A.S. Byatt? V.S. Pritchett? V.S. Naipaul? M.F.K. Fisher? J.R. Ewing? Am I the only one who can't tell any of these people from the others?
No more! From now on, I'll keep in mind that Byatt is the one whose seat on the great throne of literary pomp has been nicely warmed by Harold Bloom's copious gluteus. Witness Byatt's distress over the craze for these blasted Potter books, whose fans (victims of "dumbing down," natch) leave her not angry, just disappointed:
Ms. Rowling's magic world has no place for the numinous. It is written for people whose imaginative lives are confined to TV cartoons, and the exaggerated (more exciting, not threatening) mirror-worlds of soaps, reality TV and celebrity gossip. Its values, and everything in it, are, as Gatsby said of his own world when the light had gone out of his dream, "only personal." Nobody is trying to save or destroy anything beyond Harry Potter and his friends and family.
Ms. Rowling, I think, speaks to an adult generation that hasn't known, and doesn't care about, mystery. They are inhabitants of urban jungles, not of the real wild. They don't have the skills to tell ersatz magic from the real thing, for as children they daily invested the ersatz with what imagination they had.
It is the substitution of celebrity for heroism that has fed this phenomenon. And it is the leveling effect of cultural studies, which are as interested in hype and popularity as they are in literary merit, which they don't really believe exists. It's fine to compare the Bront?s with bodice-rippers. It's become respectable to read and discuss what Roland Barthes called "consumable" books. There is nothing wrong with this, but it has little to do with the shiver of awe we feel looking through Keats's "magic casements, opening on the foam/Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn."
To which I think the only suitable response is, Indeed!
Curses to reader John Luther for bringing this to our attention.