Links for an ex-leper

(Anyone know where the title bit comes from?)

James Mullaney in National Review Online reports on a longstanding action adventure series with conservative roots that seems to be drifting left due to publisher neglect.

David Haddon bemoans the child-on-child violence at the center of the Harry Potter series. Haddon is bewildered by the praise and acceptance the series has received from Christian outlets:

Rowling’s disregard for the virtues of obedience, truth telling, and self-restraint cultivated in traditional children’s literature show that she consciously rejects its moral framework. One of the reasons for this is her stated belief that children are naturally good. As one gripped by this dream of the Enlightenment who, nevertheless, is shrewd enough to observe that schoolboys often lie, cheat, fight, and break the rules, she apparently believes that these things are not real evils. Real evil is murder, especially when based on discrimination by ancestry, and misuse of authority, especially authority over the naturally good children. And the moral instruction children most need is just to see real evil, as exemplified by Voldemort.

Dan Green pointed me to this interview with Harold Bloom. As Dan noted, he doesn’t like Harry Potter either:

You know, child, my electronic mailbox overflowing with daily messages from Potterites who still cannot forgive me for the article I published in Wall Street Journal more than a year ago, entitled “Can 35 Million Harry Potter Fans Be Wrong? – Yes!” These people claim that Harry Potter does great things for their children. I think they are deceiving themselves. I read the first book in the Potter series, the one that’s supposed to be the best. I was shocked. Every sentence there is a string of cliches, there are no characters – any one of them could be anyone else, they speak in each other’s voice, so one gets confused as to who is who.

He has a point to a degree. But I lost all respect for Mr. Bloom, if I had any before, when he makes this statement:

Of course, the United States is in a terrible condition, we have a kind of fascist regime here – I think it’s the real truth about it and you can quote me on that. A few years ago, when I was in Barcelona receiving the national prize of Catalonia, I remarked when somebody asked me a question about president George Bush: “He is semiliterate at best, to call him a Fascist would be to flatter him.” He has now sufficiently grown in depth that you are no longer flattering him by calling him a Fascist – it is simply a descriptive remark.

This is not the remark of an intelligent adult. It is only because language has become so degraded that we can use the word fascist to mean “a person whose politics I disagree with vehemently.” Is Bloom really comparing Bush to Mussolini? Bush may be bad in a myriad of ways but to describe him as fascist is to lose all sense of proportion and history. This heavily undermines Bloom’s credibility in my mind. He may know a great deal about Shakespeare but he obviously lacks a balanced sense of judgment.

Jed Perl’s New Art City is Book of the Month over at Books & Culture:

New Art City is unlike other recent books on the period that attempt to set the record straight, as it were, about the “true significance” of the period. It is not really a history so much as an homage to a place that played an important role in the stunning creative developments that continue to shape contemporary art and discourse.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).


  1. I saw Vonnegut say something like this recently. It makes me laugh half the time because I suspect history will view Bush as a very important president, one who helped build conservative politics in America.

  2. I saw Vonnegut say something like this recently. It makes me laugh half the time because I suspect history will view Bush as a very important president, one who helped build conservative politics in America.

  3. I agree with you that Bloom’s remarks are over-the-top. I don’t like Bush (I *really* don’t like Bush), but to throw the word “fascist” around doesn’t accomplish much.

    However, it is useful to juxtapose Bloom’s political comments with his literary judgments. It belies the notion that because he prefers literature to theory and “cultural studies” that he’s therefore some kind of conservative curmudgeon. One can be a liberal and also think literary scholarship has taken a very bad turn.

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