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JK Rowling, et al.

A place to debate issues or to rant about what's on your mind. In addition to discussions about historical fiction, books, the publishing industry, and history, discussions about current political, social, and religious issues and other topics are allowed, so those who are easily offended by certain topics may want to avoid such threads. Members are expected to keep the discussions friendly and polite and to avoid personal attacks on other members. The moderators reserve the right to shut down a thread without warning if they believe it necessary.
SGM
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Post by SGM » Sun July 10th, 2011, 7:36 am

Well, there is still something to be said for the ability to tell a good tale. There are, of course, much better novels for the age range around that haven't quite captured the market in the same way. You could put the success partly down to the way that fashions take hold amongst kids of that age.

But that really doesn't explain the number of adults who read them except that they are a very easy read on public transport to and from work.

In my opinion after the first three, they were all unnecessarily long. The last one just sprawled ridiculously. I suspect after the success of the first three she had a lot more time to spend just writing and therefore more self-indulgent.

But as some used to say about Enid Blyton -- if it gets the kids reading, it can't be a bad thing. The comment about the lack of choice in reading matter for boys is probably true as well.
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fljustice
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Post by fljustice » Sun July 10th, 2011, 5:54 pm

[quote=""SGM""]Well, there is still something to be said for the ability to tell a good tale...In my opinion after the first three, they were all unnecessarily long. The last one just sprawled ridiculously. I suspect after the success of the first three she had a lot more time to spend just writing and therefore more self-indulgent.
But as some used to say about Enid Blyton -- if it gets the kids reading, it can't be a bad thing. The comment about the lack of choice in reading matter for boys is probably true as well.[/quote]

I like the self-indulgent theory, but JKR also locked herself into a "time" format starting each book with Harry's summer/birthday and ending with the end of term at Hogwarts. In the earlier books, the rhythms of the year were fresh; in the later ones the months just drag by when there's nothing going on and she's trying to fill. Goblet of Fire was almost a wall-banger for me--a wizarding contest that takes a whole school year for three challenges? Really? The last four books could each have been a couple of hundred pages shorter. With Deathly Hallows, even though the kids aren't in school, she slavishly stuck to the same format and had them spending months moving from one camp site to another, on a fruitless quest, without enough action/character development to keep things going until the big climatic battle in the spring.

But there's no doubt JKR created a phenomenon with classic "outsider" characters so beloved by teens who are grappling with their own doubts and place in society. Other authors had similar series out earlier and they didn't generate the buzz these did. (Anyone remember Diane Duane's nine-book Young Wizard series starting with So You Want to Be a Wizard in 1983?) Maybe it was talent, or timing, or marketing...probably all three and dash of luck.

I'm not sure I agree about the limited choice of books for boys. It seems to me publishers have always had a "boys won't read books about girls but girls will read books about boys" attitude and leaned heavily on male protagonists. I don't have any statistics on that, so I might be wrong. As with Sarah, our family fantasy triumvirate is Star Wars (one female lead), Lord of the Rings (female cameos) and Harry Potter (much better overall mix, but still only 1 of 3 main characters.) When my daughter left high school, we donated our combined Star Wars collection to the school library--nearly 100 books from middle school chapter books to my hardback collection. The librarian was ecstatic because, again, the main characters were overwhelmingly boys.
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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Sun July 10th, 2011, 6:37 pm

Faith, I think that it is true that girls are more likely to read about boys than vice versa. There is a biological reason for this (warning: animal breeder stuff coming at you, because before we are anything else, homo sapiens is also an animal): the female of the species is in a favored position, developmentally. She goes from dependent immaturity within a female-structured environment to adult mastery of that same environment--raising young and interacting within the female hierarchy for sustenance and protection of whatever young she may bear.

The male of the speices starts in the same female-dominated place, but he must break away from that to forge his place in the male hierarchical structure, competing with other males. Male competition is, by nature of the male's larger muscle mass and increased testosterone, a much more aggressive and less socially connected situation: the successful male of our species (in a natural world, from a breeding standpoint) must be in a position to win and later protect his female and offspring from the aggression of males who would harm them.

Reading about female role models won't help him accomplish that. Hence the general preference of boys to read about other boys and men who make the break. They are showing him the way. Girls can comfortably imagine themselves in either place--they are already more on the way to their adult breeding roles, so they have more flexibility.

Okay, now all the PC folks can dump on me about how we as a society are beyond that, and it doesn't apply to the 15% at the opposite ends of the bell curve, etc. etc.

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Post by LoveHistory » Sun July 10th, 2011, 8:44 pm

MLE I don't think anyone who is familiar with teenagers can logically argue against the animal base of their behavior. Those years are a hormonal roller coaster and teenage thinking and actions sometimes defy logic in such a way that all we can do is remember that cave people had the same issues with their adolescents. We've only evolved in the logic and rational reasoning departments. Teenagers aren't at the same stage as adults in those areas. Besides, we're all much closer to our animal base than most people like to admit.

Now...as to Harry Potter. I had no intention of reading the series because of all the commotion about them. But my husband started reading them and wanted to talk about them so I didn't have much choice. Yes, I actually enjoyed them. Though the books got longer as the series went on, the only one I actually abandoned reading out of boredom (for a time) was Deathly Hallows.

I admire Rowling's grasp of characters and ability to create a new world by weaving together bits of history, various cultures, mythology, Greek and Latin, and her attention to the details of that world is excellent. Her plotting is astoundingly good. The writing however, with a few brilliant exceptions, is really about average. Whether this is because of the YA genre or not is not something I can decide as I don't read YA widely.

Have to say that the movies are nowhere near as good as the books. I know that's almost always the case but they left so much out of even the early stories that I feel really let down when I watch them.

As to when and why they got hugely popular I look at it this way: think of the whole series as one book for a moment. The first book was creating the setting and you can only throw so much at a reader in one book; this is chapter one, the goal of which is to get the reader interested enough to read chapter two. The second book, chapter two, starts getting into the darker side of things, laying yet another layer to the foundation for the rest of the book; it's slightly more exciting than chapter one, and leaves more unanswered questions. Chapter three is where the storyline really starts to kick off; we've added a class about magical creatures (always fun), new characters who will stick with the rest of the story, and more details, it's getting to page turner status and everyone is hungry for more. The first three chapters are the key to the rest of the book. They have to contain the base for the whole story, engage the reader with excitement and plot development enough that the reader wants to continue, and do so in a way that doesn't give away the rest of the story, otherwise no one would read past chapter three. Most people, having enjoyed the first three chapters will keep going until the end. Add to that the fact that everyone told their friends, who read the stories and told their friends, and the cycle that kept repeating.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Sun July 10th, 2011, 9:39 pm

Aha, Lovehistory, you've hit on the second theory I read on a blog: the social experience of reading. Back in the day, entertainment choices were more limited to a locality, and even when TV and radio came along there were only three big channels.

So the act of consuming entertainment was party social--you could stop at the water cooler and mention the funny bit on I Love Lucy last night, or watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Going back earlier, a whole local population would watch the gladiatorial games or the bear-baiting or the bullfight or the joust and discuss the finer points of blood and gore. That's where a major blockbuster like Harry Potter or the Da Vinci Code comes in--like it or hate it, quite a lot of people have experienced it, and it gives people a link to each other.

I think any reasonably well-written book might be the catalyst for this kind of social experience, but as to which ones actually reach that status, that is rather a lottery. Right time at the right place, as Divia said.

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Divia
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Post by Divia » Sun July 10th, 2011, 11:17 pm

[quote=""fljustice""]
I'm not sure I agree about the limited choice of books for boys. It seems to me publishers have always had a "boys won't read books about girls but girls will read books about boys" attitude and leaned heavily on male protagonists.[/quote]


Trust me. As a YA librarian I have a hard time finding male books for my patrons. Boys will read if you give them something that catches their interest. Though they are far more likely to read non fiction because it takes all the drama out and gives them the facts.

I' ve seen more female protagonists than male in my meager years as a YA lib. Also, I'm seeing a growing trend where girls won't read about guys. I dunno if this is just limited to my school or not. But its interesting. Girls want to connect to another girl who is having the same problems she is.
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Post by Ludmilla » Mon July 11th, 2011, 11:52 am

Part of the problem with having this discussion is making blanket statements about two separate, though related, markets. I suspect you'll find more male protagonists in Children's Lit. I used to hear the complaint about the lack of female protagonists in Children's Lit.

Teen Lit seems to have exploded in the last decade with a lot of paranormal/urban fantasy romance leading the way with mainly female protagonists and strong crossover appeal for adult women. I am sure a lot of teen boys by this time are reading adult literature, grabbing epic fantasy, historical and adventure novels.

Finally, I think like-minded readers tend to attract their own kind and disregard the diversity that is out there if they looked outside their comfort zone because it does not interest them and doesn't register on their radar.

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Post by Divia » Mon July 11th, 2011, 3:01 pm

Ive found that boys dont read fantasy novels or adeventure ones if there is moe than one in the series. They want to read a book adn be done with it. They dont want to contiune the saga. Middle School students maybe different though.
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SGM
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Post by SGM » Mon July 11th, 2011, 6:32 pm

[quote=""MLE""]Aha, Lovehistory, you've hit on the second theory I read on a blog: the socialyou could stop at the water cooler and mention the funny bit on I Love Lucy last night, or watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. [/quote]

This is what the English are doing when they talk about the weather.

Of course, the HP novels also include the tried and tested (almost since the beginning of specifically kid's literature in the UK) boarding school element. Enid Blyton did exceptionally well out of it for decades and HP is in many ways just a modernised version with some magical elements. and a bigger plot There are some very good reasons why this works but now is not the time to expound on the subject.
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Post by SarahWoodbury » Thu July 14th, 2011, 12:45 am

[quote=""Divia""]Ive found that boys dont read fantasy novels or adeventure ones if there is moe than one in the series. They want to read a book adn be done with it. They dont want to contiune the saga. Middle School students maybe different though.[/quote]

That's not the case with my boys (ages 7, 14, 18) and never has been, but they were teethed on Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter so I'm sure I've warped them for life :) The Eragon Series (which I, personally, couldn't get through), the Robert Jordan books (though various of us dropped off starting at book 5), anything by Diana Wynne Jones . . . my 7 year old is presently working his way through the 18 Bionicle chapter books I bought him.

Maybe it's that computer games disproportionately draw boys away from reading compared to girls and it's hard to get them back.

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