Guest Post: The Bloomsbury Group and ‘The Silkworm’

ChrisC is a regular guest writer at HogwartsProfessor. He responded with what follows to my request that he write up thoughts he shared in private correspondence about J. K. Rowling’s Cormoran Strike detective novels for your comment and correction. Enjoy!

Rowling, the Bloomsbury Group, and the (Possible) Literary Allegory of Silkworm

Throughout The Silkworm, author J.K Rowling offers what is more or less a running commentary on the current state of the publishing industry, and the authors who make up the literary world.

It’s not a pretty picture.

Throughout his investigation, Cormoran Strike runs afoul of publishers consumed by greed (with an implied over-fixation on any and everything digital that that hurts sales more than it benefits), writer’s quarreling among themselves for various slights both real, imagined, major, and minor.  Throughout all this it soon becomes (or at least should be) evident that the great majority of Silk is taken up with a scathing critique or Allegorical Satire of the Literary Establishment.

It’s the nature of that Satire that I’m interested in.  It’s been suggested here already that the Strike books are Ms. Rowling’s smuggled literary Key to the Potter Books.  Whether or not that prediction will hold true is a matter of time and whatever is written in the final books.  In the meantime, there were two clues that may hint at the possibly bigger literary fish has in mind with her Satire. [Read more…]

The Silkworm 2: Shades of and Keys to The Hogwarts Saga?

Spoiler alert:  Don’t read this if you haven’t read The Silkworm and if you want to read it without having had key plot points revealed to you beforehand.

I’m guessing that it’s safe to assume that most readers of the Cormoran Strike mysteries are readers of the Harry Potter novels as well and that they chose to read these books because of their enjoyment of Ms Rowling’s previous work, to include Casual Vacancy. Or maybe despite Vacancy. Whatever.

Reading The Silkworm, consequently, it’s only natural that we serious readers of the Hogwarts Saga be sensitive to what we hear or experience in this detective novel that seem to be echoes from the Boy Who Lived’s magical adventures.  I want to make three observations for your comment and correction here, thoughts that will not include a list of fun correspondences (did you flinch when you read that you can “hear the rumbling of the traffic on Charing Cross Road’ from Strike’s flat? Me, too), but all of which, I think, put the Cormoran Strike novels in a new light.

[Read more…]

Silkworm 1: Kathryn Kent’s Plot/Narrative Distinction

Spoiler alert:  Don’t read this if you haven’t read The Silkworm and want to read it without having key points revealed to you before hand.

In chapter 10 of The Silkworm, Robin and Cormoran are in his office reading the weBlog of the red-headed writer-wanna-be named Kathryn Kent. Ms Kent is supposedly the mistress of Owen Quine, the famous author whose wife has hired private detective Strike to find. She refers to Quine as ‘TFW,’ The Famous Writer:

Great talk with TFW about Plot and Narrative tonight which are of course not the same thing. For those wondering:- Plot is what happens, Narrative is how much you show your readers and how you show it to them.

An example from my second novel “Melina’s Sacrifice.”

As they made their way towards the Forest of Harderell Lendor raised his handsome profile to see how near they were to it. His well-maintained body, honed by horseback riding and archery skills — [The Silkworm, ch 10, p 66]

There is more in this review of Kent’s weblog to which we will have to return, especially in discussing the choices of quotations for the chapter headings, but for starters I want to ask your thought on this passage with regard to two points.

First, this pedantic aside in a weblog is a piercing representation of the affected wisdom available online in personal weBlogs (and, yes, I recognize the face in the reflection, alas). The insecurity, the excitement with ideas, the eagerness to speak with authority — all there brilliantly encapsulated in three short paragraphs.

Showing-not-telling genius aside, at least for a moment, I think it likely that Ms Rowling here is also making a point that she wants to make with her readers and critics, many of whom praise her for the intricacy and cleverness of her plots. That’s not an empty bit of praise, of course, but it is not Rowling’s gift as an author. That would be her deft characterization — revelation of essence in short, quick descriptive strokes or conversation — and her ability to work the slow reveal in narrative exposition. The latter quality is exactly what Ms Kent spoke with her lover-mentor about and was sharing with her reader(s). Nice touch.

Next, I suspect that the red-headed Kathryn Kent is a snap shot of sorts of the nigh on desperate  J. Kathryn Rowling, then a red head, when she was writing Harry Potter (and other things?) before she was discovered. I suspect it might be a portrait of how she imagines what might have become of Jo Rowling if the remarkable series of chance events did not raise her out of obscurity (for conversation with that young writer, see the interviews posted here last week).

Or is that too far a stretch? I’ll be returning to this idea of embedded pictures from Ms Rowling’s autobiography in discussion of the title, which seems to be an argument that all fiction writing is author-distillation and, after a fashion, execution. For now, though, what do you make of this weBlog passage?

Reading Cuckoo and Silkworm Side-by-Side: A Concurrent Reading to Discover the Cormoran Strike Story Formula

Note:  this was originally a comment to John’s first Silkworm post.  Per our Headmaster’s request, I am hastily re-posting as a bona fide post, posthaste.  Spoilers for The Cuckoo’s Calling and the first 12 chapters of The Silkworm below the jump.

I had had the good intentions to re-read The Cuckoo’s Calling before starting The Silkworm but did not get it done. So, I decided to read them concurrently and make my notes alternating: first Chapter 1 in CC, then chapter 1 in The Silkworm, etc. Obviously the chapters won’t match up perfectly, but knowing Rowling’s tendency to build the Harry Potter books on the same sequencing formula, this seemed as good an idea as any. [Read more…]

Silkworm and J. K. Rowling: Interviews in 1998, 2005, and 2012

Having just finished The Silkworm, I think we can see represented below in this token sample of interviews from Ms Rowling’s past the struggling, prematurely aging, red-headed writer named Kath Kent, the blonde Robin coming to terms with her discovery of who she is, and the several literary celebrities whose self-importance is lampooned cover to cover. The Silkworm all but demands this kind of “personal; heresy” interpretation, as touched on yesterday, and which I’ll explain in greater detail next week. Until then, enjoy the remarkable transfiguration of Jo via this YouTube time capsule opening.