There’s a Far Side cartoon which features this vast, empty hall. In the corner of the frame, three people stand, chatting. A banner hangs above them that reads “People Who Didn’t Like Dances With Wolves Convention”.
This is the way I feel about Harry Potter. I grew up on Tolkein and C. S. Lewis, among others, so I approached him with an open mind. I’ve given the first book a couple tries, and tossed it scornfully aside after 100 pages. I’ve found the writing mediocre, but more importantly, totally unoriginal.
I’ve subsequently watched the movies, and recognized a who’s-who of historial and popular mythology: people wearing pointy hats riding brooms, three-headed dogs, baselisks, hippogryphs, magical mirrors, magic wands, philosophers’ stones (is that apostrophe placed correctly?), dragons eggs, centaurs, homoerotic tension, flying cars, crystal balls–the list of hackneyed devices goes on and on. Break out your Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual and you can check off every one.
Everything old is new again, I suppose. Millions of kids who have grown up without this pantheon of creatures and creations are getting it in one, super-intense dose.
Above all else, I’m moved by art that’s original. For example, I’m enjoying Cory Doctorow’s Someone Goes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, in part because the protagonist was borne of the union of an island and a washing machine. Maybe he lifted that from some other book, but rest assured that it’s more obscure than the Divine Comedy.
By the way, I spent a good 10 minutes searching for that Far Side cartoon. If anybody has a copy, and can scan it or otherwise send it to me in digital form, you’ll have my undying thanks and, if you want it, a Microsoft t-shirt I got at Gnomedex that’s kind of small on me.
UPDATE: Hurray for Andrea, who found the comic in Google’s wonderful, wonderful cache.