1998 saw the publication of the first Harry Potter book, and a firestorm of Christian criticism followed. Christian parents who months before had lovingly read the Chronicles of Narnia to their children at bedtime banished Harry Potter because there were witches in it. Some Christians, sensing the tension, banned Narnia as well.
In all the yowling, Christians paid very little attention to the fact that J. K. Rowling singlehandedly created an entire generation of children that wanted to read. Christian critics paid even less attention to the fact that although the shelves of their local Christian bookstore groaned under heaps of schlocky Christian fiction, children could apparently tell the difference between lousy stories and well-written ones, and preferred the latter, in droves. Embarrassing, that. How come the Christians weren’t producing any good stories? Our last runaway pop-culture hit was…what? The Chronicles of Narnia? Been a while…
In addition to being hugely unaware of the log in its own eye, the criticism was, for the most part, just bad. Shrill. Embarrassing. Obviously written by people who hadn’t an ounce of sense about how to write, or how stories work, or how to read them. Philistines and yahoos, to put it bluntly. Hacks.
Of late the guns of Christian literary criticism — if it can be called that — have been aimed at the Twilight phenomenon, and the overall tone is not a whit improved. It therefore gives me enormous pleasure to point to a bright spot on the horizon: a Christian literary critic who is Doing It Right. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how literary criticism ought to be done. I am referring to Douglas Wilson’s ongoing review of Twilight, the most recent installment of which went up Monday. You can find the reviews, which proceed chapter by chapter, on the Credenda website. If you’re a skip-the-book-and-see-the-movie type, there’s even a (brief) video version, available at Canon Wired. (Update: there’s a part two to the video.)
But read the reviews. Seriously.