Location: St. Vincent & Grenadines

You were driving home in the dark on one glass-slippered heel, window sliced open and bathing in the snowliquor of the night air. We heard you singing, and couldn't bear to wake you.

27 July 2005

Home is where my habits have a habitat.

So I run into the Headmaster* of my new school in the grocery store last night and we say hello, and he asks me what I'm reading. He's a remarkable guy who I don't know very well yet, but instantly took a liking to when I first met him -- a blend of Yoda and Mr. Wizard, the kind of person who makes my neocortex salivate with eagerness to learn stuff and be all witty and intellectual and impress the crap out of him. Especially since he just hired me. So, he asks, what are you reading these days?

"Um," I say suavely, casting about in my mind, trying to think of something other than the obvious but failing, "well, you know, uh—" (slight shrug of shoulders, sheepish smile) "—Harry Potter."

Aha, says he.

"And, you know, the employee handbook."

[*It's so hard for me to say or even write this word without embarrassment. It seems so pompous, probably because of its historical use in the British education system, which is famous for the kind of elitist, classist snobbery that I, as a Yank, am culturally predisposed to abhor, hypocrisy and run-on sentences be damned. The person to whom it applies in this case is anything but pompous, and I know the literal meaning has nothing inherently to do with elitism or S/M or any of that jazz, so I suppose eventually I'll get over it. I hope I do. It's just a word. Headmaster. Jibblyjibblyjibbly.]

I'm not done with the book yet, but I'm enjoying it immensely so far — just as I have the previous five. I enjoy it because it's a thick book that moves fast, but I don't kid myself that it's especially good writing. It's well-done trash, but it's still trash. J. K. Rowling abuses commas left and right. She seems largely unfamiliar with the semicolon; the last time she used it, it was followed by a colon in a hideously Frankensteinian attempt to splice together three separate complete thoughts into a single sentence. And you'd think Scholastic would be able to carve off enough of its massive earnings to hire a decent copy editor before putting these books on the shelves. You know, someone able to tell the difference between sight and site.

But really I'm just jealous of anyone who's able to put together a book this readable on a yearly basis. I wouldn't use it as a classroom text, but then I don't need to, do I? Rowling's got kids reading voluntarily. Adults too, for that matter, sheepish as they may be about it in the face of an intellectual mentor. Besides that, she's got a really cool websight.


Anonymous shoshanah said...

Hey, don't make fun of J.K. Rowling! Well, I guess you weren't, really. Her grammar isn't so bad. I'm sorry, Yosha, but who really cares about the semicolon?;; --- well, okay, I noticed her misuse of it, too, but who really cares? I still object to you calling her writing trash. That's a bit much. She has to have quite the mind to keep her facts straight through, like, six books now! I finished the latest. It's a little bit shocking at the end; very exiting! I mean, exciting.

One of the best things about the Harry Potter series (from a teacher's perspective) is that Rowling portrays school as a really cool place. Hogwarts is just the bomb. I want to teach at Hogwarts.

12:18 PM  
Blogger Felix Helix said...

Who really cares? Me and William Safire. That's about it. And he's a Republican stooge, so there you go. Okay, look:

1. The books are good. I bought all six of them in hardcover, and not because I thought she needed the money -- because they're good, and when I'm reading them the rest of the world goes away for a while, and that's just about the best you can ask of any book.

2. The writing is sloppy. I'm sorry, but it is. It's not just a lack of semicolons or the occasional misspelled word. Nothing about it is particularly original or beautiful; it's full of lazy, overused turns of phrase, broad-brush characterizations, and wincingly pseudo-clever wordplay. Ain't sayin' I'm not guilty of that myself! I'm just sayin'. Sayin' it's all about the plot, like any summer blockbuster movie or Stephen King potboiler: tasty, but not especially nutritious.

3. I'm jealous. Said it before, sayin' it again. Took me five years to write a 200-page novel, and it was blood sweat and tears the whole way. Would I rather have written a flawed but exciting and tremendously popular series of novels that made me outrageously wealthy and forever famous? YOU BET YOUR ASS.

4:15 PM  
Anonymous Beth W. said...

Bonus points for the obscureish Fiona Apple reference!

11:46 PM  
Anonymous shoshanah said...

Did you know that Danielle Steele is the most popular author in mens' prisons?

Not that that has anything to do with the price of tea in China, but...

Yeah, I would rather write amazingly popular novels than work a straight job.

8:13 AM  

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