Harry Potter and the Olympians: 1

In Uncategorized on June 16, 2010 at 10:40 pm

From a letter I wrote to Slate, concerning David Plotz’s review of Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Photograph of the Caryatids, taken at the Acropolis, Greece.

At last somebody said it: Fantasy novels imitate fantasy novels. “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” is a carbon-copy of “Harry Potter,” and facsimiles like this feed our cynical view that there “are no original ideas.”
For Harry Potter fans, it’s disappointing. But for the handful of people like me — who feel ambivalent about, and even annoyed by, Harry Potter — it’s business as usual. The problem isn’t the Wiccan magic or the endless page-count. The problem is that “Harry Potter” itself is derivative. Not of another hyper-commercialized fantasy epic, but of the singular Roald Dahl.
Potter fans always get irritable when I say this, but really, what is the difference between Harry Potter and James Henry Trotter (of Giant Peach fame)? They’re both orphans, both raised by abusive step-parents, and they’re both rescued by a mysterious wizard. “Harry Potter” and “James” live in intensely imaginative worlds, which both follow an amusing internal logic, and each story of a small, bashful child turns into a globe-trotting epic. Indeed, wouldn’t Matilda and Hermione make solid BFF’s? If Charlie crashed his glass elevator into Hogwarts, wouldn’t the wizards just dust him off and invite him to a Quidditch game?

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