Rowling Writes Trans Views Tell All Post; Fandom Divides ‘Team Jo,’ ‘Team Trans’

On 6 June, J. K. Rowling tweeted nine separate times on the issue of transgender people and their rights. I think the most important thread is this one:

Though only a reiteration of her #IStandWithMaya Tweet Heard Round the World from last December, one with special emphasis in each part of the thread that the accusation that she hates transgender people is untrue and unfair, the world that believes with former Vice President Joe Biden that transgender rights “are the civil rights issue of our time” have doxxed her thoroughly. Celebrities as closely tied with her as Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, Eddie Redmayne, and Evanna Lynch have all gone public to affirm that “transgender women are women.” [To my knowledge, Tom Burke and Holliday Grainger have not yet checked in on this issue.]

On 10 June Rowling responded with an essay which was posted on her website, ‘J.K. Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues,’ and she has pinned a link to this post to the top of her twitter page (she has been silent on twitter since 6 June). In this essay she reviews the history of her involvement with the transgender issue, the story of her several fat-finger mistakes at the keyboard that led to her being identified as “transphobic” by trans activists online, and of her decision to return to twitter in December after a long hiatus to support Maya Foraster. She details, too, the fallout thereafter, not only the verbal abuse and threats she endured and expected, but also the unanticipated “avalanche of emails and letters” “the overwhelming majority of which were positive, grateful and supportive.” These notes, she writes, [Read more…]

Casual Vacancy

Welcome Guests from the 18 December 2013 Diane Rehm Show about Casual Vacancy!

Round Up Url

If you’re looking for a place to start in the posts below, Post #3 details how much cursing there actually was in the book , Post #4 how very autobiographical this book is (and why that shouldn’t matter), and Post #5 is an exegesis of the not very subtle political allegory of John Bull and his wife the Queen vs. the Empire’s legacy and promise in its outliers. After that? 6, 8, 11, and 12 will help you see the anagogical meaning that reviewers and first time readers miss in haste and because the social message is so loud.


The Original Introduction to the Post:

I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to throw together my first thoughts and questions on J. K. Rowling’s new novel, Casual Vacancy, but I found time today to write up some of my impressions after a hurried reading last weekend. This is only a small beginning, of course, for a thousand neglected topics. I think immediately of the Casual Vacancy title and Part captions, the propaganda quality of the work,  and how much our reading of this book because we love our Harry Potter experience colors our appreciation of the novel. None of that below, though you will find literary alchemy, the political and personal allegories, and a word by profane word count on the cussing in Vacancy among other subjects

We’ll get to the neglected topics I mentioned and others soon enough, I’m sure. I hope in the twelve threads below to jump start our conversation of the artistry and meaning and experience of Casual Vacancy, subjects I suspect have been largely lost in the fanfare and shock of the book’s publication. Thank you in advance for joining the discussion and for inviting all the serious reader friends you know to jump in, too!

1. The Harry Potter Echoes

2. MuggleMarch or A Modern Moonacre Manor

3. Potter to Potty-Mouth: The Profanity by the Numbers

4. Literary Narcissism or The Art of the Psychic Realm

5. Barry Fairbrother and the Political Parable

6. Literary Alchemy: The Conjunction of Sex and Death

7. The Seven Part Ring Composition

8. Andrew and Gaia: Fallen Man and the Natural World?

9. Andrew and Stuart: Doppelganger, Ouroboros, or Diptych?

10. The JayZ song  ‘Umbrella’

11. Religion: Christian Hypocrites and Sympathetic Sikhs

12. Authenticity and Hypocrisy:’Penetration,’ Suffering, and the Birth of Consciousness

Post First Week Round-up:

13. Christianity Today: ‘Profoundly Biblical Worldview’

14. Notable Reviews, High and Low

15.  Guest Post: A Telling Re-Take of ‘The Good Samaritan’?

Diane Rehm Show (NPR): Discussion of JKR’s Casual Vacancy

Diane Rehm features a book each month on her popular NPR talk-radio program called ‘Reader’s Review.’ This month the novel selected was Joanne Rowling’s Casual Vacancy. You can listen to the discussion which aired Wednesday here.

The producer and I spoke  for the better part of an hour about the symbolism, structure, implicit parallels, and postmodern meaning beyond the surface narrative and obvious political messaging. That conversation was all about the discussions found here, Hogwarts Professor Casual Vacancy Thread Round-Up, a link she put on the NPR Diane Rehm page for that show.

I finally listened to it myself last week and confess to scratching my head. Outside of one bizarro caller who wanted to talk about Ms. Rowling’s “metaphysics,” and whom was immediately given a brief, polite answer in dismissal, the show didn’t talk about the depth, the structure, the allegory, not to mention the alchemy and its like. Nada. The expert guests, all literary sophisticates with guild certification, agreed even when they disagreed on surface points they liked and disliked — and that was all the conversation dwelt on, in the end — that the book was only one more reading experience among many.

When the British maven felt obliged to express her disgust with Congress’ decision not to extend unemployment benefits, seemingly as a throw away comment but really entirely in keeping with the quality of her critique of Rowling’s work, I almost tuned out. Why continue listening to these evaluations of the work in question that could only see the surface and moral/political ‘realism’ of a story that is almost fairy tale like in its allegorical qualities?

I hope you will give the show a listen if you have any free time between Western Christmas and the Gregorian calendar New Year. Is this the usual level of conversation about popular literature? Or did Diane Rehm just have a bad day or poor panel? [Read more…]

J. K. Rowling Speaks Out on the Meaning of ‘Casual Vacancy’

Mind-blowing. And wonderfully refreshing. And possibly a wrong turn?

Forgive me, but Joanne Rowling is not one to let her hair down, if you will, and talk themes and meaning and artistry straight up with her readers. In the ten year roll-out of the Hogwarts Saga and beyond we got much less in many more interviews than the author revealed in one go at in answer to a question about character development in Casual Vacancy.

Read the whole thing — and then read it again.

The best part, I thought, was her description of the Good Samaritan finale when three characters walk by the little boy about to die. She says flat out that the novel “was constructed” so that when this happens the reader is struck by the three characters as allegorical transparencies for specific human failings. [Read more…]

Casual Vacancy 19: Seven Deadly Sins Guest Post

Sarah McDonald shared this idea with me at a recent talk I gave at Full Circle Bookstore in Oklahoma City. I begged her to write it up as a guest post which she has. Yes, I disagree with her conclusion about writers being the only ones who understand the intentions of their work — but I love the unveiling of the novel’s transparencies in light of the seven deadly sins. It almost certainly isn’t what Ms Rowling intended, as such, and it just as certainly opens up the virtues and vices (well, the vices…) of the novel’s players. Without further ado, then —  ‘The Seven Deadly Sins in Joanne Rowling’s Casual Vacancy,’ by Sarah McDonald.

It seems like important things come in sevens. There are seven notes in music, seven colors in a rainbow, seven books in the Harry Potter series, and of course, seven deadly sins. They are the big ones, the origin of other sins.

I’m not particularly proud of this, but until a few days ago the only one I knew was gluttony, mostly because it’s something we Americans seem to indulge in on a regular basis. As I sat curled up with The Casual Vacancy and read J.K. Rowling’s description of Howard Mollison and his massive stomach, I couldn’t help thinking that he exemplified the concept of gluttony perfectly. Then, I got an idea. Clearly, sin was rampant in Pagford. What if I could nail down all seven?

Reading the book became a game, a hunt for the sins, if you will. I managed to track down a character for each of the cardinal sins as follows:

1. Gluttony = Howard Mollison

As I mentioned previously, it wouldn’t take much to nail down Mr. Mollison with gluttony. Gluttony is any type of over-indulgence, though it is applied most often to over-eating, which is what makes Howard a prime candidate.

He is described in the book as having a stomach so grotesquely large that it leads people to thinking some rather uncomfortable thoughts. The fat has gotten to the point that he has developed a rash under his excess skin. Towards the end of the book, he suffers a second heart attack due to his obesity, and the prognosis is grim. When he talks about other people’s addictions as being easily cured at the Parish council meeting, Parminder Jawanda brilliantly rebuttals: [Read more…]