July 27, 2005
When Potter fans get angry, phase one . . .
by Dennis Johnson
After panning the new Harry Potter book in a San Francisco Chronicle review — “It’s not that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is dull, exactly. In places, it rises to a pitch resembling suspense, or at least a passing curiosity about what might happen next. No, the main problem is that J.K. Rowling has now written six of these bricks.” — David Kipen has now recanted: “I was wrong. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a masterpiece of all-ages literature that ranks alongside The Lord of the Rings and The Wind in the Willows.” Actually, he goes on in a new Chronicle commentary, he still isn’t crazy about the book. “But when it turns out that expressing reservations about the Potter phenomenon can buy you a death threat, it’s worth asking: Is this degree of protective devotion some form of mass hysteria, or a hopeful development in otherwise unreaderly times?” Even his 10-year-old niece wrote in to complain, he says. She called his review “a pile of rubble” — a phrase which, says Kipen, “for my money, represents a more surprising and memorable use of language than anything in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”
Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.