Rowling as Labour’s Tweeting Prophet

J. K. Rowling with 14.6 million followers has the largest twitter following of any author on planet Earth. She has been using her bully pulpit there, not only to occasionally bully those followers who dare disagree with her and to dismiss in as patronizing a fashion as she can muster the master bully, the President of the United States, but also to push (on a daily, frantic, even frenetic basis) the cause of a ‘People’s Vote,’ that is, a second go at the Brexit referendum. Rowling is a passionate ‘Remainer’ and, except for Lumos notes here and there now that the tidal wave of Fantastic Beasts publicity is done, her twittering is all about the idiocy of Brexit and the inevitable apocalypse that will result if the first referendum results are respected as final.

As near hysterical as much of this or just the weight of the number of re-tweets is, Rowling has chosen this time, of all times, to break with the political party of her youth and maturity, the leftist Labour Party now headed by Jeremy Corbyn. Part of this, of course, must be that Corbyn refuses to support a second referendum on Brexit. Rowling’s given reason, however, has made her a lightning rod for criticism from the UK’s political left. She says that she can longer vote Labour because of Corbyn’s anti-Semitism and the defense of same by his supporters. Prejudice against Jews for Rowling is a professed red-line that not even political reds, the leftists of her progressive stripe, can cross without losing her allegiance (and one assumes, generous financial support; Rowling has been known to gift Labour up to a million pounds sterling at one go).

On 22 December 2018 Rowling posted a 16 part twitter feed in something approaching King James English syntax and spelling in which she tells the story of her tribulations as a prophet to the tribe of Labour about how they have forsaken the right path and can expect a divine wrath of sorts. It is simultaneously comic, seering, and self-satirizing in a way that is re-assuring, at least to this serious reader of Rowling, that she hasn’t completely lost her mind or sense of humor about political disagreements.

After the jump, I publish the sixteen tweets, furnish a few necessary annotations Brit friends have sent me for references this Yank couldn’t grock (thank you, Elspeth!), and then explain the importance of the tweet beyond the Brexit kerfuffle for Rowling-ologists.

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Lethal White: The Moving Finger

The author with which J. K. Rowling has most in common in terms of books sold, following, and preferred genre is Agatha Christie. Rowling, however, has said relatively little about the ‘World’s Best Selling Novelist‘ and the ‘Queen of Crime,’ a near silence that made her Christie reflections in her interview with Val McDermid that much more interesting:

Christie who was someone who interested me a great deal because she was writing much of her career to outrun the tax man. Hence her incredibly patchy output. But she could shuffle those cards and fool you, couldn’t she, again and again and again. Sometimes very plausibly, sometimes not so plausibly. But she had that almost mathematical ability to fool you. And that’s something not many could do as well as she did it. Although the quality of writing I know was patchy. My favorite Christie is Moving Finger which is a Miss Marple, but narrated by a man and she does it rather well.

I’d never read Moving Finger but finally bought a copy and read it last week. Here are my ‘Three Points of Interest between Rowling’s “favorite Christie” The Moving Finger and Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike Mysteries’ for your consideration, correction, and comment. After the jump!

(1) The Book, Author, Plot Point Correspondences: As she says, “narrated by a man and she does it rather well.” This is what Rowling set out to do as ‘Robert Galbraith,’ no? The Moving Finger narrator is a pilot who has been in a plane crash and has trouble walking without “two sticks” (crutches?); the novel was written in 1942 so I think it safe to say the reader would naturally think the man an RAF pilot. There is a wonderfully unlikely pair of romances and a Greek goddess femme fatale in the story as well. Which should sound familiar to Serious Strikers. And the conceit of the anonymous letters, though not a feature of any of the first four Strike novels, certainly is a feature of Casual Vacancy.

(2) The Suicide Mystery: The defining murder of the mystery novel is a death the police rule to be a suicide but turns out to be — well, not a suicide. As the players investigating the case say several times, the murderer is a master of “narrative misdirection” (I kid you not). There is a similarity with the seeming suicide set-up in Lethal White, too, both with respect to means and who commits the murder that I’ll let you discover. To the point, the murders of Cuckoo’s Calling and Lethal White are both faked suicides and the growing consensus at HogwartsProfessor is that Strike7 will feature the revelation that Leda Strike’s death was not a suicide, either, but a calculated murder. That Rowling’s “favorite Christie” has as its chief plot point that Galbraith uses for the first and central novels and probably its overarching story is no small thing.

(3) The Shadow of Real Life: Agatha Christie disappeared for eleven days in 1926 after she learned that her husband was leaving her for another woman. When she was discovered staying at a spa (under the name of her husband’s lover), Christie claimed to have been suffering from amnesia. The bizarre event that captured national attention and a headlines catching woman-hunt is not mentioned in her autobiography. It may be reflected, however, not so obliquely in the plot of Moving Finger if the popular theory is true that her disappearance was a faked suicide meant to incriminate the cheating husband. It is, I’m sure, the model for Owen Quine’s “disappearance” in The Silkworm and how publishers and the like dismiss it as a publicity stunt until his corpse is found.

That’s a hurried and relatively spoiler free introduction to Moving Finger which I hope serves as a big push for you to pick it up and read it, especially if you are interested in Cormoran Strike.

I’m sure, too, that I’ve missed a lot. What, though, am I missing? Let me know by clicking on ‘Leave a Comment’ up by this post’s headline!

Shared Text: AZ Homecoming Assembly

The PAC Dance Team and Advanced Dance performing at Homecoming 2018, Walden Grove High School, Sahuarita, AZ – Harry Potter theme! You can watch more of their routines at this link.

Choreography/Coach: Kristi Lopez, Assistant Coach: Kathya Quihuiz
Inquiries: klopez@sahuarita.net, Hat tip to David Martin for the find.

Crimes of Grindelwald: Box Office Score

Good news and bad news about the performance of Crimes of Grindelwald at the box office in the US and overseas! Forbes magazine reports:

In other arbitrary milestones, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald has now earned $611m worldwide on a $200m budget. This is a decent-enough total, down a reasonable 25% from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’s $814m but 33% below the last film’s $232m domestic cume.

If it wasn’t the second of a five-part franchise, I’d be less concerned about the future. But maybe Fantastic Beasts 3 will be a big improvement and the fans will give it a second chance.

The bad news is fairly obvious. This was the weakest performance by a Warner Brothers ‘Wizarding World’ franchise film ever. The controversies about Johnny Depp, the assertion that ‘Gay Dumbledore’ was undeniably in evidence in Beasts 2 and that the Pensieve of Erised moments reflected a sexual relationship between two men, and the multitude of not quite meshing subplots on top of scene cuts by the director (who thinks he gets story-telling better than this screenwriter?) may have dulled enthusiasm among the Potter faithful in the United States, at least. Or a host of other reasons. Let the speculation and blame-casting begin!

Rowling and Company by their shouting out ‘Impeach Trump!’ at fan conventions and The Presence on her twitter feed, telling those offended by their refusal to dump Depp (because of the accusations of his using violence against his ex-wife) to take a hike, and the huzzahs for gay sex from Ezra Miller in a country where a significant population is not on that bandwagon means they managed somehow to offend right, left, and center. Earnings are down. Folks may not want political correctness or indifference mixed in with their magical movies. Surprise!

That said, the good news in this earnings report is just as obvious. The film turned a profit in the vicinity of 400 million US dollars. They’re not packing up shop because the film ‘bombed’ relative to other Rowling franchise movies. Only the Marvel Universe and Harry Potter films have to break a billion dollars before going to DVD to be considered a success. 611 million dollars pays a lot of bills. We’re going to get five films even if the next two also lose 25% globally and 33% domestic.

As the Forbes reviewer noted with “maybe Fantastic Beasts 3 will be a big improvement,” all Team Wizarding World has to do to return to billion dollar land may be to make a less confusing movie and stop shooting themselves in the foot by making the films a referendum on social justice, the US President, and sexual adventurism. More Tina-Loves-Newt, less Albus-Misses-Gellert-Who-Grooms-Credence? More Eddy, less Ezra?Rowling has already pledged that we will “get answers” in the next film; I’m guessing that means she’s been told to straighten out the mess David Yates made out of Crimes in the cutting room (and give him a more straight film — in the various senses of that word — to shoot).

Why do you think Crimes didn’t do nearly as well as Beasts1? Was it the content, the confusion of plots, the twist at the close, wizard fatigue, Paris, politics, or what? Click on the ‘Leave a Comment’ up by the headline and let me know your best guess.

 

Lethal White: Ibsen’s ‘Rosmersholm’

There are at least five good reasons that serious readers of J. K. Rowling should read Ibsen’s Rosmersholm, read it closely, listen to it in performance, and take notes. By making it the source of every chapter epigraph in ‘Robert Galbraith’s’ Lethal White, the centerpiece of the Cormoran Strike mysteries, she is signalling us that this play is something of a key or cipher for the right understanding of her current series.

Odds are that you are not familiar with this play or with Ibsen. That was certainly true in my case until Lethal White was published. I downloaded via Gutenberg.com and then bought a copy of the translation Rowling used; more importantly, I found a recording of a performance of the play my wife was able to put on my son’s ipod (here is another one that is free to download). I have been able to listen to it five times and that has made all the difference to me.

I write this ‘Five Reasons to Read Rosmersholm’ post in order to encourage you to do any one of the above. What follows won’t make any sense to you, though, if you have no idea of what the play is about. The wikipedia Rosmersholm page will help with that, if it, perhaps inevitably, fails to convey any of the drama of the successive revelations that take place act to act in the major players.

If you want to really ‘get’ Lethal White, you need to know Rosmersholm. I explain why after the jump!

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