Comments: Oh, stuff it, Harold Bloom

Not that I want to defend Bloom or anything, but you have to keep in mind that the notion of a "canon" at all smacks of elitism cum fascism cum monolithism. That being said, I can only imagine that this is exactly how the various detractors of the Brontės and Wilkie Collins felt. I hardly think it passes without notice that there really are various "tiers" of literature out there. There's Rowling and King, who are both wildly popular but fairly lowbrow. There's Brown and his ilk, who are lowbrow while making their readers feel a little middlebrow. And then there's writers like John Banville, Graham Swift, Kiran Desai, Kazuo Ishiguro, JM Coetzee, David Mitchell, and on and on—who will almost assuredly never see the kind of fame and fortune that King and Rowling will.

I don't want to make claims about superiority (I enjoy Rowling's and King's stories), and I certainly don't think that popularity is anathema to "art," but it is a bit disconcerting that no one goes batshit crazy over the Booker shortlist coming out every year, but people will stand in line for days for the new Harry Potter.

But then, thousands waited on the docks to find out what happened to Little Nell in Dickens's The Old Curiosity Shop.

Here's what makes it worse, to me: what was the last book of poetry you read?

Posted by Scott at July 18, 2007 09:59 AM

I, er, don't remember. Poe? Frost? I can lay my hands on my copies within two minutes, I know that.

As I recall, though, the Potter phenomenon took off slowly by word of mouth. There weren't the big release parties at bookstores until the third or fourth book. As I recall, Scholastic's first print run for Book 1 in the US was all of 12,000 copies.

I don't pay as much attention to the various prize shortlists as I should, but I do notice.

Posted by Linkmeister at July 18, 2007 10:09 AM

I read a lot, all sorts of things, but I detest reading poetry. I do like to hear it recited though. For me poetry, like plays, are dull as ditchwater when read on a page; they only work for me when voices bring them to life.

On the other hand my daughter, who loves Harry Potter, also loves poetry. In addition she did go on to read Lewis Carrol after she started reading Harry Potter. Funny old world, innit? :D

Posted by Shelagh at July 18, 2007 08:53 PM