Next Saturday, when the sixth Harry Potter book comes out, at the very least I want you to stammer excuses when I see “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” on your nightstand. I want you to claim you’re reading it to make sure it’s OK for your kids, or your future kids, or even, if you have to, for kids in general.
I don’t want you to tell me how well J.K. Rowling writes, or that academics are writing papers about it, or that Harry Potter can be read on many levels. “Clifford the Big Red Dog” can be read on many levels too: One, he’s a big red dog; two, if you read it after you’re 4, you’re a moron.
I read 50 pages of the first “Harry Potter” book, and it seemed witty, imaginative and fast-paced. It also seemed like it was for children. It’s about wizards and magic cats and evil stepparents, and has a reading-level that is only slightly above this column.
Judy Blume wrote well too, but you don’t see adults poring over “Freckle Juice” on the train. No matter how well-crafted “Harry Potter” may be, I’m betting that with a little work you could find an adult novel from the last three centuries that is nicely written too, and possibly explores characters with a shade more complexity.
I know reading is hard. I try to avoid it whenever possible. But if I’m going to sit down and read a book, I’m going to get something out of it other than the ability to have a conversation with my second wife, who isn’t even born yet.
I’m sorry you were born too late for J.K. Rowling, but you had your C.S. Lewis and E.B. White and J.R.R. Tolkien. Isn’t it a clue that you should be ashamed of reading these books past puberty when the adults who write them are hiding their first names?
I’m sure the Potter books are fun. I bet a night of Fun Dip, pinatas and Sit N Spin would be great too. I think I may have a film to pitch to Cinemax.
After a generation of boomers choosing to remain in a state of stunted adolescence -- wearing jeans, smoking pot and cranking their BMW stereos to blast Eminem songs they clearly don’t like -- the next generation has opted for a stunted toddlerhood. Adults see “Finding Nemo” without bothering with the socially accepted ruse of dragging an unwilling 11-year-old nephew along. Grown men play video games and couples go to Disneyworld on their honeymoon, often for reasons other than having sex in Cinderella’s castle with the dwarfs watching. You need a wad of Disney Dollars for that one, by the way, 50th anniversary or no 50th anniversary.
When we share our entertainment palette with the Wiggles set -- watching comic book movies and teenage singing talent shows -- we deny an attempt to understand human emotion.
I took both my grandmothers to see the Warner Bros. movie about the first “Harry Potter” book because Aaron Brown let me fulfill my ultimate media dream by having them review it live from Mama Ann’s condominium.
In addition to Mama Ida claiming that one of the kids was hard to understand because she might have been English and referring to the special effects as “scenery,” my grandmothers eventually made the one cogent point that other reviewers missed: The story is stupid if you’re over 13.
A culture that simplifies its entertainment down to fairy tales is doomed to simplify the world down to good and evil. And a culture in which adults go see the “Harry Potter” movies still won’t be enough to help the useless Time Warner options I got in the ‘90s, so you might as well buy something from the back of the bookstore instead. You won’t have to wait in line for “Ulysses.”