Tag Archives: Harry Potter

Why I Feel Sorry for J.K. Rowling

15th April 2012

Yes, I know she’s a gazillionaire and that her success is beyond what most people can even imagine. However, when Little, Brown announced this past week that J.K. Rowling’s new adult-fiction book The Casual Vacancy had a release date (September 2012) and a synopsis, the Internet went a bit crazy. The synopsis?

When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock.Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults. (via Little, Brown)

Personally, I loved the Harry Potter series. I didn’t expect to, but I did. Yes, the beginning books were a bit unstable, but the magic? The storytelling? I loved it all. Even at the end of the series, yes, I felt J.K. Rowling made some missteps (I’m looking at you, awkward Dumbledore scene in the train station when Harry is supposed to be dead). However, as a series, as a composite group of work, Harry Potter is masterful.

This novel? It will be different. J.K. Rowling certainly could have published this book under another name and avoided all the drama; however, she chose to place her name on The Casual Vacancy, a markedly-different book in almost every conceivable way.

In 2007, there were rumors that J.K. Rowling met with Ian Rankin in Edinburgh to discuss crime novels. The man himself tweeted me in February, saying she “does love a good whodunnit.” It isn’t being touted as such, but politics and small-town issues put this one in a perfect position for a murder or two. Speculation only, but isn’t that what revealing a blurb this early in the game is all about?

Many vowed to read anything written by the author of the famed boy Harry Potter. Others weren’t so excited:

 

https://twitter.com/#!/ArnoldGareth/status/190704002168651778

Twitter / @ArnoldGareth: #jkrowling should have sto … via kwout

On Bookalicious.org, Pam says it sounds “boring,” and the comments on her blog tend to agree. The Telegraph’s Sameer Rahim talks about why he’s “dreading” The Casual Vacancy, with the oh-so-original argument that J.K. Rowling sucks as a writer and that kids should be reading Charles Dickens (I’m thinking that deserves a post of its own).

So am I so ensconced in Jo’s camp (yeah, we’re close. I call her “Jo”) that I feel the need to defend her against all this scuffling nonsense? Hardly. I’m sure the woman who has built a multimedia empire can hold her own. However, in terms of J.K. Rowling as a writer, one who created something that has, for many, become legend, how do you move past it?

I, for one, am impressed that a mere year after the last HP film, she has jumped into the fray and is releasing a book. She had to have known she would meet this sort of response as there are some who will be unhappy with anything less than full-on magic. There are still others who have never understood her success to begin with.

Releasing a book so radically different is natural. Had she released anything else about Harry or any of the characters from the series, she would likely have faced much criticism for “milking” the success of the series. There would inevitably be articles written about the watered-down stories, much like spinoffs of successful TV shows. [Who can forget the Friends spinoff, Joey? Or maybe, who can remember it? Cheers boasts the successful Frasier, but it also had a 13-episode run of The Tortellis.]

J.K. Rowling will face a multitude of critics come September (and months before as ARCs are parceled out). The reactions? Disappointed Harry Potter fans angry that Queen Rowling didn’t produce the magic. Devout HP fans who will laud the queen, regardless of the quality of the book. Raging journalists, who have wanted to pounce for years but didn’t want to be attacked, will come out of the woodworks, decrying the death of literature.

Do I feel sorry for J.K. Rowling? Indeed I do. There is no way for her to win here, even if she produced a Dickensian novel, and I say “Dickensian” simply because these days Dickens seems to be the media’s favorite measurement for true literature. Once she gets this first novel out of the way, I think it will be easier for her to continue writing if she chooses to. So get it under your belt, Jo. I’ll pour the tea (with a bit of spirits) come September.

Mischief Managed!

1st August 2011

It is August in Texas, yet I am looking forward to starting this month more than you can possibly know. July packed a punch, and not in a good way. It was one of the worst months of my life because of some job-related stress. However, apparently stress and no money are really good for reading. I read 16 books in August, and thankfully my Shelfari account, instead of telling me I am behind last year’s pace, now tells me I am ahead of my 2010 reading pace. Yippee! It’s a damn shame when a website can make you feel guilty…

As per the title of this post, mischief has most certainly been managed. Since last Friday, I completed Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. That’s approximately 3,184 pages in one week, and I also listened to Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming and read Attachments by Rainbow Rowell.

That’s why reviews have been a bit light around these here parts over the last month. Looking back I only reviewed 5 (five!) books. Don’t hate me. I promise I’ve got a lot in store for you this month, and that’s partly because so many great books are coming out this fall.

So sit back, try to stay cool, and tell me what the heck you’ve been up to.

I Solemnly Swear I Am Up to No Good…

27th July 2011

If, that is, you consider non-stop reading as “no good.” I have been a bit down for various reasons lately, and after seeing the last Harry Potter film, I decided I needed to start back at the beginning of the series. I have owned all the books at some point, but after lending them to different people over the years, only one is left on my shelves, so I went down to my library and checked them all out.

Since Friday, I have read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and I am halfway finished with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I am thoroughly enjoying my re-read, and I feel like a kid again when summer reading meant reading to the exclusion of all else until Mom made me go play outside.

I hope you’ll stick around. Right now, I just need this escape into something other than my real life. I will return once I can safely say “Mischief Managed.”

jenn aka the picky girl

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

20th July 2011

The short version: A story of college students at a school of magic who aren’t happy with their lives and sit around drinking and complaining before they graduate and do a lot more drinking and complaining before they go looking for trouble…and find it.

Warning: a somewhat snarky review follows.

***

Quentin is the smartest kid he knows, but he is bored as hell. His parents are wrapped up in their own lives, and the girl he’s in love with isn’t in love with him. He has grown up reading a series of books about children who had adventures in the land of Fillory, and he’s stuck on Earth. In other words, his life is atrocious, and no one else has ever experienced such horrendous torture. You should all feel very sorry for him. Quentin certainly does, until an odd series of events leads him to Brakebills College, an elite school of magic where he passes the entrance exam.

From then on, it’s magic and studying and magic and studying with a few high and low points, like having sex while transformed into a fox, nearly dying in the wilds of Antarctica, and sitting around playing welters, a game of magic. Then Quentin and his friends, Eliot, Janet, Josh, and girlfriend Alice all graduate. Life as a magician in the real world is pretty boring. Do you get a real job? Well, why would you? There is a mysterious “magician’s fund” that apparently is never depleted and provides magicians money when they need it. (I’m all in, by the way.) However, again these characters are miserable – drinking too much, doing drugs, having meaningless sex – and they need something. That something is Fillory. Because lo and behold, it really exists. So the gang ponies up and heads to Fillory, but it isn’t all magic bunnies and beautiful nymphs. Something is wrong in Fillory, and Quentin must figure out what it is in order to try to be happy. (Here’s where the plot finally comes in, right around page 240.)

***

Because that’s all this novel is really about. Quentin is really really unhappy with absolutely no real reason (until the end) to be unhappy. But I have to start this review with this: Lev Grossman has some serious writing chops. In fact, that’s the only reason I finished this novel because lord have mercy, it was long. And drawn out. And not a lot happened for two-thirds of the book. There is no overarching plot here, and I guess that’s what annoyed me the most. At times I checked to make sure it wasn’t a spoof of Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia, since it referenced each multiple times. Fillory was essentially Narnia, which made me think Grossman could have just used it in the book instead of creating something so darn similar but not calling it Narnia. I kept checking to see what page I was on because I could not believe how long it was taking me to read this book. Without any real plot to move the book along, Grossman relies on his characters, and they are kind of a bunch of assholes. They are selfish, lazy, and pretentious. Alice, Quentin’s girlfriend, was the only character I remotely liked, simply because her background and unhappiness made sense. Everyone else just sort of claimed unhappiness for sport. Alice is the only one who actually points it out, telling Quentin:

[L]ook at your life and see how perfect it is. Stop looking for the next secret door that is going to lead you to your real life. Stop waiting. This is it; there’s nothing else. It’s here, and you better decide to enjoy it or you’re going to be miserable wherever you go, for the rest of your life, forever.

And pretty much, he is miserable forever – at least the forever that is this book – even with a pretty cool, British-y magic school, some pretty darn good friends, and money out the wazoo. Ultimately, this book was an exercise in futility, reinforcing the idea that some people ain’t happy and ain’t never gonna be happy, no matter what. If that’s magic, I don’t really want any part of it.

So I gotta know – have you read this? Did you react at all to it like I did? Or have I lost my non-magical mind?

jenn aka the picky girl

P.S. All is not lost. The nice folks at Viking sent me this book and The Magician King, the sequel to this book, for me to read and review. Come back tomorrow for a giveaway and to see why I think it’s (somewhat) redemptive.

Other Reviews:

The New York Times

Fantasy Book Review

Entomology of a Bookworm

#fridayreads take me away: Harry Potter

15th July 2011

#fridayreads take me away is a weekly meme to celebrate the start of the weekend and the glorious day of reading whatever the heck you want. I’d love for you to join! For further explanation, click here.

 

The boy who lived, come to die…

Unlike almost any other character for me, Harry Potter certainly lived. Rowling made his world and his friends and his trials come to life in a magnificent way that has spoken to so many people – readers and non-readers.

Today, I will be consumed with all things Harry Potter as I plan to watch the first half of HP7 this afternoon before a 4:10 viewing of the last. Potter. film. ever. I’m much older than the characters in the series, but I am so grateful my mom (a 6th grade reading teacher at the time) made me pick up the first three books. And I’ll never forget how devastated I was to realize there were only three out at the time. Each time a new one was scheduled to come out, I waited in the lines – sometimes with friends; sometimes with Mom and Dad. We grabbed our copies, said goodbye, and tucked in at 1 or 2 a.m. to continue the story of the boy who lived and those who made sure he did.

Though I love each of the books for different reasons, the last stunned me. From the very first scenes, it reminded me of a Holocaust narrative – people hiding and running from an evil power determined to destroy them. Neighbors there one day and gone the next. The Dark Mark, though opposite, is still as oppressive as the signs many were made to wear, among them the Star of David and paper clips. So, for me, this book/film is an epic not only because it contains a battle but also because it tells a story of good and evil and of those caught somewhere in the middle. In the first half of the film it was painful to watch Draco caught up in a man’s game – so much more deadly than any he had encountered before. I ached for him, and I certainly didn’t want to.

I will miss the fun and mischief. I will miss Hogwarts. But more than anything, I will miss the Weasleys, Lupin, Snape, Hermione, Neville, Harry, Ron, Luna. Tomorrow will feel like a loss of sorts – and as I know you are fellow readers, I can say that without feeling batty.

So in honor of Harry Potter, Hermione Grange, and Ron Weasley and all the other beloved characters of the series as well as their creator, J.K. Rowling, today I will simply ask you to share your favorite Harry Potter moments from the films, the books, or the community built around HP – either in comments or in a separate blog post. (Don’t forget to link up below!)

And, of course, you can watch the trailer for the millionth time….


 jenn aka the picky girl, house of gryffindor