone’s café section, reading all day. Friends reminded me I had a life.
I had the same trouble with Tolkien’s prose in his Lord of the Rings saga, particularly his turgid poetry, but in Tolkien’s stories lay real substance, parallels with the genesis of the First World War, the motivations and nations that got us into that tragic conflict.
The wisdom in Rowling’s novels is of the apple pie variety. Lines such as, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities,” leap off the page, clunky, and risible. The film adaptations lift her work from the slow-moving and the mundane to something close to entertaining and camouflage the vapid dialogue.
Only bad sentimentality allowed
Rowling’s pages ooze with sickly sentimentality. Teachers are either horribly cruel, or unbelievably incompetent. Pupils are given to lying at the mere drop of a question, and none are punished. It does not take long for the adult reader to hate that carbon copy public school oik Harry Potter, yet another fictional orphan of no fixed abode. You understand why so many publishers turned down her first manuscript.
Potter is perpetually obsessed with revenge, aided by his school mates, usually against the sharp tongue of Lord Voldemort, or whatever school bully is the latest thug of the day. In fact, there is a lot of violence in her stories, pupil on pupil, fantastic creature on pupil, but real world physical abuse, sexual or otherwise, the sort of thing we know goes on in English boarding schools, there is not a mention. Though there are female pupils and teachers there’s strong whiff of the misogynist in the behaviour of her characters.
Rowling is writing exclusively for children giving them a false idea of adult behaviour. She panders to their innocence, not educate them to handle situations, peers, and adults better though she thinks she does. Her stories encourage childlike dreams of flying.
A very English public school without the sex
The wizardry is of the primary classroom type, nothing pagan, nothing religious, more dressing up for a Morris Dance or Halloween’s trick or treat. There is not much comfort to be had from her characters. They are two dimensional. There are grumpy, mean spirited humans, the kind she thinks make up most Scots. And there are boisterous wizards. The rest is cinematic special effects.
There is no symbolism or metaphor. Uncritical fans will inject what meaning they want. In short, Rowling makes no demands on her readers. She doesn’t illustrate real life situations, nor teaches clear ethics only, that most things can be resolved by threatening violence or actually carrying out violent acts.
This reader is left with the nagging suspicion that, for all her air brushed public persona, Rowling might not be a pleasant person to know.
Fantastic Beasts and smart mothers
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, written as an original screenplay by J.K, is an expansion of her Harry Potter universe, and a test, it does without Potter and his ever aging school chums. JK, ever the commercial operator, realises her audience has grown up with the actors playing the roles, and turns now to an older age group.
The Potter oeuvre has reached industrial level, sagging under the weight of its output. As film plots go it’s a mess; actors running and chasing in all directions for no visible reward. Eddie Redmayne looks on the verge of a nervous breakdown most of the time.
I am not the only person to resist the allure of Rowling. Purchasing some book as gifts from my local book shop I hesitated at the Potter shelves. A voice behind whispered, “Step away from the crap. She has enough money.” The woman behind smiled briefly and moved on … as I did.
Pride and prejudice
Nothing I argue will alter her popularity. Her success is a phenomenon. She has the unwavering backing of global companies and movie studios that make millions from her work. Politicians genuflect before her, sycophantic journalists promote her. A whole generation of British actors pay their mortgage from employment in film adaptations, and now a theatrical play. Few if any actor will step out of line to admit ‘It’s only a living’.
Rowling is a public figure ready and willing to dent Scotland’s constitutional plans; anything remotely populist is to be denounced unless its JK Rowling’s populism. Her books are toffee apples, the thick sugar leaving you with nothing but toothache. Buoyed by her wealth, she has become that terrible thing, un monstre sacré, a sacred monster.
NOTE: This is a companion piece to Dear JK Rowling: https://wp.me/p4fd9j-sB