Matthew Bell: Rant & Rave (03/07/11)

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The Independent Online


Are you counting the hours, the minutes, the seconds? Twelve days - that's how long to wait until the final Harry Potter film, and oh, what a release. At last, the spell will be broken, and the dreary little wizard and his wand-waving friends will expelliarmus for the last time.

They will battle evil (again); with much whizz bangery (more than usual, this film's in 3D), and then, three hours later, after saving the world (again), we can get back to where we left off 14 years ago.

And where was that? It was a time when cultural life in Britain was rich and varied; when children were not tyrannised into reading one mediocre author. They chose from dozens of original talents, such as Roald Dahl, William Horwood and Dick King-Smith. It was a time before adults were infantilised into plundering their kids' bookshelves – or worse, buying the same books in posher covers.

I remember the day I realised the world had gone Harry Potty. It was the summer after leaving school, and six people round one swimming pool were reading the same book. Adults I had once looked up to were jabbering about Hogwarts and Dumbledore, as if nobody had written a series of adventures set in a school before (Mallory Towers, Just William, Jennings, Goodbye Mr Chips – insert most of the canon of children's literature).

Of course, the books have the right ingredients for good fiction and are perfectly well written. And if they have got children reading, so much the better. But have you ever cried, laughed, been revolted by a single volume of J K's? Or wondered why film-makers chose to make two films out of the last volume? Ten billion pounds on, I do believe in magic.


The one good thing to have come out of Harry Potter is Harry Potter – well, the actor who plays him, Daniel Radcliffe. As anyone who has seen him on stage will confirm (I caught him in Equus), he is one of the sutblest actors of his generation. Only 21, he is already worth £28m, but he says that won't change him. His main expense, he says, is books. But not J K Rowling, I'll bet.