Tag Archives: whodunnit

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.

Audiobook review: And Then There Were None

30th June 2011

*You can purchase the audio from Audible or the print version from Indiebound.

Ten little Indian boys went out to dine;

One choked his little self and then there were nine.

Nine little Indian boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.
Eight little Indian boys travelling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.
Seven little Indian boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in half and then there were six.
Six little Indian boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.
Five little Indian boys going in for law;
One got in Chancery and then there were four.
Four little Indian boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.
Three little Indian boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.
Two Little Indian boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was one.

One little Indian boy left all alone;

He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.

Ah, folk songs and nursery rhymes. So sweet. So simple. So nice to fall asleep to… Wait, no they’re actually not. Ten people die in the one above – and pretty nastily, might I add. Jack and Jill and Humpty Dumpty – well, we know what happens to them. Rough stuff, peeps. Best not to think about it.

Agatha Christie, though, oh ho, she thought about it, and the rhyme above now scares the pants off me, thankyouverymuch. You see, ten people, introduced in the first chapters of the book, are all heading to Indian Island, under very different pretenses. Invitations to see old friends, offers of employ, and free vacations to check out a new place have all been issued to lure these particular guests. Yet, when all the guests arrive at the house on Indian Island, no hosts are present. Instead, each guest has a room with the above nursery rhyme hung on the wall, and there are ten little china Indian figurines centered on the dining room table…until they begin disappearing as rapidly as the guests die off.

And that, my friends, is how to set the scene. No one else is on the island, and there is no hope of getting off it, leaving the ten people to think about just what they did to land themselves in such a deadly predicament, each hoping against hope he or she will be the one to survive. [insert scary echoing laugh here.]

I listened to this on audiobook as a way to get myself to the gym. Not only did I go to the gym, I stayed on the machine much longer than normal then decided to return to lay out by the pool and listen. I have read a lot of mysteries in my time, so I kept waiting for the moment when I would figure out the identity of the murderer. Not gonna happen. Not only did I not guess, but I was blown away by the ending of this book and listened to it a couple of times in disbelief that my mystery-genius-ness failed me. And Hugh Fraser? He was excellent in keeping the characters separate without driving me crazy with different pitches. It’s difficult to describe, but he gave each character a slightly unique inflection while still not disrupting the flow of the reading. I have already added some of Hugh Fraser’s other narrations to my wish list on Audible.com.

I know some of you out there are big Agatha Christie fans. I read several in high school, but it was a pretty (cough cough) long time ago. Any recommendations on which I just have to read next? And have audiobooks made you do anything out of character recently? After all, it’s the last day of June, which IS Audiobook Month…

jenn aka the picky girl