Wednesday, 4 May 2011

J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone

For years I had been purposely going out of my way to avoid touching or going within a hundred feet of the Harry Potter books for fear of bursting into flames at the sight of the spectacled wonder kid. Then I got one of the books for Christmas, (I think it was the second one, which was stupid in itself as everyone knew I hated Potter. Why assume I’ve read the first one? Or am I the only person in the world who doesn’t care about order?) and while I didn’t spontaneously combust, I still found myself disgusted by the idea of reading it.

Anyway, the years rolled by and Christmases came and went without a sniff of Potter books coming my way. The movies came too and I saw a few of them on DVD and I was thinking the same thing; I fucking hate Potter! Then I decided to study writing and all its wonderful elements, including popular fiction, but I still managed to avoid Potter until my final year, when I became old and wise enough to put aside almost thirteen years of irrational prejudice and read the first in the series.

I have to stay, reading the book as opposed to watching the movie totally did not change my mind. Harry Potter on the screen did not work for me for the simple reason that Harry Potter is eleven years old. Sure he’s got a wand and that but so does everyone else around him and they have more experience and therefore, no matter how incompetent they are made out to be, should not be bested by an eleven year old boy and his two friends.

For the sake of fiction and fantasy, I don’t have a problem with the potion and chess puzzles to get passed doors, and I’m fully on board as far as a magical invisibility cloak goes, (if I got one of those for Christmas, I would love it) but I draw the line when you write a book full of magical stuff and totally ignore the fact that common sense plays a big part in day to day life, even if you wear a pointy hat and ride around on a broom.

In fact, here is something that the movie did better than the book. Stopped Potter from talking as much. Every line that Potter has is the voice of a character three or four years older than him and also his way of thinking. His parents are dead, he’s been locked in a cupboard and bullied for the whole of his life. A giant knocking down a door and taking him away on a flying motorbike, while being quite cool, does not take away eleven years of pain and suffering. Even if it did, you would surely be a little more grateful to people that rescued you that to break almost every rule going and consistently do the opposite of what you’re told.

To me, its lazy character development. All idea and no substance. I’m not saying J. K. Rowling is a bad writer, far from it, technically she’s great and gets all the little details of the writing bang on. But there is this thing missing from HPATPS that fits somewhere between the page and the idea that connects to story to the real world, something that allows the audience to buy into the story, regardless if it’s for children or adults.

I’m not going to make recommendations because the chances are you’ve already read it, or you don’t want to.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K.Rowling was published by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc in 1997. RRP £6.99 (Paperback)