Does Anyone “Really” Die in Stories?

As one year dies and another begins, and, at least in my part of the world, most outdoor growing things are dead or wisely biding their time to emerge in a few months, it is a fitting time to think about how stories, like those we analyze and discuss here, address the idea of death. Perhaps this is a rather glum subject, but it does not have to be. I sometimes joke with my literature and mythology students that no one ever “really” dies in mythology, that characters morph from one myth into another, that the stories themselves sustain the characters. In literature, characters can continue to live, as we revisit them, even if they “die” within the structure of the narrative. Rowling, like all the good storytellers and myth-makers who create the tales that teach and entertain us, works with the idea that those who die don’t really leave, whether they are family members or cuddly pigs; but perhaps it is a bit of stretch to assume no one “really” dies in these stories. Let’s ponder that further and see.

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Strike’s SIB 1: Hatherill of the Yard

At the start of The Cuckoo’s Calling, as Cormoran and Robin are still recovering from their collision of a meeting, Strike gives Robin the password to the office computer: Hatherill23. Any password needs to be memorable, so who or what is Hatherill? were the first (I think) to identify Detective Chief Inspector George Hatherill of Scotland Yard, so join me after the jump to find out more of his remarkable career, and why he may be so important to Strike.

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Rowling’s New Twitter Header Means The Faerie Queene is a Strike 5 Theme?

As many of us are anxiously looking forward to the release of the fifth Cormoran Strike novel, Troubled Blood, this September, the latest change to J.K. Rowling’s Twitter account may have some clues. The novel’s title has several possible origins, including Edmund Spenser’s epic poem The Faerie Queene. With her recently changed Twitter header, which includes an image from a beautifully illustrated 1890s edition of The Faerie Queene, Rowling and her crime-writing alter-ego Robert Galbraith may be laying the groundwork for a Spenser-scaffolding installment in the adventures of the ever-fascinating Strike and Robin Ellacott. Some of us truly hope that is the case.

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Fantastic Reading Suggestions for the Harry Reader on Your Shopping List, or Yourself!

Image result for harry potter libraryWhether you are shopping for a family member or friend, or perhaps looking for something to read over a school break or a long flight, thoughtful Harry readers are often seeking a text that will be, on some level, as fulfilling, thought-provoking, or entertaining as the Hogwarts adventures we love. Of course, no book can really be “just like” Harry Potter’s adventures, and we would not want it to be, but, depending on the reader, there are some authors whose work you might want consider as you make your list, and check it twice, even if the person who’s been naughty or nice is yourself! But if you are shopping for your own family’s versions of Newt, Fred and George, or Mr. Weasley, we have the goods after the break… [Read more…]

Cuckoos’s Calling: Success Not from Quality but JKR Fame?

Joanne Rowling published Cuckoo’s Calling under a pseudonym, Robert Galbraith, and also beneath a contrived identity; Galbraith was supposedly a veteran now working in security services. The book was turned down by more than one publisher but was picked up eventually by the same house, different imprint, that published Casual Vacancy. Did they know that Galbraith was Rowling? They deny it.

Ms. Rowling is open about her decption and what motivated her; she wanted to write, be published, and be accepted or rejected outside the Harry Potter critical bubble. I can imagine, if I doubt anyone can really appreciate (as no one living has gone through the crucible of Potter Mania as the author), how liberating and exciting this kind of gamesmanship must have been for her.

There are two or three questions about this approach that are worth exploring, most obviously the ethics of posing as a combat veteran. Today I want to discuss briefly — in hopes of opening the question and hearing what you think — the idea that Cuckoo’s Calling was published under a pseudonym because the author wondered if she would ever really know whether her new books were good or if publishers fell all over themselves to publish her because her fiction has a guaranteed global audience in the millions. Calling, if the Little, Brown imprint did not know Galbraith was Rowling under wraps, seems to have satisfied the first part of that question and the largely favorable reviews the second.

Or does it? Rochelle Deans sent me an article by Duncan J. Watts, J. K. Rowling and the Chamber of Literary Fame, that argues, no, the fact that Rowling’s effort at disguise was published and received kind notices proves nothing. What matters is that the book sold less than 500 copies to actual readers before her cover was blown. Their argument is based on the tests they have put to the theory they call the ‘Cumulative Advantage Hypothesis.’ The experiment went like this:

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