View Full Version : Writing Pariahs?

07-20-2007, 10:39 PM
So I was watching a TV special on the Harry Potter series the other night and I was surprised at how many authors there were (who were featured as "experts") who have written their own books analyzing the Harry Potter series. And now these authors get their fifteen minutes of fame on TV and get book contracts.

Am I wrong in thinking these people are pariahs who are leeching off a legitimate author's success rather than inventing a story of their own? Is it just sour grapes on my part?

07-20-2007, 10:43 PM
Pariahs? They're called "critics" (not like book review critics, but rather critics who analyze literature) and they're important part of the life-cycle of a book. Once Harry Potter mania dies, something, or somebody, will need to keep the series relevant. Now, one could argue that critics aren't really relevant anyway, but since my livelihood depends on the importance of critics to literature, you won't be hearing that argument from me.

But seriously, the books that are forgotten are the books that nobody talks about.

ETA: And I know that's a weird thing to say in the context of Harry Potter discussion. Especially since I'm currently very annoyed because I can't get away from it (hey everybody! look at me! I'm the one person on the planet who doesn't give two craps about Harry Potter!). But I'm talking long-term discussion here. What'll happen to HP once the current mania has passed, and everybody has read the books and moved on? What's going to happen 20, 30, 50, 100 years from now? If HP is still part of the culture, it will be because of people like the ones you call "pariahs." The Beatles are still relevant today, not on the strength of Beatlemania, but on the strength of their music that people can still discuss in new and interesting ways.

07-20-2007, 10:44 PM
It's likely a little bit of both. I feel the same as you, but I'm always watchful for my own sour grapes responses.

07-20-2007, 10:46 PM
Leeching? Maybe.

Making a wise business/career-advancing decision (assuming they're successful)? Most definitely.

07-20-2007, 11:03 PM
Phenomena like Harry Potter (or Da Vinci Code, for that matter) is a gold mine of opportunities. Not sure if they're leeching, but they must have something to "offer" and the buying public must be willing to oblige, so it comes down to supply and demand. It's all about business. It would have been nice if these writers can come up with something on their own... but, it all comes down to business. What makes $$$, and give what people want.

07-20-2007, 11:11 PM
Am I wrong in thinking these people are pariahs who are leeching off a legitimate author's success rather than inventing a story of their own? Is it just sour grapes on my part?
I think the books look like fun. Fans often want something like this if they want to speculate about the next book or just read something more in-depth than "Gosh! Wow!" posts on the Internet. There are books like this about other popular books, TV shows and writers, etc. Sure, like the Harry Potter books, these sometimes aren't "authorized," but often, that means they might be more interesting. :D (The authorized ones act as if every word the author ever wrote is gold, and that gets annoying very fast if you're looking for true criticism.)

One of the authors who has written a Harry Potter book is David Langford, a British writer who has published a newsletter (Ansible (http://news.ansible.co.uk/)) about science fiction/fantasy/horror since 1979 and has won 27 Hugos. If anyone is qualified to write a book about a popular British fantasy series, it's him. ;)

Claudia Gray
07-20-2007, 11:14 PM
Not necessarily -- there are cheap knock-offs, but then there can also be interesting and meaningful things to say. For instance, I really enjoy Simon Schama's art criticism: Is he "leeching" off Rembrandt and Van Gogh and Rothko? Of course not. Granted, Rowling is not Rembrandt and the average HP tie-in writer is not Schama, but it doesn't change the fact that creative work can inspire legitimate commentary.

07-20-2007, 11:39 PM
Thanks for the very enlightening feedback, everyone. :)

07-21-2007, 01:15 AM
It's the pure bandwagon-jumpers that irk me. But I do think, like Anne said, books that go beyond the vacuous "ain't Harry cute? Don'tcha just love him" tripe are worthwhile.

The Grift
07-21-2007, 04:37 AM
Do you mean "parasites?" A pariah is a social outcast.

But I think it is hard to draw the line between genuine literary criticism and the let's-see-how-I-can-cash-in groups.

An interesting example is Joseph Campbell and Star Wars. George Lucas openly talked about Campbell's influence on the SW trilogy (specifically The Hero with a Thousand Faces) and then several years later, Campbell did an analysis of Star Wars related to his ideas in The Power of Myth. So who is leeching off of who?

When a book or movie becomes a big enough social phenomenon, there is a legitimate interest in exploring its impact on the culture and the craft. So the question remains, how is genuine and academically useful criticism separated from those who just hope to make a buck off of someone else's success? And does that line even exist?

07-21-2007, 05:58 AM
Pepperlandgirl is not the only one who really doesn't care about Harry Potter. Oh, they're not bad books and I think anything that gets the kids reading is a good thing. But right beside me now is an excellent book, Cinda Chima's Warrior Heir. It retails for $8.99 trade paper, about a fourth of what Deathly Hallows costs.