Fantastical Beginnings

Ursula Le Guin has a truly phenomenal essay about fantasy and children’s literature in the New Statesman. I highly encourage you to read the entire piece. The conclusion:

The Harry Potter phenomenon, a fantasy aimed at sub-teenagers becoming a great best-seller among adults, confirmed that fantasy builds a two-way bridge across the generation gaps. Adults trying to explain their enthusiasm told me: "I haven’t read anything like that since I was ten!" And I think this was simply true. Discouraged by critical prejudice, rigid segregation of books by age and genre, and unconscious maturismo, many people literally hadn’t read any imaginative literature since childhood. Rapid, immense success made this book respectable, indeed obligatory, reading. So they read it, and rediscovered the pleasure of reading fantasy – which may be inferior only to the pleasure of rereading it.

(Via Maud.)

3 thoughts on “Fantastical Beginnings”

  1. I’m not sure it’s all that phenomenal, to tell you the truth. The defensive attitude toward mainstream critics, the co-opting of Marquez and Borges (not to mention Shakespeare and Ariosto) — it all gets old after a while.
    It is nice to see her mention Harry Potter without complaining that it’s stealing the love from Earthsea, though.

  2. Agree to disagree, David — I could quibble with some of her points, but overall believe she’s right. Especially on the main points about children’s literature and fantasy (I’m not sure she necessarily had to focus that much on fantasy as a whole to make those points). Plus, I love watching how her brain works.

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