This would be comical if it wasn’t tragic.
It was children whom Ms. Rowling â€” like her Fear Street precursor, but with considerably more skill â€” captivated first, demonstrating with the irrefutable logic of something like 10 bazillion books sold that kids are still perfectly willing to put aside their iPods and Game Boys and pick up a book…if the magic is there. That reading itself is magical is a thing I never doubted. I’d give a lot to know how many teenagers (and preteens) texted this message in the days following the last book’s release: DON’T CALL ME TODAY I’M READING.
The same thing probably happened with R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books, but unlike Stine, Rowling brought adults into the reading circle, making it much larger. This is hardly a unique phenomenon, although it seems to be one associated mainly with British authors (there was Huckleberry Finn, of course, a sequel to its YA little brother Tom Sawyer). Alice in Wonderland began as a story told to 10-year-old Alice Liddell by Charles Dodgson (a.k.a. Lewis Carroll); it is now taught in college lit courses. And Watership Down, Richard Adams’ version of The Odyssey (featuring rabbits instead of humans), began as a story told to amuse the author’s preteen daughters, Juliet and Rosamond, on a long car drive. As a book, though, it was marketed as an ”adult fantasy” and became an international best-seller.
The next day, January 26 (the high temperature was at 14 degrees with 24 inches of snow on the ground), the battle at Holtzwihr (France) began with Murphy’s unit at an effective strength of 19 out of 128. Murphy sent all of his men to the rear while he took pot-shots at the Germans until out of ammunition. He then proceeded to use an abandoned, burning tank destroyer’s .50 caliber machine gun to cut into the German infantry at a distance, including one full squad of German infantry that had crawled in a ditch to within 100 feet of his position. Wounded in the leg during the heavy fire, he continued this nearly single-handed battle for almost an hour. His focus on the battle before him stopped only when his telephone line to the artillery fire direction center was cut by either U.S. or German artillery. As his remaining men came forward, he quickly organized them to conduct the counter attack, which ultimately drove the enemy away from Holtzwihr. These actions earned Murphy the Medal of Honor near Holtzwihr, France.
One of Vonnegut’s best known short stories:
THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They werenâ€™t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.
Some things about living still werenâ€™t quite right, though. April, for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeronâ€™s fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away.
It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldnâ€™t think about it very hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldnâ€™t think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains…
The other thing was casualties. Everyone was impressed with the fact that we were able to do our job with as few casualties that we had. But for the 146 Americans that were killed in action and for the families it wasn’t a cheap war. And the question for the president in terms of whether or not we went on to Baghdad and took additional casualties in an effort to get Saddam Hussein was how many additional dead Americans was Saddam worth and in our judgment it was not very many and I think we got it right.
From the Sunday Times Book Review:
In March 1940, in the â€œmidnight of the centuryâ€ that marked the depth of the Hitler-Stalin pact (or in other words, at a time when civilization was menaced by an alliance between two Voldemorts or â€œYou-Know-Whosâ€), George Orwell took the time to examine the state of affairs in fantasy fiction for young people. And what he found (in an essay called â€œBoysâ€™ Weekliesâ€) was an extraordinary level of addiction to the form of story that was set in English boarding schools. Every week, boys (and girls) from the poorer quarters of industrial towns and from the outer edges of the English-speaking Empire would invest some part of their pocket-money to keep up with the adventures of Billy Bunter, Harry Wharton, Bob Cherry, Jack Blake and the other blazer-wearing denizens of Greyfriars and St. Jimâ€™s. As he wrote:
â€œIt is quite clear that there are tens and scores of thousands of people to whom every detail of life at a â€˜poshâ€™ public school is wildly thrilling and romantic. They happen to be outside that mystic world of quadrangles and house-colors, but they can yearn after it, daydream about it, live mentally in it for hours at a stretch. The question is, Who are these people?â€