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Friday, September 28, 2012

JK Rowling's CASUAL VACANCY Meets Pollyanna

Photo from Steven J. Hill via Creative Commons
JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy released yesterday. And after reading reviews of the novel I've decided that I exist in a time warp. I could introduce myself on a daily basis as "Janiel Laura Ingalls Wilder Miller." or "Janiel Anne (with an "E") Shirley Miller." In short, I was born in the wrong time period. I'm waaaaaay too conventional and old fashioned and naive and, well, delicate, for the times we live in. 

Or I might just be getting old.

According to most reviews, Rowling's new book is fine. It shows sparks of brilliance and her trademark humor. But it's also apparently rife with shallow people (read: Vernon and Petunia-wannabes, but without the So-Moronic-They're-Hilarious-ness that characterized them deliciously in the Potter series)---as well as (brace yourself) rape, drugs, abuse, and the general drek-ness of humanity's underbelly. Then it reportedly ends darkly and without any of the softened edges we came to expect from our favorite wizard's stories. And finally, assuming these reports are accurate, there's a description of a used condom that my wimpy-self could have lived without (NY Times article here. And do expect the review to be a bit on the chipped-shoulder-Hey-This-Isn't-My-Beloved-Harry-Potter side of things.)

Okay, I can't judge this book. We're talking about personal preferences here. There are plenty of folks who love grittier novels than I, and that's perfectly fine. It's why I love the freedom of expression and choice we enjoy in the free world. I certainly can't criticize The Casual Vacancy's content (especially since I haven't read it yet). Not to mention, I'm on year four of figuring out how to go from writing short articles to writing an entire novel. My novel has changed completely like 47 times, without it being anywhere near ready to publish, much less query for an agent. Writing any kind of book is miraculous, getting it published even more so. I have nothing but respect for Ms. Rowling and her endless imagination and work ethic.

But here's the thing: I LOVED the Harry Potter series. I mean, I never thought it was perfect. It had issues (Like, in Goblet of Fire, why didn't Crouch Junior simply turn one of Harry's pencils into a portkey and have done with it on the first day of class, instead of dragging him through the entire School Champion-thing to get him to the trophy portkey at the end?) But it was a pure and utter delight, and a departure from the mundane grit of reality. Harry's world was imagination unleashed and creative abandon, and it all ended well. For me it's a joyous break to immerse myself in such tales. Real life is tough and doesn't always end well. I prefer not to pound myself with that when I read for pleasure. I'd rather live in a pure unadulterated fantasyland for a few hours and escape the blech.

So, I guess I'm not sure I'll read The Casual Vacancy. Because as a dyed-in-the-wool Anne Shirley Pollyanna Laura Ingalls, I want to always associate magic and wonder with JK Rowling's name. Call me a wimp. (Not really. If you do I'll delete your comment. I'm in charge here. Kind of.) I'm fine with it. (Pretty much.) I like to keep the rose-colored glasses firmly on my nose. If Rowling writes more stories set in the Potterverse, or other books that line up with my personal La-La-Land, I'll be right there. And I'll still always be in awe of anyone who writes as much and for as long as she did on one series of books, and makes it that enjoyable for us as readers. 

Meantime, if YOU read Rowling's new book, feel free to comment and tell me what you think about it. Maybe someone will manage to talk me into snagging a copy from the library.

Happy reading, my friends! As for me, I'm off to restart Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Lalalalalalala!

9 comments:

Darcee Yates said...

Janiel, I picked the book up in the store to read the jacket and put it back. Then went home and read same review of the gossamer balloon or whatever and had the exact same reaction as yourself. We could be twins!

sign me
Darcee Ariel Petunia Yates. La-La ,/~,/ ,/~,/

Janiel Miller said...

Hahahaha! I like Darcee Ariel Petunia. :) So I'm not completely nuts. Or we both are! Thanks, fellow innocent naif!

William Kendall said...

I was one of the first to put it on hold at my library; I'll read it, decide if it's buy-worthy or not. At some point I shall let you know...

Now the hold list is well over a thousand people, mind you...

William Kendall said...

And if she were to go back to the Harry Potter world, she could always go back in time, tell the story of the four founders of Hogwarts...

Janiel Miller said...

Awesome, William! I'll be very interested in hearing what you think about Vacancy.

And *gasp* a book about the 4 founders would be wonderful! You should write to her...

jjsundevil said...

love me some jk rowling

William Kendall said...

Got hold of it.... managed to get through a hundred pages of it... and that was it. Unpleasant people, unpleasant setting, not worth plowing through the rest.

Best to avoid it.

Janiel Miller said...

Well there you go then. Thanks for the review. That's pretty much what I gathered. And it apparently doesn't get better, finally ending unpleasantly. Unpleasantly-er.

Appreciate the feedback, William!

Russo said...

This has been such hard dilemna for me too. I love JK but dunno if I wanna delve into this world. It means that HP is really done-sad. I'm intrigued to see how she handles an adult book.

Thanks for writing this review girl because you helped me figure this situation out. BTW I adore that photo of JK. I also adore your line, "dyed-in-the-wool Anne Shirley Pollyanna Laura Ingalls." so clever.