"The Casual Vacancy," JK Rowling’s new book, and her first for adults, comes out on Thursday around the world. Expectation is building about the reactions it will get from both critics and fans.
In today’s Guardian, the Harry Potter author seemed to show a nervousness about the critical reception to reporter Decca Aitkenhead:
When I tell her I loved the book, her arms shoot up in celebration. "Oh my God! I'm so happy! That's so amazing to hear. Thank you so much! You've made me incredibly happy. Oh my God!" Anyone listening would take her for a debut author, meeting her first ever fan.
Although the Harry Potter books have sold more than 450 million copies worldwide according to the New York Times, spawning eight movies, theme parks and countless merchandising opportunities, not every critic enjoyed her writing style.
In writing about "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," San Francisco Chronicle critic David Kilpen wrote that "the book lumbers to a protracted, badly choreographed climax" (and received threatening emails from fans as a result.)
Famed literary critic and academic Harold Bloom wrote in 2000 in The Wall Street Journal that "her prose style, heavy on cliche, makes no demands upon her readers," a style that Anthony Holden in The Observer also described as "pedestrian, ungrammatical... [it] has left me with a headache and a sense of a wasted opportunity."
In today's Guardian interview, Rowling said that "I truly didn't sit down and think, right, now it's time to prove I can… I don't think I physically could write a novel for that reason."
She continued, "I just needed to write this book. I like it a lot, I'm proud of it, and that counts for me."
The article also reveals that she considered publishing her first adult novel under a false name.
"But in some ways I think it's braver to do it like this. And, to an extent, you know what? The worst that can happen is that everyone says, 'Well, that was dreadful, she should have stuck to writing for kids' and I can take that. So, yeah, I'll put it out there, and if everyone says, 'Well, that's shockingly bad – back to wizards with you', then obviously I won't be throwing a party. But I will live. I will live."
Rowling can only wait until Thursday, and hope that the notices read better than what the Guardian's own literary critic, Nicholas Lezard, wrote about the series in 2007, under the headline "Harry Potter's Big Con Is The Prose":
"The words on the page are flat... if you have the patience to read it without noticing how plodding it is, then you are self-evidently someone on whom the possibilities of the English language are largely lost.”
Whoever you are, that's got to hurt. Our copy of "The Casual Vacancy" arrived this morning. Visit HuffPost Books on Thursday to find out what we think.
UPDATE: Click here to read our review.
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Page of Wands / Prefect of Gryffindor
Card of being brave and enthusiastic, of confidently pursuing your path even when it differs from what is normal or expected. It is focused on success and opportunities. Former prefect and head boy Percy Weasley has always been ambitious and driven by challenge and being successful - his path towards the Ministry was a divergence from his family and what they wanted him to do. Even though in the end it turned out that Percy had been grossly mistaken in following the Ministry, you can't deny that it was gutsy and courageous to follow his goals for as long as he truly believed they were correct. And when he finally realized that the Ministry was wrong, he bravely left them and followed what he then believed to be right: fighting Voldemort and the Ministry alongside his family.
Knight of Swords / Captain of Slytherin
Symbolizing someone domineering, overbearing and blunt, this card cares little for the feelings of others. On the plus side, it can stand for someone who is direct, honest and authoritative, who cuts straight to the core of an issue and can be very intelligent. However, it can often manifest itself in rudeness and emotional coldness. I think this fits what little we know of Marcus Flint, except for the intelligence part (as he was held back a year...). However, he is described as having a look of 'trollish cunning'... so I suppose maybe he's smart for a troll, but dumb for a wizard. XD
Knight of Pentacles / Captain of Ravenclaw
We don't really know much about Roger's personality, except that he's been a romantic interest for Cho Chang & Fleur DeLacour and goodness knows how many other gals. We know that he's handsome and the captain of Ravenclaw's Quidditch team. And that's about all. Anyway. This card symbolizes a hard working, thorough and detail-oriented individual. While they seriously and doggedly work towards a goal, they can be humorless and obstinate.
Knight of Cups / Captain of Hufflepuff
This card represents a romantic, sensitive, diplomatic and gracious young man. One who looks beneath the surface to constantly self-improve, and can empathize with others. On the negative side, this card can stand for over-sensitivity, jealousy, sulkiness and over-harsh self-examination. Unfortunately, Cedric Diggory died before we could see many more intimate (or even negative) aspects of his personality. But he was certainly gracious and diplomatic, and strove for personal excellence while always remaining fair to others.
Knight of Wands / Captain of Gryffindor:
The card of adventure, passion, charm and restless energy. Angelina Johnson is a fine chaser, and an extremely passionate (and somewhat hot-tempered) team captain. While enthusiasm and gusto can be a good thing, make sure you're not being too rash.
King of Pentacles / Head of Ravenclaw
This card represents a quick-witted, skillful jack-of-all-trades type of person, one who is enterprising and responsible, supportive and generous. It's an excellent card to be represented by a teacher, especially the nimble-minded and extremely skillful professor of Charms, Prof. Flitwick. Flitwick's knowledge of magic is broad, and his interactions with students supportive and steady. Flitwick is always ready to lend a hand to the rest of the staff as well, performing a wide range of duties with a good attitude and competence.
King of Swords / Head of Slytherin
This card represents an intelligent and analytical person, one who understands problems and information quickly and is good at mental challenges. This person is a talented speaker and expects others to live up to his own rather exacting and demanding standards. Severus Snape is all of those things: his logic puzzle protecting the Stone is a good example. He can see through lies and dubious characters often when no one else does (he was the only one to suspect Quirrell, and always knows when Harry has been breaking rules). Really the only thing about this card that doesn't wholly fit Severus is that this card usually represents someone who is just and honorable and ethical. However, while Snape can be mean and petty and is definitely NOT fair and ethical when it comes to academic dealings at Hogwarts, in the grand scheme of things, Snape is on the honorable side of good. Severus made the difficult decision to leave the dark side and serve Dumbledore, and for the most part, no matter his personal feelings, manages to take the high road and do as Dumbledore requests.
The King / Head of Gryffindor / Wands
Self-confident, bold and forceful, this card represents a natural leader. This person usually dominates a situation, is charismatic and authoritative. Never content to sit by, this card represents someone who is always doing something, creating, innovating and is always sure of their convictions. Minerva McGonagall, head of Gryffindor house and professor of the tricky subject of Transfiguration. She commands respect effortlessly and is simply indomitable. She takes the risk of following Albus Dumbledore through controversy without care of what others may think, and is the first to act when Hagrid is being wrongfully attacked by a whole group of Aurors.
King of Cups / Head of Hufflepuff
The card of a patient, tolerant and wise person, one who often has natural skills at healing and nurturing growth in others and promoting teamwork. Professor Sprout is head of hardworking and (usually) cooperative and friendly Hufflepuff house. She seems good-natured and hopefully nurtures learning in her students as well as she nurtured growth in her plant charges. She is responsible for cultivating the mandrakes (and probably other plants) that heal petrified Hogwarts students.
Quee n/ Ghost of Wands / Gryffindor
This card symbolizes someone attractive, friendly, vigorous and encouraging. Well dressed and regal, Nick always has a friendly word for Gryffindor students (as well as often helping Harry avoid trouble). An impressive crowd of guests showed up for his 500th Death Day party, so apparently Nick is quite popular. The one major way Sir Nicholas differs from this card is that this card typically represents one who is not easily upset and who takes defeat with grace and good nature. Granted, Nick does try to accept the rejection by the Headless Hunt gracefully, but his efforts come across as rather transparent (haha...) .