The author of the transcendent Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling, has finally written a new novel–for adults.
It’s called “The Casual Vacancy,” and it comes out soon. Ian Parker of the New Yorker has reviewed it.
It’s about “an idyllic English town named Pagford; the death of a man named Barry; a parish-council election.”
It sounds pretty boring.
Of course, Harry Potter sounded pretty boring, too. But it wasn’t. So we won’t judge this one by its coverage.
Still, in reading about the new J.K. Rowling book, it’s impossible to avoid two feelings.
First, that the characters she’s writing about are really the Harry Potter characters. And, therefore, that the new book is effectively “Harry Potter for adults” and therefore includes phrases and observations that occurred in the Harry Potter books but would have been out of place had they been noted.
Such as these three highlighted by Katy Waldman of Slate:
“The leathery skin of her upper cleavage radiated little cracks that no longer vanished when decompressed.”
…a “miraculously unguarded vagina.”
“A lustful boy sits on a school bus ‘with an ache in his heart and in his balls.’”
[So is that’s what Harry Potter was really thinking about? Vaginas and balls?]
The second feeling you get upon reading about a J.K. Rowling book for adults, especially a “realist” one like this, is the feeling you got when watching Michael Jordan retire from basketball because he was bored and start playing minor-league pro baseball. Jordan was certainly within his rights to do this–he didn’t owe anyone anything–but it still seemed sad and a waste. It was instantly obvious that Jordan would never be a great baseball player, and the world loves greatness. So the world cheered when Jordan finally packed it in on his baseball career and returned to the game he dominated.
J.K. Rowling may well be a good writer of adult realist fiction, but it seems unlikely that she’ll be the genius she was when writing the Harry Potter books.
So J.K. Rowling fans everywhere will probably hope that Rowling’s adult realist period is merely a well-deserved break, and that she’ll soon return to her strengths and take full advantage of her gift.
And, on that score, there’s hope:
“She is working on two books “for slightly younger children” than her Harry Potter readers,” says the New Yorker’s Parker.
J.K. Rowling herself sounds more interesting than her new novel, and Parker reveals a lot of new details…