Playing by the rules
Sir — There is no doubt that both Serena and Venus Williams have set a new record in tennis by their sheer physical presence in an all-white, conservative, middle-class sports arena (“Ace in her pace”, July 5). But would the duo have attracted as much attention had they been male' Lawn tennis, particularly Wimbledon and more particularly the women’s matches, has for long been a spectacle where female players have made fashion statements, apart from setting their own standards of play by their so-called grace and style. The Williamses are doing much the same, with their tight-fitting lycra outfits and by their so-called “power tennis”. They are not altering the terms of reference, but only slightly modifying them, possibly consciously. The sisters have made a breakthrough by being the most successful black tennis players, not by the fact that they are black female players. So far as the last adjunct is concerned, they will continue to play by the rules.
M. Acharya, Calcutta
Sir — In “Pop goes Potter” (June 28), Rudrangshu Mukherjee has written about Harry Potter’s future, about the longevity of the phenomenon, and it’s readership without even having read the books. Mukherjee is glad that J.K. Rowling has managed to bring the people back to reading books, but doesn’t want to be a part of the revolution. Instead, he depends on other’s judgments on Rowling’s style of writing, media hype and the craze over the books. Why should a reader trust Mukherjee when everything he says about Potter is second hand information'
I am glad that Mukherjee has recognized the Potter revolution. But contrary to his conviction, the alchemy between Potter and her readers is not a mystery. The reasons why everyone went crazy over Potter when the first book was released were the simple yet beautiful narrative, the ability of the writer to give free reign to imagination and the engrossing plot. I was sceptical about Harry Potter myself till I read the first book. And since then, I have not been able to stop. Even after reading the five books, my expectations from Rowling have not diminished. Does not the fact that the Harry Potter movies have been among the top ten popular movies attest to the success of the Potter magic'
When The Philosopher’s Stone was published, Rowling had just been divorced, and didn’t have funds to support her kids. Her book was subsequently rejected by as many as eight publishers. Did Rowling have the wherewithal to think of “strategies” to make her book successful then' Rowling may have brilliantly exploited elements from a long tradition of children’s writing, but there is no denying that she has been able to titillate the imagination of her readers. To compare her with others like J.R. Tolkien is unfair. Why can’t we digest a good book as a good book and stop trying to analyse why it is so' Much of Harry Potter now is surrounded by media hype, but is it fair to pan a book for that' To me Potter is just as valuable as the William books were to Professor Sushobhan Sarkar. Like him, I too allow people to borrow my books only to be read in my house. If you ask me if the books will stand the test of time, I will say there is no reason they should not. Never mind if people find it difficult to digest the success of Rowling and Harry Potter.
Kanak Gupta, Calcutta
Sir — I had been waiting for The Order of the Phoenix for a long time. But I must admit that after the long wait, I was sorely disappointed. I had expected a lot more from a 766-pager, like it was in the case of The Goblet of Fire. In the current book, J.K. Rowling rambles on about Harry Potter’s classes, and OWL exams, making it less action-packed than its predecessors. Potter’s anger and his tirades fills up chapters as does a lot of other boring anecdotes about the magical world. The climax is good but some of the chapters leading up to it are quite tiresome. I think this book would be more successful as a novel had it been around 550 pages.
I am not saying the book is a failure, but it could have been better. There might after all be some truth in the reports that Rowling is suffering from writer’s block. This book has taken her three years, although it took her the same time to write four of her other literary delights.
Samrat Raychaudhuri, Calcutta
Sir — Rudrangshu Mukherjee hits the nail on the head by stating that the Harry Potter books have brought back children to books. The hype surrounding the books and the movies have made the five books, particularly the current one, a status symbol among readers and non-readers. The thickness of the recent book is of course a matter of concern. Harry Potter is fit to be read by both children and adults, as all good children’s fiction ought to be. I was glad to read about the William books. I feel that these books need to be circulated more to realize the sheer joy they bring. School libraries and parents should consider it.
Kajal Lahiri, Sodepur
Sir — The response to the latest in the Harry Potter series is unprecedented. No other book has had such a sensational launching so far. But for a writer earning more than the queen of England, it is not difficult to manage the spectacle. Potter has been able to attract children to books. It is yet another confirmation that books can never be replaced, not even by the silver screen or the idiot box.
S. Ram, Calcutta