The Stories Begun

{May 25, 2010}   No offense, Harry, but I don’t miss you.

I have yet to finish up all my dead-in-the-water blogs (it would have happened in a week if one of said blogs wasn’t hiding somewhere in my unpacked boxes from school), but I thought I should probably attempt writing a weekly blog on here anyway.  Especially since I have something so important to talk about: the proscriptive standard, specifically in literature.

Students often come across the proscriptive standard in class–this is how projects are accomplished.  The teacher gives examples of how to do it, the students do their best to imitate with exactness.  Of course, this is a mode found more often in junior highs and high schools than college, which is appropriate.  In college (indeed, in late high school years), students should have progressed far enough in the educational track to see a standard and extrapolate, not imitate.  The standard becomes suggestive, not proscriptive.

This is how standards are meant to be taken in literature (in life!), but I fear that my generation—what I lovingly call “the Harry Potter generation”—has forgotten this.  Increasingly, I find twenty-somethings complaining that books or characters are not “the next Harry Potter” or “enough like Harry Potter.”  These young men and women are frequently disappointed by the efforts of new authors because they have taken J.K. Rowling’s masterpiece to be a proscriptive standard.  Of course they will be disappointed in all authors who follow Rowling because certainly all but a few are going in a different direction, writing for different audiences, and using different devices.

My attitude does not, of course, account for bad, or merely mediocre, writing.  It’s out there.  I acknowledge that.  But we are going through a renaissance for children’s and young adult literature, the likes of which has not been seen since the late nineteenth to early twentieth century!  The writing standard is higher because competition is stiffer.  And yet, authors are getting opportunities to grow as artists never before.  I have never seen such a forgiving industry as the industry I see now.  How else would have Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga been published, much less been allowed to continue (if we’re being honest here)?

I think this is a good thing!  A marvelously wonderful thing!  Does it allow less than stellar writing to become popular?  Yes.  But, was that happening anyway?  Yes.  Was it happening in such a positive way?  No.  However bad her beginnings, Stephenie Meyer was forced to up her game.  She stepped out as an author with The Host and proved it wasn’t a fluke with the final book of her Saga.  Authors who start at a higher level improve in direct response to this higher standard.  The industry is redefining itself and I am anxiously engaged in watching the developments.

I hope my generation, many members of which still bury themselves in young adult and children’s lit, doesn’t kill this movement.  With each outcry, “It’s not Harry Potter,” we pave the way for homogeny.  Reinvention is the soul of literature, of art, of humanity.  I desperately hope that authors are not discouraged by these ridiculous demands and that the up-and-coming generation is wiser than mine.  Certainly there are those, in both age brackets, who do not want another Harry Potter.  As much as I love him, as many countless times (and I mean countless—I lost track at two dozen reads per book) as I have read him, I’m a little sick of Harry.  Not because of those countless times I’ve read him, but because he’s not the perfect fit for me as he is for others.  I’m ready for these fresh authors and ideas.  I’m ready to find my exact fit.

All evidence says the authors are ignoring my contemporaries.  Thank heavens.  But I mourn for my generation.  I mourn for their adherence to the proscriptive standard and the inability to appreciate the beauty that is in the “new” stories around them.  After all, there are only so many plots available to humankind.  Nothing is really new any longer.  They’ll get their “new” Harry Potter sooner or later.  I’m sure I’ll enjoy him immensely, just as I do his predecessor.

Until then, I’ll be at the library, searching for more books: new, old, and in between.

Happy reading!



[…] this whiny teen after an 800+ page book of his bull.  I’ve written before that I’m kind of tired of Harry Potter & Co., and I’ll go so far as to admit that I don’t love Rowling’s writing.  I think […]

[…] and, frankly, I just don’t care for him anymore.  Even less than I did at the time I wrote this.  It’s not because he wasn’t a big deal in my teen years or that it wasn’t a joy […]

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