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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 July, 2003, 10:58 GMT 11:58 UK
Booker winner slates Potter books
JK Rowling
JK Rowling could not match Terry Pratchett's "genius", Byatt wrote
Author AS Byatt has dismissed the Harry Potter books as being written for people whose imaginations are confined to the "worlds of soaps, reality TV and celebrity gossip".

The Booker Prize-winning author said Rowling's stories lacked the "seriousness" of great children's writers and questioned why adults were fanatical about her writing.

Many grown-up Harry Potter lovers turned to the books for comfort because they let them regress to childhood, she wrote.

But Byatt has reportedly been called a snob after her editorial column appeared in the New York Times on Monday.

Of the latest Harry Potter book, she wrote: "It is written for people whose imaginative lives are confined to TV cartoons, and the exaggerated (more exciting, not threatening) mirror-worlds of soaps, reality TV and celebrity gossip."

Children were attracted by the powerful fantasy and the stories were "comfortable, funny, just frightening enough", she wrote.

AS Byatt is jealous
Andrew Hammond, UK

"But why would grown-up men and women become obsessed by jokey latency fantasies? Comfort, I think, is part of the reason."

She said childhood reading remained "potent" for most people because "we like to regress".

But fantasy novels by the likes of Susan Cooper, Alan Garner and Ursula K Le Guin contained "a real sense of mystery, powerful forces, dangerous creatures in dark forests".

"Ms Rowling's magic wood has nothing in common with these lost worlds. It is small, and on the school grounds, and dangerous only because she says it is," Byatt wrote.

"Ms Rowling, I think, speaks to an adult generation that hasn't known, and doesn't care about, mystery.

"They are inhabitants of urban jungles, not of the real wild. They don't have the skills to tell ersatz magic from the real thing, for as children they daily invested the ersatz with what imagination they had."

AS Byatt
Ms Rowling, I think, speaks to an adult generation that hasn't known, and doesn't care about, mystery
AS Byatt
The "multifarious genius" and "amazing sentences" of Terry Pratchett were offered as an alternative.

She concludes her review by saying there is "nothing wrong" with Harry Potter.

"But it has little to do with the shiver of awe we feel looking through Keats's 'magic casements, opening on the foam/Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.'"

Byatt is one of the UK's most respected authors and won the prestigious Booker Prize in 1990 for Possession.

But, after her article appeared, she was reportedly described as a snob who may be jealous of Rowling's commercial success by US website Salon.

Rowling's publisher, Bloomsbury, was not available for comment.

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