January 15, 2004

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K Rowling

It began to seem like I'd been reading this book forever.

Don't get me wrong; I like Harry Potter. It's fun stuff. But when David insisted that I read him the second Harry Potter book as his bedtime story I was reluctant. I wasn't in the mood for it, and anyway I'd read it to myself late last spring in preparation for the publication of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It was simply too soon. On top of that, Dave already knew the basic story very well, from watching the movie.

When you've got an adult who's reluctant and a kid who already knows what's going to happen, there's no real tension, and thus no incentive to read a book quickly. And so I read it to him a few pages a night, taking three or four days per chapter instead of one. And let me tell you, read that slowly this book is a real dog.

Reading a book aloud word by word casts a bright light upon it, and all of its flaws and imperfections spring out. It's a dangerous thing to do. I had an entire series of books by a guy named Craig Shaw Gardener that I summarily disposed of after a failed attempt to read the first one aloud to Jane. So long as I could read them at speed I was able to ignore the lack of substance, but let the harsh light of slow and careful reading be once cast upon them and my enjoyment ceased.

This book, fortunately, is not that bad. The first Harry Potter read aloud adequately (though not superlatively), and I've no doubt this one would have read aloud adequately as well under better circumstances. I do confess, by the end of the book I'd started editing Rowling's prose, omitting needless adjectives and adverbs here and there.

Posted by Will Duquette at January 15, 2004 08:34 PM

Ian said:

Was the Gardner series his "Cineverse" sequence? Slaves of the Volcano God and so forth?

Just curious. I've not thought of his stuff in well over a decade.

Will Duquette said:

No, I think he must have written that series after I'd already abandoned him. I was thinking of his series about Wuntvor the Eternal Apprentice.

(How's tricks in Shanghai?)