A mindless read?

A recent news bulletin showed a crowd of children inside a bookshop selling the Greek version of the latest Harry Potter novel. A boy of about 12 enthused that he «couldn’t wait to start reading.» If I had a child of that age, I would try to share his enthusiasm for this craze without criticizing its intensity. That is not to say that I believe children are always right, or that the spectacular success of the Harry Potter series is a measure of its literary merit. Shortly after the first Harry Potter novel appeared in US bookstores, the Wall Street Journal asked literary critic Harold Bloom to appraise the work. After reading the book, Bloom said he was shocked that virtually every sentence contained a stereotype or cliche. «Can 35 million Harry Potter fans be wrong? Yes!» was the title of Bloom’s piece. In the week that followed, the newspaper received hundreds of letters from children defending the fictional magician. Critics claim that Harry Potter has got children reading again, but Bloom countered that they do not read but just scan the pages, their minds numbed by cliches. Also, the books encourage children to avoid the real world, he claimed. But he acknowledged that it was pointless to challenge the Harry Potter phenomenon. As ever, the customer is always right.

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