Rowling Finishes Strike5 — Big Hint? Aleister Crowley’s Horoscope Header!

The Official Announcement this afternoon on twitter:

It has been a busy day at the neglected Rowling twitter feed. Careful observers will note that she re-tweeted a posting from American comedian (and hard core leftist and atheist) Patton Oswalt a few hours before this book announcement and that she changed the header and cameo on her page as well.

Nota bene: her global social media following post TERFing controversy has grown on the twitter platform by 200,000. So much for the disappearance of Rowling fandom…

Three quick notes that we will discuss here at greater length in the next week:

(1) Nick Jeffery has ID’d the horoscope in the header as the natal chart of Aleister Crowley.

I’d love to think she is trolling us here at HogwartsProfessor because of the Baphomet posts I put up earlier in the month (in which I explained that she isn’t a Satanist or Crowley disciple), but have to think that it really is a pointer to the return of Jeff Whittaker in Strike5, in parallel with Career of Evil, and that a la the death of Harry’s godfather in Order of the Phoenix, we will be seeing the death of Cormoran’s step-father in his fifth adventure. Whittaker is the ardent satanist and Crowley devotee in the series. Good news for Shanker fans!

(2) Rowling is back on twitter, it seems, with the first real postings of note — with the exception of 19 December, of course — since January 2019. The sabbatical seems to have been a New Year’s resolution along the lines of, “I won’t post again until I have submitted the Strike5 manuscript.”

‘Da Tweet’ on transgender overreach? That may have been a family passion, it turns out. See Dr Neil Murray’s private twitter account, @Slowfinger45, for his several re-tweeted postings on transgender matters here, here, here, and here (there are more; hat tip to Nick Jeffery again for discovering both Murray’s ‘Fat Cops’ rock band — husband plays the keyboards, hence ‘Dr Slowfinger’– and his hidden twitter account).

I wonder, though, if the new cameo picture of her with hand over mouth isn’t a joke of sorts, a signal to her Universal Studio handlers, that she isn’t going to be speaking her mind here about social justice and political issues; Patton Oswalt is covering the impeachment hearings for her…

(3) I have been re-reading the Strike novels this past week, and, half-way through Lethal White for the umpteenth time, I realized who killed Leda Strike. It was Uncle Ted. More on that tomorrow and in days to come! Let the full bore conversation about Strike and speculation about the new novel begin!

 

 

Beatrice Groves: Rowling and Catullus

Trinity College Portraits by Ian Wallman

A Nativity Guest Post post from Beatrice Groves, Research Fellow and Tutor in English at Oxford’s Trinity College and the author of Literary Allusion in Harry Potter as a Christmas gift to you about distinguishing an artist from her artwork and a pointer to a BBC program this week which Serious Strikers will want to attend. Enjoy — and Merry Christmas!

On 9 Jan on Radio 4 (9am and 9.30pm) there will be an ‘In Our Time’ episode on Catullus – which serious Strikers may be  interested in listening in on. Guests include my friend and colleague Dr Gail Trimble, who has written the forthcoming Cambridge University Press edition of Catullus 64 (and what she doesn’t know about Catullus isn’t worth knowing). The write-up of the programme describes how:

Catullus (c84-c54 BC) wrote some of the most sublime poetry in the late Roman Republic, and some of the most obscene. He found a new way to write about love, in poems to the mysterious Lesbia, married and elusive, and he influenced Virgil and Ovid and others, yet his explicit poems were to blight his reputation for a thousand years. Once the one surviving manuscript was discovered in the Middle Ages, though, anecdotally as a plug in a wine butt, he inspired Petrarch and the Elizabethan poets, as he continues to inspire many today. 

One those he continues to inspire, of course, is J.K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith. She has made Catullus her new hero’s favourite poet – in a way that marks both Strike’s continuity with Harry Potter (in which she delights in using Latin as a magical language) and a gear-change in the way in which she approaches such subjects in her more explicitly adult series. Catullus is a major presence in both the second and fourth Strike novels. In Silkworm Catullus is first mentioned as Strike’s favourite author without giving the reader anything to identify the book by: his favourite book lay in one of the unpacked boxes of possessions on the landing; it was twenty years old and he had not opened it for a long time’ (Silkworm, p.254). Catullus’s poems lies buried in Strike’s subconcious (just as they are literally buried among the books on his landing) and first rise unbidden to his mind on receiving Charlotte’s text ‘Congratulate me. Mrs Jago Ross:’

As he walked with the aid of his stick back to Denmark Street he remembered words from his favourite book, unread for a very long time, buried at the bottom of the box of belongings on his landing.

difficile est longum subito deponere amoren,

difficile est, uerum hoc qua lubet efficias

it is hard to throw off long-established love:

Hard, but this you must manage somehow… (Silkworm, p.373)

It is only in the third and final reference to Catullus in Silkworm that the poet is finally identified. In this passage – which one reviewer called ‘corny but thrilling anyway’1 – Strike performs the ultimate put-down by quoting Catullus at length in Latin:

sicine subrepsti mi, atque intestina pururens

ei misero eripuisti omnia nostra bona?

Eripuisti, eheu, nostrae crudele uenenum

Uitae, eheu nostrae pestis amicitiae.’

He looked unsmilingly upon Fancourt’s astonishment. The writer rallied quickly.

Ovid?’

Catullus,’ said Strike, heaving himself off the low pouffe with the aid of the table. ‘Translates roughly:

So that’s how you crept up on me, an acid eating away

My guts, stole from me everything I most treasure?

Yes, alas, stole: grim poison in my blood

The plague, alas, of the friendship we once had.

 ‘Well, I expect we’ll see each other around,’ said Strike pleasantly.

(Silkworm, p.401)

This is a quotation of almost the whole of Catullus 77 and its relevance to the grotesque murder in Silkworm is clear. But the earlier quotation of Catullus 76 – ‘it is hard to throw off long-established love:/ Hard, but this you must manage somehow’ – appears to have a more wide-ranging relevance for the Strike series.

Rowling has had an all-or-nothing relationship with Twitter in 2019 – her year-long near-silence broken at the very end of the year by a tweet which seems to have been one of the most talked-about tweets of recent times. In the good old days, however, she used Twitter to tell us about Catullus.

On the 16th November 2017 she posted a picture in which I was delighted to spot Peter Green’s bilingual translation of Catullus hiding under the popcorn.

After reading Lethal White I can’t but wonder if this was an intentional set-up – another of her infamous gingerbread trails. For Strike, likewise, strains to read the half-revealed book titles on Jasper Chiswell’s coffee-table and spots an edition of Catullus: ‘Strike could see nothing but a partial title on an old cloth edition – “CATUL”’ (p.292). In this tweet Rowling places her readers in precisely the same position as her detective: straining to find clues from a photograph of a copy of Catullus on the coffee-table of someone who has been quoting that poet. And is she teasing us by leaving precisely the same five letters ‘CATUL’ visible on the book’s spine? Can we come to the same conclusion as Strike from precisely the same evidence?!

Then, on 1 July 2018, Rowling replied to a fan-tweet (can you give us a tease on Lethal White?’) with her first Latin tweet: ‘Odi et amo. Quare id faciam fortasse requiris nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.’ Rowling’s tweet quotes the whole of Catullus 85: ‘I hate and love. Why I do so, perhaps you ask, I know not, but I feel it, and I am in torment.’

By quoting Catullus in Latin, Rowling links herself directly with her detective (who, as noted above, has quoted both Catullus 76 and 77 in Latin from memory). Rowling has commented in interview that these quotations are a hint about Strike’s own personal story arc: ‘it is a clue to what he was studying before he left university… I have backstory there.’2 Rowling, too, studied the classics at university (in her case Greek and Roman Studies at Exeter University – in addition to French) and lines from Catullus clearly rise to her mind as expressing precisely the mot juste, just as they do for Strike. Before the publication of Lethal White I wrote a post for Bathilda’s Notebook on Mugglenet about Rowling’s ‘Odi et amo’ tweet (– which I hope John will post a link to here when Mugglenet is back up!). And, as promised, in Lethal White Catullus did indeed make a return. The copy Strike spots on the villain-victim Chiswell’s coffee table is a pointer to his two important quotations of the poet.

Firstly Chiswell quotes Catullus 16 (apparently with homophobic intent) at Aamir Mallik: ‘Catullus more up your street, I expect. He produced some fine poetry about men of your habits. Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo, Aureli pathice et cinaede Furi, eh? Poem 16, look it up, you’ll enjoy it’ (pp.186-7). (In a nice detective-y detail Strike is able to identify the poet later when discussing this moment with Robin – although she cannot remember the Latin – because Chiswell gives the poem a number not a name: ‘Catullus’s poems are numbered, not titled’ [p.296]).

And then, just as in Rowling’s ‘Odi et amo’ tweet, Chiswell quotes Catullus 85 itself: ‘Odi et amo, quare id faciam fortasse requiris? Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.’ Robin finds it written out in Latin by Chiswell on a crucial note that is one of her biggest under-cover finds. Strike translates it for us – ‘“I hate and I love. Why do I do it, you might ask? I don’t know. I just feel it, and it crucifies me….” that’s Catullus again. A famous one’ (p.449) – and in doing so reveals a little more of his backstory as he parries Robin’s question about how come he can read Latin though he did not (like Rowling) study it at university: ‘in fact the story of his ability to read Latin wasn’t long, merely (to most people) inexplicable. He didn’t feel like telling it in the middle of the night, nor did he want to explain that Charlotte had studied Catullus at Oxford’ (p.453).

In my Mugglenet blog I suggested Peter Green’s translation of Catullus 85 as our best pre-publication guess at how Rowling/Strike would translate it:

I hate and love. You wonder, perhaps, why I’d do that?

I have no idea. I just feel it. I am crucified.3

Rowling hasn’t followed it precisely (as indeed, given copyright, she couldn’t have), but the ‘I just feel it’ and the verb ‘crucify’ suggests that she has used Green as a guide in her translation (Strike’s version, for example, is much closer to Green than to the Loeb: ‘I hate and love. Why I do so, perhaps you ask, I know not, but I feel it, and I am in torment’).

Rowling kept faith with that ‘Odi et amo’ tweet, too, in the sense that Catullus is even more important for the plot in Lethal White than in Silkworm (a pattern we should see repeated in Strike 6 if John is right about the structure, with Lethal White as the ‘pivot’ novel). Strike, musing on why Chiswell has quoted Catullus to Aamir Mallik, notes the obvious point that Chiswell is calling out some form of sexual deviancy – sexually explicit poetry being what Catullus is best-known for: ‘Catullus described plenty of interesting habits: incest, sodomy, child rape… he might’ve missed out bestiality’ (p.296).

He also makes the slightly less obvious connection that Catullus writes about relations with an older woman: ‘the best-known ones are on that very subject,’ said Strike. ‘Catullus was in love with an older woman’ (p.337). An older, married, woman, indeed – although Rowling wants us to work out that clue for ourselves. And Chiswell is indeed, by quoting Catullus 16, expressing his violent anger at sexual deviancy (something very close to incest, in fact) with an older, married woman. Strike has put his finger on the oblique accusation Chiswell is making, he just isn’t ‘addressing’ the person Strike thinks that he is (‘we are never too old to learn, eh, Raff?’ [p.187]).

Catullus – even, perhaps the startlingly adult Catullus 16 – also marks a subtle cross-over between the Strike and Wizarding Worlds. It is difficult not to notice post-Crimes of Grindelwald that Rowling quotes the second line of the Catullus 16 in Lethal White, the line which addresses ‘Aureli:’ the Roman Senator Marcus Aurelius Cotta Maximus Messalinus. This Aurelius is a tempting source for Credence’s new name (revealed to the world two months after the publication of Lethal White) – did she come up with it when re-reading Catullus 16 for Strike research?

More pertinently, I think, Catullus is a name Rowling used in her Wizarding World (posted on Pottermore in 2016 after he had turned up as Strike’s favourite poet in Silkworm in 2014) for ‘the great eighteenth-century researcher of Charms, Professor Catullus Spangle.’ Catullus Spangle is an authority on the Patronus, and in particular, on the way in which this Charm (as we’ve seen in particular with Harry, Snape’s and Tonks’s Patronuses) makes deeply private realities visible: ‘the Patronus, asserted Spangle, represents that which is hidden, unknown but necessary within the personality… the Patronus is the awakened secret self that lies dormant until needed, but which must now be brought to light…’ (Rowling deepens this point by having Spangle, surprisingly, suggest that there is something odd about those whose Patronus takes the form of their favourite animal: ‘Here is a wizard who may not be able to hide their essential self in common life, who may, indeed, parade tendencies that others might prefer to conceal.’4) The Patronus – a bit like more traditional acts of creativity? – negotiates between someone’s private and public natures, their surface and their depths.

Catullus 16, which is only quoted in Lethal White in Latin (and, indeed, was only published in full in English in the late twentieth century), is far from suitable fare for many Pottermore readers. But it is a poem Rowling chooses to quote in her adult work and it is interesting that she gives its author’s name to an academic who writes about the Charm which mediates between the hidden and revealed selves.

The most interesting aspect of Catullus 16 (for this reader, at least) is its explicit (in both senses) discussion of the relation between an author and their art. It is a performance of outrage against those who cannot distinguish between an artist and an art-work. Others claim that Catullus ‘parades tendencies that others might prefer to conceal’ and he replies, in effect, that the poetry is no measure of the man. But he does so, of course, poetically: the poem is a wittily circular, as well as violently memorable, demonstration of its central point.

As we wait for Strike 5 (which Rowling noted last month is pages away from completion) I hope you’ll join me in tuning into the Catullus special on Radio 4 and learning a bit more about Strike’s favourite poet. Who knows? It might provide future clues….

  1. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/review/jk-rowling-the-most-successful-writer-in-the-world-spins-a-winner/news-story/49666ffcf0ae7d82afdbc379101f584b
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbvJbbgFhrQ
  3. The Poems of Catullus: A Bilingual Edition, trans. Peter Green (London: University of California Press, 2005). p.191.
  4. https://www.wizardingworld.com/writing-by-jk-rowling/patronus-charm

New Tarot Themed Twitter Header

J. K. Rowling has gone silent on her Twitter feed for almost a year now, the few tweets and re-tweets that have been posted are Rowling, Inc., promotions and show little of her signature panache. She has, however, changed the Twitter header more than once, most recently on 23 November, Cormoran Strike’s birthday. The new header is three cards from the Thoth Tarot Deck; Lindsay at Pools of Venetian Blue, a very Serious Striker, alerted me to the change and was the first to post about the cards and her interpretation remains the best I have read: check it out here.

I have asked Evan Willis to share his thoughts, and, end of term responsibilities allowing or concluding, he will write up and post about this most esoteric of subjects here soon. Does it mean as Lindsay suggests that Cormoran is over Charlotte? Or something deadlier?

Giving Tuesday: Sponsor a Hogwarts Professor for the Global Autism Project.

Dear Readers:

I recently had the privilege of being accepted as a Skill Corps Volunteer with the Global Autism Project for July 2020. I will be part of a team traveling to Ecuador, to work in a center for autistic children and provide training for teachers and parents.  My university’s Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement is providing a seed grant for the project, but I need to raise 80% of the funds to make this trip a reality.

I am hoping Hogwartsprofessor.com readers who have enjoyed my Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Divergent and Cormoran Strike postings over the years will consider a donation to this cause on this Giving Tuesday. Skill Corps teams travel to places where schools and services for special needs children are scarce, with the long-term goal of establishing self-sufficient local centers.

No gift is too small.  The funding site is here for those who would like to donate.

Many thanks as we enter the holiday season.

New additions to my Harry Potter Christmas Tree

I have never had any interest in braving the crowds for Black Friday shopping. For me, the day after Thanksgiving is the day to hang around the house, maybe catch up on grading, contemplate creative uses for Thanksgiving leftovers and start decorating the house for Christmas. This includes setting up my tabletop tree with all of the Harry Potter ornaments I have accumulated over the years. Hallmark keeps coming out with more each year; eventually I am going to need to get a bigger tree. Here are a few pictures of additions made to my collection since I first posted on this topic.

I have acquired quite a few buildings, most recently Hogwarts itself and Honeydukes Sweets.  Olivander’s and Gringotts have been around longer.  I have started setting all the buildings, except for the castle, which is scaled much smaller,  up around the base of the tree in some fake snow in the style of a Christmas Village.  The Honeydukes is especially festive, with the snow-covered roof. Note to self:  purchase some battery-operated lights to light them up.

Ornaments acquired in the last few years include the first Fantastic Beasts addition, the Niffler in the suitcase, and the first in a series of 3D book covers.  I only wish it said “Philosopher’s Stone” instead of “Sorcerer’s.”  There’s also one of Snape drilling Harry in his first potions class (another that plays dialogue from the movie) and, perhaps my favorite from an artistic perspective, one with Dumbledore and Harry exploring memories in the Pensieve.

Of course, like a lot of Hogpro writers, I am hoping the Cormoran Strike series will become popular enough to merit such merchandising tie-ins.  Can you imagine the holiday scenes?  Lula Lovegood’s body in the snow?  The near-collision on the snowy highway? Strike punching Whitaker in the gut? A yapping Norfolk terrier with a chorus of “Shut up, Rattenbury!”?  The possibilities are endless.