Running Grave Excerpt Re-released on AppleBooks; 11 Chapters and Prologue

Early on 7 September, the seventh Cormoran Strike-Robin Ellacott novel, Running Grave, was given its second running start for readers who cannot wait for its full publication in 19 days. Unlike the first excerpt released on Amazon via the book-page’s ‘Look Inside’ feature, this one includes the full opening epigraphs (Hello, Dylan Thomas!), the complete table of contents — a Prologue, Nine Parts, and an Epilogue — and, remarkably, five more chapters, the first eleven of the nineteen in Part One.

You can read it via this link.

A reader and Serious Striker, PercyL, shared this information on a comment thread there following my post about the Amazon release, an initial and briefer excerpt that disappeared without explanation several days after its equally mysterious appearance. I expected this new release to be old news by the time I finished work late yesterday, but only TheRowlingLibrary had reported it and even that announcement was via a re-tweet without comment. I cannot tell if the usual klaxon-horn voices in Strike fandom and social media are blissfully unaware of the release or studiously avoiding its discussion; even more bizarre for such a drop, none of the wire services or search engines I have checked are carrying news of the new excerpt on Apple.

I will be writing about the second excerpt later today on the Substack HogwartsProfessor site for subscribers (it’s free!) and I’m hoping that Elizabeth Baird-Hardy will share some of her first thoughts here. There will, of course, be spoiler alerts for those who want to know nothing about Running Grave before it is officially published on 26 September.

One bon mot, though, safe even for those who do not want to hear any plot points or speculation derived from the opening chapters: in offering eleven of the Part One’s nineteen chapters, Galbraith has shared the Part One ‘turn’ in chapter ten and the first turtleback lines between chapters nine and eleven. That turn’s pivotal moment is a remarkable pointer to what will be the primary reveal or twist in the novel’s last Part and about Strike’s essential transformation. Strike 7 promises to have its rings within rings…

Running Grave Excerpt Released: Seven Questions for Serious Strikers

Yesterday, the first six chapters of Running Grave were published via the ‘Look Inside’ feature of the book’s page on The Rowling Library has posted the pages as a pdf and created a forum for those wanting to discuss the revelations. If you wish to remain spoiler free until the day of actual publication, you’ll want to steer clear of those pages and all of what follows. Farewell to those heading to the exits!

I have seven questions consequent to a late-night reading of the excerpts which questions I post below for anyone interested. My very tentative attempts at answers are posted at the Substack site, where I have invited my colleagues there to check in with their own perspectives if they are so inclined.

Without further ado, then, here are my seven questions:

  1. Do you think Rowling, Inc., meant for Amazon to release the first fifty-three pages of text this way? Was it Troubled Blood that had an unintentional big drop via Apple in a similar ‘mistake’? Or is this just super clever marketing, a ‘found treasure’?
  2. There’s no Dylan Thomas epigraph; what happened?
  3. The novel begins with an epistolary montage of letters between a distraught family, lawyers, the disaffected son, and the anti-cult survivor. What did you think of it as a story-starter? It’s been a while since we had the case presented so forcefully in the opening — since Cuckoo?
  4. What do you make of the baptism reception for Robin and Strike’s first appearance? 
  5. Egad, The Universal Humanitarian Church or UHC! Would you have guessed the first religious target of Rowling’s treatment would be a group like this? 
  6. Kevin believed there is authentic capability to contact or conjure the dead; given the history of Rowling’s pointers to spectral influence in her novels a la Nabokov, do you think we’ll be ‘going there’? Seances, tarot card readings, I Ching consultations, say, to hear from Kevin? From Leda?
  7. Here’s the grab-bag question: Do you see anything here that suggests parallels with Deathly Hallows? Cuckoo’s Calling? Lethal White? Career of Evil? What about our mythological templates and Evan’s ten book theory? Are we on our way to a separation in the finale, one that will last two books?

Feel free to comment below, though the main discussion will be over at the HogwartsProfessor Substack site!

New Cover, New Substack Posts, and a Journey to Wales

Since our last posting here at the HogwartsProfessor weblog, Rowling, Inc., has released the cover for The Running Grave with the attendant story tease and summary, the HogwartsProfessor Substack site has been active with posts on a variety of exciting topics, and I have confirmed my reservations (and packed) this week for a trip to Swansea University in Wales, a journey I begin in just a few hours. Here are a few notes for those of you who stop by our old haunts before I leave for the airport.

The Strike 7 Cover and Story Blurb

I read about the cover and tease release via and had these three thoughts about the images chosen:

(1) The yellow or gold touches suggest the end of literary alchemy and the dawn at the end of Deathly Hallows

(2) The Cromier pier location in Norfolk we have seen before in Rowling twitter headers and is a fit with the locale described in the teaser paragraphs.

(3) The picture itself is reminiscent of an oriental pagoda, Torii, or paifang, a point of spiritual passage, entry way, or gate. I’m hopeful that this hint is a pointer to the psycho-spiritual content of the seventh book with its I Ching epigraphs.

I’d also note that a a fan had tweeted a mock-up of this scene as a cover for the upcoming novel months ago.

This is either a remarkable coincidence or suggestive that the marketing team responsible for promoting Rowling-Galbraith mysteries is especially attentive to the series’ social media mavens. Perhaps a little of both?

About the teaser paragraphs, I was only reminded that discussing them at any length here or elsewhere is to become an unpaid adjunct member of said marketing team. I have played that role for as long as I can remember writing about Rowling’s incipient releases — and think I’ll pass on speculating about what it may mean this time.

In brief, the Agency is headed to Norfolk, Robin is going undercover into a religious cult, and Strike has plenty to reflect on with respect to his childhood experiences nearby; who needs to prime the pump of pre-publication sales any more than that exciting story-line? I very much look forward to reading Strike7 in September and writing then about its Deathly Hallows echoes, ring structure, alchemical notes, prophetic epigraphs, and mythological backdrops — if any of those elements appear.

HogwartsProfessor Substack Posts

Since my last update here at the beginning of last month, the HogwartsProfessor staff have been very busy over at the Substack site writing about The Running Grave and related topics.

Elizabeth Baird-Hardy, our resident movie and Hunger Games expert, shared her insights about the Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes trailer. I am not a fan of movie adaptations as a rule and those made of Suzanne Collins’ novels were especially ironic and bad; Prof Hardy’s notes were very encouraging, however, and I suspect on the strength of her arguments I should go the theater on the day of release.

Nick Jeffrey wrote two posts, one on The Black Dog in English literature with special attention to Rowling’s use of the image, and another this morning on literary mimics, parodists, and satirists, ‘The King’s Canary,’ that discusses both a Dylan Thomas work that may have been the model for Owen Quine’s Bombyx Mori and a contemporary writer that seems determined to say unkind things about The Presence, albeit covertly in story. Each Jeffrey post rewards the time invested in reading them several fold with pleasure and valuable information available nowhere else.

I wrote about the choice of the I Ching as the source of epigraphs in Strike 7. I happened in a series of synchronous discoveries, the most notable in a grocery store storage room, to stumble on a Jungian commentary on and translation of the Oracle by Rudolf Ritsema and Stephen Karcher, which book pointed to a very promising possibility of why Rowling-Galbraith chose to ‘go there’ for her Running Grave chapter headers.

I began what will be a series of posts about the soul’s journey to perfection in spirit depicted in allegory in Rowling’s work, with a review of the several attempts that have been made to read the Hogwarts Saga as a retelling of Prudentius’ poem, Psychomachia. This introductory post will be followed soon by one exploring the choice of the name ‘Prudence’ for Strike’s half-sister, a Jungian analyst with whom he seems certain to be meeting in the early going of Running Grave, an encounter that may parallel the opening chapter of Deathly Hallows and the death of Charity. Will Prudence in ‘Running Grave’ Suffer a Fate Similar to Charity’s in ‘Deathly Hallows’? A Look Back at a Neglected Aspect of Psychomachian Allegory in Harry Potter

That series was put aside by the advent of Evan Willis’ theory about why the Cormoran Strike novels will be a ten book series. In anticipation of this effort, I laid out why I thought the Parallel Series Idea suggested strongly that Rowling’s detective fiction, if indeed it is a ten book set, is best thought of as seven in number with three add-ons not especially important to the integrity of the ring cycle. I included in that post my best guess about who will die in Running Grave the way Dobby did in Deathly Hallows and who will pay the part of Kreacher. If Running Grave is ‘Deathly Hallows 2,’ What Strike Series Characters will Play the Parts of Dobby and Kreacher?

Evan Willis’ post, Why the Cormoran Strike Novels Are a Ten Book Series, exploded my PSI-generated idea of seven + three with a brilliant numerological exposition and exploration of Rowling’s artistry and meaning. In brief, he argues that the two mythological backdrops to the Strike series, ‘Castor and Pollux’ and ‘Eros and Psyche,’ both involve the parting of the principal players before their eventual reunion and that this will be what happens in the Strike novels post Running Grave with their return to one another only in Strike 10. He explains that Rowling’s parallel series work will continue in Strike 8, 90, and 10, albeit with Casual Vacancy, The Ickabog, and The Christmas Pig as her standards or foils. The geometric figure he invokes as Rowling’s guiding structure for the first and second set of ten books written in parallel is the tetractys.

Willis’ synthesis of sacred geometry, alchemy, mythology, hermetic symbolism, tarot, I Ching, and Rowling’s parallel writing is, frankly, the most exciting and boundary-stretching bit of Rowling analysis in many years. I wrote a post in response (and in admiration) to explain the tradition of numerological symbolism in the English Greats, to note that Running Grave will reveal whether Willis has hit a grand slam or struck out in his swing for the fences (his structure-based predictions are that specific), and to share an alternative ten point symbol that may be used in Strike 7 as an echo of the “triangular eye,” the symbol of the Deathly Hallows. Is Tetractys Theory the Best Explanation of Why the Cormoran Strike Series is Ten Books in Length?

Please join us over at the HogwartsProfessor Substack site for extraordinary posts like these!

Trip to Swansea University in Wales

In two hours, I depart from Oklahoma City for Dallas and then London. God willing, I will wind up Wednesday in Wales for the graduation ceremonies at Swansea University. I have been given a pair of Guest Tickets, one of which will be used by my host, Nick Jeffrey, and the other is available for you to claim. Drop me a note in the comment boxes below if you’re interested and will be in the area!

I am being interviewed by the University’s alumni office for a write-up in their magazine; I hope the story angle will be about my scholarship rather than than my age, which is of course well above the average new PhD’s, my Walter Mitty existence as a Potter Pundit, or (egad) Rowling’s controversial, not to say “radioactive,” status. I promise to provide a link to the story should it ever be published online.

I remain hopeful that my thesis will be published one day as well. Until then, I’ll share tomorrow over at the Substack site a keynote talk I gave at St Andrews University on my first trip to the UK more than ten years ago now. Be sure to subscribe — it’s free — so that will come directly to your inbox! The World Turned Inside-Out and Right-Side Up: Harry Potter has More to Teach Us about Literary Criticism than Literary Criticism does about Harry Potter.


Substack HogwartsProfessor New Posts

We’re at a little short of a month since I announced the opening of HogwartsProfessor on Substack and it’s been several weeks since I updated this site with links to articles there, pieces that are sent directly to our subscribers. Here is a quick review of how things work with a free subscription to our Substack posts and a survey of our first articles on that platform:

I write a longish piece on the artistry and meaning of stories (with a special focus on the work of Rowling-Galbraith) that is sent out every Thursday. On Monday, Nick Jeffery, Evan Willis, Elizabeth Baird-Hardy, and an occasional Guest Post writer share their thoughts and insights. We hope to be adding a podcast soon, which project of three years’ gestation, now that I’ve found a potential host and engineer, may at last be taking off.

Here are short summaries with links to articles you missed if you don’t have a subscription or follow our Twitter feed:

Traditional Symbols in Harry Potter and Cormoran Strike: A Perennialist View

The purpose of the move to Substack (for me at least!) was to get away from the grind of daily posting and the inevitable adulterization of prime content due to deadline pressure. Too many YouTube videos, discussions of Rowling’s twitter feeds, and fruitless-if-fun speculation about plot points in future books made by following the bread crumbs of Rowling, Inc’s marketing team. Not enough pieces about the power and meaning of story to enrich and transform lives via the imagination. This first post, one taken almost directly from my PhD thesis, was a marker of our change in direction at the new HogwartsProfessor and what makes us different and, yes, better than other sites for serious readers of Rowling and other writers.

Cormoran in Cornwall

Nick Jeffery explains why he thinks Strike will be returning to Cornwall, if not in Running Grave then soon after, and what this might mean in terms of the legendary story background Rowling-Galbraith has rolled into her Strike mysteries.

Literary Alchemy: Sacred Science, Sacred Art, and ‘The Alembic of Story’ (A Perennialist Explanation of J. K. Rowling’s Signature Hermetic Symbolism)

A fellow Potter Pundit last month wrote me to say that “No one living has made the contributions to Rowling Studies that you have” and I was chuffed, of course. When I am criticized by twitter-talents and third tier academics as a snob or non-entity, it is nice to have a note from someone who knows the score as a bit of reassurance. The contributions I think this writer was referring to are my exegesis of Rowling’s use of traditional symbolism, her psychomachia, the ring composition structure of her novels and Series, the Parallel Series Idea, her “bookshelf,” and Literary Alchemy. I get a lot of questions about the alchemy aspect of Rowling’s work, a subject that brilliant readers have been building on since I first discussed it in 2002’s Hidden Key to Harry Potter, so I decided to share another piece from my PhD thesis, this one on what Beatrice Groves calls “the alembic of story.”

Cyber Strike: AI Created Plot Synopsis for The Running Grave

I begged Nick Jeffery to write a piece on the use of artificial intelligence to predict the plot of Strike 7, and, gentleman-genius that he is, he obliged. Rowling twitter-teased her fan base to guess the next book’s subject matter as part of The Running Grave marketing roll-out, an effort more intense and more involved with each book as first week sales for the last several novels continue to fall. Nick’s piece is simultaneously a fascinating look at Strike7 possibilities and a fairly persuasive argument that AI technology will not be displacing serious readers anytime soon.

A Math Teacher Looks at the Heart of Geometry

Evan Willis’ first contribution to HogwartsProfessor on Substack went up this morning. On the surface it has nothing to do with Harry Potter, Cormoran Strike, or even The Christmas Pig, subjects about which Evan has broken significant ground in the past. He writes instead about the ‘Heart’ or ‘Intellect,’ the so-called “cardiac intelligence” as opposed to the discursive “cranial” kind, that Coleridge called the Primary Imagination, the human faculty continuous with the Logos fabric of reality. Traditionally, the study of Geometry was considered the Golden Road to fostering this noetic faculty and I have never read a better explanation of why than Evan’s in this piece. (I also have never regretted so much not having had a math teacher like Evan in my elementary and secondary school years.)

Next week, Elizabeth Baird-Hardy will be writing about the new Hunger Games movie and I will return to posting on Thursday with, well, that will be a surprise. See you on the Substack!


Substack HogwartsProfessor First Post: First Principles and First Menu

The last weblog post, #2900, announced our move after twenty years here to Substack, the long-form writing subscription platform. Beginning today and for the immediate future, the opening paragraphs of Substack HogwartsProfessor posts will be available here a few days after they are sent to subscribers so readers who may have missed Monday’s announcement learn about the change. To read the whole post, subscribe — it’s free! — or just click here.

Welcome to HogwartsProfessor at its new home on Substack! Thank you for subscribing, and, in advance, for letting me know what you think. All suggestions about how best to utilize this platform are welcome, believe me, as I begin to climb the upside-down learning curve of a new dashboard and posting system.

Today, I want to offer a frank statement, one I will try to keep brief, of my first principles and perspective as a reader who writes about the artistry and meaning of beloved prose, poetry, and plays and a short prospectus of the subjects I will be writing about in our first months on this new platform. I rush to add that these are my guiding ideas and post menu, not necessarily those of the other writers who contribute pieces here.

In a nutshell, I believe that human beings are a story-telling species more than ‘rational animals’ and that the best stories and art create a portal to an imaginative or noetic experience of archetypal reality. The keys to grasping the depths of the work created by writers who intentionally embrace the goal of crafting this kind of fiction are the symbols, allegory, and structure beneath the narrative surface that deliver this iconological means of ego-transcendence. The bumper-sticker version of that is: “the stories that matter are the ones that best reflect the soul’s journey to spiritual perfection and encourage us on our journeys.”

This set of first principles reflects the Perennialist understanding of sacred art, which includes “non-liturgical” or “not-obviously religious” stories. The Perennialist understanding of myth and epic, of Shakespeare, Coleridge and Blake, as well as contemporary writers informs everything I write that qualifies as literary criticism. It’s traditional, which is to say “theocentric” view is in direct opposition to postmodern understanding, which reads literature and understands all art in profane terms, most notably using aesthetic, political, and intertextual measures. 

I promised to be brief on this count, so I will not go into a prolonged explanation or apologia for these first principles. I am obliged to note, though, that my use of them is the reason that I have consistently been able to see and explain the depths and power of writers, most notably J. K. Rowling, when the host of Critique authorities and academic specialists have missed it. Literary alchemy, traditional symbolism, the debts of Rowling (Collins, Meyer, others) to the Greats, maternal love as cipher for Christ, and chiastic or ring writing and the utility of the above in anagogical depictions of the soul’s faculties in trial, so-called ‘psychomachia,’ were all blind spots in contemporary criticism, frankly, before my Perennialist reading of Rowling.

[If Perennialist ideas of non-liturgical sacred art and their relevance to understanding fiction are terra incognita to you, I explain them at much greater length in this post about Rowling’s The Christmas Pig.]

As I start out here on Substack, I have a few ideas about what I will be exploring and explaining. This is my first menu of post topics about which I hope you will share your preferences as subscribers and the subjects or questions you want me to address. [Read more…]