Cormoran Strike #4 Title is ‘Lethal White’

the-silkworm-cuckoos-calling2Yesterday J. K. Rowling had a contest on Twitter, the winner of which would win an autographed copy of her next Cormoran Strike mystery. The challenge was to figure out the title of this book from the clue “- – – H – – – H – – -.”

I found the clue all but impossible to grasp. Was it one word or two or three? Was it a picture of, say, a suspension bridge?

CareerOfEvil-UK-US-800x611Fortunately, there are legions of cryptographers in the twittersphere and we had an answer, the right answer, in a little over an hour, from a Rowling reader in Singapore. The title is ‘Lethal White.’ Prof Freeman informed me that, no, this was not a pointer to whose lives matter and the danger of armed Caucasian policemen (hurrah!), but the name of a fatal genetic abnormality among horses. I kid you not.

Three notes off the cuff about this title after the jump! [Read more…]

Nicolas Flamel in Fantastic Beasts 2?

Dear John,

What do you think about the theory of Flamel and Newt meeting up in Paris and Grindelwald trying to get the philosopher’s stone?

Kelly

John’s response after the jump! [Read more…]

Celebrity is as Celebrity Does: The Double-Edged Sword of Author Accessibility

Oscar StatuetteIt’s red carpet season, which would probably be more meaningful if the big glitzy ceremonies were actually about giving out awards for exemplary work. Instead they seem to be about which celebrity’s outfit was the most shocking, who made the biggest gaffe (And the Academy Award goes to…), or about the technical glitches that reveal the true natures of singers and their actual abilities, or lack thereof, with the searing clarity of a kid yelling “The Emperor is naked!”

 

The other aspect of these shows that seems to get more attention than the artistic accolades they are supposed to celebrate is the way in which celebrities use the red carpet and the on-stage podium as a bully pulpit from which to proclaim their own political and social agendas. With the addition of social media outlets like Twitter and Instagram, celebrities can tell everybody how they feel about everything, sometimes whether or not everybody wants to know or has any inclination to care. Though we expect this nonsense from movie stars and rappers, we are now seeing more and more of it from everyone from political leaders to brilliant writers, whom we might have hoped were above such shenanigans.

 

J.K. Rowling’s recent public tweet-wars with everyone from television personalities to disappointed readers have drawn attention to the way in which our technology now makes it possible for living authors to be remarkably outspoken and accessible, in ways previously un-imagined. Publicists and handlers of best-selling authors doubtless encourage them to engage in these spectacles to keep the fame machine cranking, in the belief that there is no bad publicity. But not all authors, living and dead, have allowed themselves to engage at this level.  Author accessibility is a tricky minefield, one that individual authors navigate differently, placing them at different levels on what I like to call the “Scale of Accessibility,” ranging from Hermit to Gadfly, and everywhere in-between. Let’s visit a few spots on that scale, and the authors who epitomize different ways of coping with, and using, their fame to present, or protect, themselves and their views.

[Read more…]

Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them Deleted Scenes — Not All, But a Bunch

Want to see those deleted scenes before the DVD extras are released? They’re on YouTube now: Mildred’s dropping Jacob, the full Jacob and the Demiguise chase scene (but not the Newt and Tina shared future glimpse), GrindelGraves comforting Tina and grooming Credence, the Runespoor Jacob didn’t quite see eye-to-eye, Shaw, Sr., in grief at the newspaper office, why Queenie took Jacob from the hotel rooftop to the battle scene, and what happened to the escaped Billywig Newt forgot.

We’re missing the Credence at lunch with Graves, Newt’s shirtless moment, and the GrindelGraves extended scene in the subway professing love for an Obscurus, not to mention Graves having his vision in his MACUSA office, but there’s an awful lot here to unpack.

There’s an extended version of the subway scene with Credence visible in the Obscurial online now, as well.

Here’s the weird thing. Though all these extended play and deleted scenes are already online, two ‘Exclusive Deleted Scenes’ from ‘Fantastic Beasts’ — both of which are on the other, longer reel above, Jacob and the Demiguise without the Queenie-Jacob moment, i.e., significantly shorter — have just been officially released in the run-up to the launch of the film’s DVD/Blu-Ray packaging.

Anybody have an idea as to what is going on? First thoughts about the deleted scenes? Let us know below!

Harry Potter and Lolita: Rowling’s Rings and Vladimir Nabokov’s Story Mirrors (The Alchemy of Narrative Structure)

VVN1I promised in the postHarry Potter and Lolita: J. K. Rowling’s Relationship with Vladimir Nabokovto discuss the structure of Lolita in relationship to Harry Potter’s story scaffolding. I deferred it from that first JKR/VVN post because it was already over-crowded with discussion of names, alchemy, politics, and, most important, parody. As I hope you’ll agree after reading this piece below, the ‘parallelism parallel’ between the two authors is significant, fascinating, and even a revelation of sorts of the alchemical aim of their artistry.

Rowling may have drawn her ring writing artistry from a variety of sources: her training in Classics, reading in Scripture, familiarity with Inkling literature, even a close study of Robert Louis Stevenson or Jules Verne’s popular adventures. Today I will argue that, though these sources are possibilities, the most likely single source of Rowling’s structural wizardy is the work of Vladimir Nabokov.

Nabokov wrote eighteen novels. The only one Rowling has mentioned specifically in interviews is Lolita so today I will confine my discussion to Nabokov’s most famous work. This will involve, of course, discussion of what happens in that story, which is as close as I’m coming to a ‘spoiler alert’ for a book published sixty years ago and considered Western canon for half a century.

CirclesWe’ll test whether Nabokov was a ring writer in five steps derived from the qualities Mary Douglas tells us to look for in a ‘ring composition': first, the latch of beginning and end, second, a story-turn, third, parallels side to side, fourth, rings inside the rings and other self-referencing, and last, a comparison with Rowling’s story and series structures. That ‘last’ will include my conclusions about why Nabokov worked-in the mirroring he has into Lolita and if Rowling’s meaning is similarly buttressed by her own ring work.

The Latch: Lolita’s Prologue and Part 2, Chapter 36

A look at Lolita’s table of contents reveals that it is made up of a foreword written by psychologist John Ray, Jr., a Part 1 of thirty-three chapters, and a Part 2 of thirty-six chapters, both of which are first person narratives that were written by Humbert Humbert in fifty-six days while awaiting his trial for murder. There is no epilogue or afterword, if every edition published since the early sixties does include Nabokov’s short essay ‘On a Book Called Lolita’ after the novel’s close.

The first tell-tale sign of a traditionally crafted story is how well the beginning and end match up. Lolita’s foreword and chapter 36 have six points of correspondence that latch the story’s circle tightly together at the close. [Read more…]