Ben Jonson’s ‘Every Man In His Humor’ A Meaningful Model for Strike Stories?

Two notes from informed readers on yesterday’s post that mentioned the placement of the cover of Ben Jonson’s Every Man In His Humour on the home page:

Trinity College, Oxford University, Research Fellow and Lecturer in Renaissance Literature Beatrice Groves texts from her vacation spot —

“I am excited by the hint that Jonson’s Every Man in his Humour might be the source of the chapter epigraphs/be relevant to the plot for Lethal White. It’s one of my favourite Jonson plays (after the big three – The Alchemist, Volpone and Bartholomew Fair) and it made Jonson’s name in the 1590s as the author of ‘humours’ comedy – i.e. comedy where each person is strongly identified with a particular humour – the physiological make-up that they believed strongly influenced your personality (and which still exists in modern English with ‘sanguine’ for example – someone with a predominance of blood, has a happy/hopeful outlook). “

My son Zossima, 17 today, notes, though, that dad was probably mistaken in assuming that the book cover, like the notebook drawing, was about Lethal White.  He thinks that the book cover may have been been placed on the website years ago, not as a pointer to things to come but to things in a previous book. He’s right; Every Man In His Humour is quoted as a chapter epigraph no less than five times in The Silkworm: chapters 7 (p 35), 14 (101), 18 (137), 28 (237), and 42 (375). Jonson’s Epicene is quoted before chapters 22 (p 164) and 25 (198).

So, either it’s arbitrary, i.e., Every Man’s cover could have been the cover of Thomas Dekker’s The Noble Spanish Soldier (quoted as The Silkworm‘s frontispiece epigraph) but they didn’t have a copy at hand, or it’s not a pointer to Lethal White but to Silkworm, or it’s a strong suggestion to the discerning reader that we’re missing the “humoural comedy” embedded in the work of which Silkworm is only a part, and that’s why Rowling quotes from Every Man so freely in Silkworm, though that second mystery is all about Jacobean Revenge Dramas — and Every Man In His Humour is not one of those.

This last possibility, the one of “humoural comedy” raised implicitly in Prof Groves’ note, is the one that interests me. [Read more…]

Two Revelations

The Daily Snitch, a Rowling news aggregator to which I subscribe, today announced:

The link goes to The site has links going back to 2015 and the release of Career of Evil; I’ve been to it several times the last few days in search of a quotation I was tasked to find (about which more on another day) and, if there have been any changes, I haven’t noticed. Perhaps the bulletin from ‘Daily Snitch’ is that there will be changes and an imminent remodel?

On the other hand, the home page is full of teevee show artifacts (most notably, the Bronte production Career of Evil script title page) and stills. Maybe this is the new version though it has been up for a while and has links to older posts…

I needed a break from ‘Wizard Reading Formula’ efforts so I took a longer look at the site, just in case it was to disappear that night. [It has not.]

First, the notebook with a diagram in Rowling’s hand-writing (screen capture on left). It is the schematic of responsibilities in a small business; Robin is on the chart as the PA to the CEO. There are character thumbnail sketches keyed to each position on the chart.

I think there is a natural, unforced conclusion from this chart, as it isn’t something in any of the first three books: the chart is Rowling’s working picture of a Lethal White plot point.

Either Robin is leaving Strike’s employ in Lethal White or she is embedded in the charted firm as Strike’s partner to find out who the baddie is in that company.  [Read more…]

Ian Rankin and Cormoran Strike

​​​​​​​For serious readers and fans of Robert Galbraith’s ‘Cormoran Strike’ mysteries, it’s been a busy week. There have been a relative flood of stories about the three novels because of the ‘Strike’ BBC1 television show premiere in advance and to promote the 27 August broadcast of the first ‘Cuckoo’s Calling’ episodes. No news about the publication date of the fourth novel, ‘Lethal White,’ but I’m hopeful, even confident that the five ‘Strike’ adaptations of the first two novels being broadcast this month and next are preamble to ‘White’s rollout in October or at the holidays.
My thoughts this week have been about Ian Rankin, the Edinburgh writer of detective fiction. His only relationship with the Cormoran Strike stories seems to be the kerfuffle he caused in 2007 when he told a book festival in his and Rowling’s adopted home-city that his wife had seen Jo Rowling scribbling away at a murder mystery at their neighborhood Starbucks (back then Rowling lived on the same street as Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith, which avenue became known as ‘Writer’s Block’). The Presence denied it and Rankin said he’d been joking.
That only became interesting in 2011 when Rowling signed with Little, Brown and specifically with an editor who specialized in working with very successful writers of detective fiction. Because the world didn’t know that Casual Vacancy was in the works, The Guardian speculated that her first post Potter novel would be a detective piece, as Rankin had suggested. Rowling denied this and said that the rumor started because she and Rankin had discussed how much whodunnit atmosphere there is in the Hogwarts Saga. Her representatives at the time, Christopher Little, said rumors that she was writing crime fiction were “unfounded.”
Which wasn’t true, of course. The rumors started in 2012 because of the editor she had made a deal with and the 2007 comments were about Rankin’s wife and what she had supposedly seen. And Christopher Little, though he didn’t know it, had already been passed over for Neil Blair as Rowling’s agent and may very well have been unaware of what she was writing. Still, a non-story.
Here are three other notes about Rankin and Rowling beyond this not-really-news story:

[Read more…]

BBC1 ‘Strike’ and the Canon Question

In my conversation last week with Oxford’s Beatrice Groves at the Potter Pundits Summer School live webinar, we were able to answer all the questions the global audience in attendance asked as well as many of the ones I was sent beforehand by those who couldn’t be present in the virtual classroom. You can watch the replay here on YouTube.
Only one Cormoran Strike point came up in a conversation focused on the Hogwarts Saga, one about canon. The question was about whether the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ films should be considered Harry Potter canon. Prof Groves said, no, only the books are canon (she restricts it to literary canon and the books are fixed no matter what the author says or writes later about it). She allowed, however, that ‘fandom canon’ included everything an author writes so, as Rowling wrote the screenplay for ‘Beasts,’ it might be considered canon in a way.
Enter ‘Strike,’ the BBC1 adaptation of the Peg-legged Private Eye’s mysteries.

[Read more…]

JKR’s New Swan Twitter Feed ‘Header’

For those of you who follow J. K. Rowling’s twitter feed (12 million folks worldwide), you may have noticed that the ‘header’ picture has changed again. Rowling has said these changes reflect her current thinking and previous pictures have fostered significant conversation.

The picture today is of a swan. I think this can be taken in two ways, both reflecting on Lethal White.

The first I thought of was the alchemical symbolism of it. [Read more…]