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Reviews and Articles in General Publications

§ The Latest on Harry

  • The Harry Potter 'controversy' reaches the front page of today's Los Angeles Times. The article mentions that a conservative watchdog group in Virginia has posted a Web site decrying Harry Potter, and it cites an interview with the editor of The Horn Book, a children's literary digest, who dismisses the books as ''likeable but critically insignificant''.
  • A CNN story today summarizes the author's success and asks...
    And what of the controversy raised by some parents who worry the tale of a young wizard promotes witchcraft and the occult? [Rowling's] answer is direct and unforgiving. ''I absolutely did not start writing these books to encourage any child into witchcraft,'' she says with an uncomfortable chuckle. ''I'm laughing slightly because to me, the idea is absurd.''

    ''I have met thousands of children now, and not even one time has a child come up to me and said, 'Ms. Rowling, I'm so glad I've read these books because now I want to be a witch.' They see it for what it is,'' she emphasized. ''It is a fantasy world and they understand that completely.

    ''I don't believe in magic, either,'' she said.

    (Fri 22 Oct 1999)

    § Slate October 20
    Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn (Doubleday) is cited in this week's Summary Judgement feature, with quotes from reviews in the New York Times, Kirkus, and Boston Globe. Also mentioned is news from last week: actor Edward Norton (currently starring in Fight Club) will produce and star in a film version.

    (Wed 20 Oct 1999)

    § New York Times October 18
    Yet more about Harry: this news article is about how much investors like the Harry Potter books too.

    § Washington Post Book World Oct. 17
    Michael Dirda reviews William Gibson's All Tomorrow's Parties (Putnam). He considers Gibson's success a trifle unfair, since ''Sterling and Robinson, for instance, are more dazzling visionaries, with imaginations of enormous scope, fertility and energy. But Gibson possesses a storytelling voice that even Scheherazade might envy.'' The new book is a loose sequel to Virtual Light and Idoru, and Dirda hopes that after this Gibson moves on.

    Still, All Tomorrow's Parties is immensely engaging, alive on every page and as enjoyable a weekend entertainment as one could want. Who else but William Gibson would envisage a 21st century in which nature shows would be filmed in Detroit? Or imagine a flophouse that required reservations, booked in advance through an agency in the city?
    Also, John Crowley (''author of many novels and stories about fairies, magic and aliens'') reviews Wendy Kaminer's Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials: The Rise of Irrationalism and the Perils of Piety (Pantheon). Kaminer ''takes on what she considers to be a general refusal of the use of reason in our society, whose manifestations range from the effusions of piety required of political candidates to the acceptance of alien abduction and the fatuities of pop spirituality.'' But Crowley wonders if the trend she perceives toward increased irrationality is real.
    A case can be made, though, that it's just the reverse. The Christian right has actually been beaten back lately, the Kansas school board that forbade the teaching of evolution was a laughing-stock almost everywhere, and the recent frightful witch hunt involving imaginary sexual abuse of children and Satanic ritual has largely guttered out. Belief in supernatural or non-human agencies out to help or hurt us is probably at its lowest ebb in history. ...
    And Crowley faults Kaminer for not understanding those whose faith is based on personal experience of God's love.

    § New York Times Book Review October 17
    Albert Mobilio reviews Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn (Doubleday).

    Lethem's actual plot is hardly crackerjack detective material; the slow pacing and predictable turn of events -- standard-issue Mafiosi and an evil Japanese corporation play central roles -- reveal the genre model to be a convenient rack on which to hang his off-kilter humor and dead-on observations. ... In ''Motherless Brooklyn,'' solving the crime is beside the point. If you're a mystery maven, this might bother you. Instead, this is a novel about the mysteries of consciousness, the dualism Essrog alludes to when he talks about his ''Tourette's brain'' as if it were an entity apart from him.
  • A review of George Johnson's Strange Beauty (Knopf), a biography of Murray Gell-Mann;
  • A short review of Robert Crowley's anthology of counterfactual essays, What If? (Putnam);
  • And a review by Alan Lightman of Dava Sobel's Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love (Walker).

    § Los Angeles Times Times Book Review October 17
    A long, two-page review by Gerald Holton of Dava Sobel's Galileo's Daughter.

    § San Francisco Chronicle October 17
    Daniel Cooper reviews Samuel R. Delany's Times Square Red, Times Square Blue.

    § London Times October 17
    Marcel Berlins reviews Hearts in Atlantis: ''Hearts in Atlantis is entertaining, occasionally compelling, highly evocative - the backdrop of particular songs to accompany important emotional events is brilliantly done - and rarely boring. But it fails to achieve the unity and depth it seeks.''

    (Mon 18 Oct 1999)

    Bestseller Watch, 18 October

    Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's Dune: House Atreides (Bantam Spectra) cracks the San Francisco Chronicle, Amazon hardcover fiction, and PW lists, all at position #10.

    R.A. Salvatore's The New Jedi Order: Vector Prime (Del Rey) was #6 at PW last week (it's dropped off of PW's 10/19 list), #20 on Amazon's hardcover fiction list (#2 after Herbert/Anderson on Amazon's SF bestsellers list), and #36 on USA Today's list -- the latter two lists from last Wednesday, 10/13. This book is in the news because (with George Lucas's authorization) the author kills off one of the original Star Wars characters, Chewbacca.

    Kurt Vonnegut's Bagombo Snuff Box has dropped to #6 at LAT, and remains #24 at NYT.

    Harry Potter and Stephen King's Hearts in Atlantis remain solidly entrenched in the top spots of most lists, though Rowling's books are still edged out by diet books on Amazon's Hot 100 list. Washington Post apparently does not restrict Rowling's books from its hardcover fiction list; the third Harry Potter book is #10 this week. (Apparently government folk don't buy them to the extent people in other cities do; or perhaps there are fewer children in the capital city.) Or maybe WP just changed its policy, as LAT seems to have done -- the three Harry Potter books appear in positions 1, 2 and 4 this week after not having been listed on the hardcover fiction bestseller list at all in previous weeks.

    Surprise recent entry onto bestseller lists: a new Modern Library translation by Richard Howard of Henri Stendhal's 1838 novel The Charterhouse of Parma. It's #23 on Amazon's fiction hardcover list -- and #8 on this week's LAT list.

    Links to the Bestseller lists:

    LAT | NYT | USAT | WP | PW
    Amazon | Amazon UK | B&N | Borders |

    (Mon 18 Oct 1999)

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