Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Orson Scott Card: Defender of Harry!

I'm not a science fiction fan, but several years ago I began reading and enjoying some of the marvelous books by Orson Scott Card. I began with Ender's Game (probably his best known work) and ended up reading several more books by him. He's a first-class storyteller. In fact, I admired his storytelling so much that I went on to read some of his non-fiction work on crafting fiction, especially fantasy fiction.

Long about a year ago, I discovered Card's blog. For some reason (possibly because we had a major computer crash) I no longer had it bookmarked and hadn't checked in there for a while. But I did the other day, and enjoyed myself immensely. I certainly don't agree with everything Card writes, especially regarding politics. But I love his regular columns entitled "Uncle Orson Reviews Everything" where he does indeed review just about everything, or at least just about everything that strikes his fancy, from children's literature to movies to...um...flavored water.

But here's the best part: he's a Harry Potter fan! Why does this surprise me? It shouldn't have. I should have known that one consummate storyteller would recognize the genius of another. I just hadn't "connected" them in any way. What's even more fun is how brilliantly and zestfully OSC defends Harry -- as good literature. Thank you, thank you!

So even though this piece was written almost exactly five years ago, I'm still recommending it as a ripping good read...not just for Card fans or Rowling fans, but for anyone who loves children's literature and respects the power of good storytelling. My favorite part is the way Card zings the literary "elite" and reminds us that we can trust children to spot good stories:

What infuriates the literati? Oh, they talk about how Harry Potter is just a fad, how children's books aren't "literature," how these books are proof that English-language readers are even dumber than they thought.

But the truth is, in fact, the opposite. Unlike Pokemon or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Harry Potter movement is reader-driven. Kids who thought they hated to read because they had hated everything anybody tried to make them read in school suddenly became avid readers of big thick books that were extraordinarily demanding, not just in vocabulary and syntax and culture, but in moral reasoning and character development....

And then a little further on:

It is obvious that J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books, has already earned a permanent place in world literature, alongside Louisa Mae Alcott, Robert Louis Stephenson, and Mark Twain, who also wrote books that children loved, and who also were phenomenally popular during their lifetimes despite the harsh criticism of literary elitists.

In fact, one can make a good case for the idea that children are often the guardians of the truly great literature of the world, for in their love of story and unconcern for stylistic fads and literary tricks, children unerringly gravitate toward truth and power.

The whole post is definitely worth reading. It got me all excited about good reading and good writing...again.


Erin said...

Phew! Well stated, Orson! That was a great column. I wrote an essay in college - earlier that year, in fact - defending Harry, mostly from those who attacked it on religious grounds but also dealing a bit with the literary elitists. I certainly got my fill of those in college... Later that year I did a project on an anthology of children's literature, and while my professor wasn't entirely convinced that books written for children have much literary merit, it's nice to see that Card does!

Beth said...

Yes, and he defends his thesis with such zest! :-) I really like what he says and how he says it. If you do a search on "Rowling" within his website, you'll find some other columns too, including his take on the most recent HP film (have you seen Goblet yet? I couldn't remember...) I was psyched because I had staked a claim in my epi-reivew that Goblet was the best HP movie yet. I think Card is the first person I've seen who's said the same thing!

Erin said...

I've made an unfortunate tradition of not seeing Harry Potter movies in the theater. For some reason it always works out that way... But it's definitely right near the top of my movies to watch list!

Beth said...

Whenever you see it, you'll enjoy it! Neville gets especially great screen time in this one, and the scene with the Hungarian Horntail is just plain ol' movie magic.

HP movies are just about the only films I've seen in the theater in recent years. Well, that and Narnia...and oh yes, "Cars" (S's first movie-going experience). In general, we just can't afford to swing for a babysitter and have anything left over for movie tickets. I'm grateful for DVDs!

the holly said...

hey there!

great to hear of another _ender's game_ fan...as well as a harry potter fan. i do enjoy your blog, beth. hope all is well!


Beth said...

Hey Holly!
Nice to hear from you -- and even "see" you!

Yah, I really enjoy Ender. I've enjoyed some of the Shadow sequels to it as well.

And I cheerfully confess that I love the Harry Potter books. I've spent some wonderful hours discussing them with faith-minded literary wonks!

I just met your sister the other day; she and her husband have been coming regularly to COTS. It's great to have them join us.

Am I right in thinking your second baby is due any day? I need to check in over at your blog! :-)