Monday, April 25, 2011

People We Covet: J.K. Rowling

By this point in time, I'm sure that there has been at least one word written about J.K. Rowling for every dollar she's earned--over a billion. But I'd like to add my little bit to the conversation.

Rowling is my favorite kind of author: the kind who makes people want to read. In this age of instantaneous news, when it's way too easy to plug yourself in, it is nice to know that there is an author out there who can not only entertain adults but also help encourage a child's passion for reading--even if that child is not particularly fond of the written word.

Her genius really lies in the fact that the books in her Harry Potter series not only build on each other but change with the age of the main characters: when they are thirteen, they face thirteen-year-old problems, and so on. As a result, the adolescent reader can choose to absorb one book per year and grow with the characters. What this means, ultimately, is that the books will have a greater impact than your run-of-the-mill series (for example, the Sweet Valley High books, which you may remember fondly in later years but which cannot hold your imagination when you try to reread them).

Being a huge fan of popular culture, I feel particularly lucky to have lived through the Rowling era, because it allowed me to watch pop culture in the making. Her reach extends to online media (there are a spate of fan sites out there) and film--unless you are somehow morally opposed to whimsical, well-made movies, surely you've seen at least a few of them--and even them park life. But what strikes me the most is how deeply we, as readers, absorbed Harry's story: rejoicing when he saw his parents in the Mirror of Erised; gasping when Gilderoy Lockhart tried to take credit for Harry, Ron, and Hermione's work;  getting worked up over Peter Pettigrew's betrayal; cheering when Harry survived some of the more brutal Triwizard trials; enjoying Harry s connection with his godfather, Sirius black; crying when Dumbledore died; and literally walking away from the book for a hot minute when Dobby was killed because it was just too much to handle. What other work of fiction has inspired such strong feelings in readers--or reached such a wide audience--recently?

On a side note, Rowling wrote a lovely little piece protesting fat shaming and the glorification of stick-thin models on her website that really made me admire her even more, which I didn't realize was possible. I hope that you will all take some time to explore her work, if you haven't done so already; I promise that it will be time well spent.

Visit Rowling's official website here.

Image via the Internet Movie Database.


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