‘Rolling Stone’ Survey Confirms Harry Potter as Generation Hex’s Shared Text

In late October, 2007, popular commentator and maven of commonplaces Chuck Klosterman predicted his own demise as a professional observer in an Esquire magazine article. That article,Death by Harry Potter,’ argued that, because Klosterman knew next to nothing about The Boy Who lived — never having read a book or seen a movie — his continued ability to catch the references made by creative people whose imaginations had been shaped by the Hogwarts Saga was very much in doubt. Klosterman wrote:

The bookish kids reading Harry Potter novels may not go on to control the world, but they will almost certainly go on to control the mass media. In fifteen years, they will be publishing books and directing films and writing broad jokes for unfunny situation comedies that will undoubtedly be downloaded directly into our brains. And like all generations of artists, they will traffic in their own nostalgia. They will use their shared knowledge and experiences as the foundation for discourse. So I wonder: Because I don’t understand Harry Potter, am I doomed to misunderstand everything else?

You really should read the whole thing, but let me give you the short cut to his answer to that semi-rhetorical question. Yes, Klosterman wrote, he is doomed to misunderstand everything else.

Fast forward eleven years. Rolling Stone magazine published on 1 September 2018 an article by Sarah Grant, Harry Potter’ at 20: Artists Reveal Tattoos, Tears, Tour Stories Inspired by the Wizarding World — From Lily Allen to Anthrax, Vic Mensa to Steve Earle – music’s biggest Potterheads on how series changed them, their music and their lives. Her conclusions?

What Klosterman wrote in 2007. Generation Hex has grown up and is taking charge of the music world. Not ‘getting’ Harry Potter is to be out of step, even clueless about what their collective concerns and imaginative vision includes. The Hogwarts Saga is this generation’s Shared Text, even as one singer’s English profesor dad said, their Shakespeare.

I wrote about Klosterman’s comments in a December, 2008, article in Touchstone magazine: ‘Book Binders: What I learned about the Great Books and Harry Potter.’ It was the first place outside this blog where I discussed the ‘shared text’ idea, Allan Bloom’s use of the term, and its applicability to Harry’s adventures. Does the idea of that article, that Harry is a part of our shared vision, hold up after almost ten years? Or has he been displaced or marginalized by latter-day phenomena? Let me know what you think in the comment boxes below.


  1. Kelly Loomis says

    I would agree with this to an extent. My kids are of this generation. One would say yes and the other no. However, they have different approaches to life. One loving fiction and the other biographies and history. One loving fantasy movies and the other documentaries. The prevelance of the stories, however, have given my non fiction daughter a general knowledge of the characters and references that are a part of culture.

  2. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    I was just rereading Tolkien’s letter (No. 267) to his son, Michael, about Robert Graves introducing Ava Gardner and Tolkien to each other in 1964, and, after they had “got on quite well” in polite conversation, Graves saying, “it is obvious neither of you has ever heard of the other before”. Maybe the Potter-y side of JKR is similarly at once hugely, widely famous and yet sometimes distinctly ‘niche’.

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