Guest Post: Will Troubled Blood Have A Spenserian Story Scaffold?

Chris sent me this speculative post before the seven chapter preview of Troubled Blood was available on Apple Books — and it holds up rather well in light of Strike 5’s first Part. The idea that Spencer’s Faerie Queene will play an outsized role in understanding Troubled Blood, a possibility first suggested here by Nick Jeffery when the Strike 5 title was announced, was certainly confirmed by the preview in which Faerie Queene passages begin the book and each chapter!

A Spenserian Story Scaffold for Troubled Blood?

By ChrisC.

After giving it some thought, the best “working idea” I’ve got about Strike 5, Troubled Blood, has to do with its story scaffolding. My theory is best put in the form of a question. “What if Rowling were to pattern Troubled Blood, at least in part, on Book 1 from Spenser’s Faerie Queene?” There’s a lot to examine on this topic, so why not join in after the jump?

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Guest Post: Pictures from St Mawes

Good friend of this weblog, Lesley Stevens, just happened to be on a ‘staycation’ this week in Cornwall. She stopped by St Mawes, took some lovely photographs of The Victory and other key locations we visit in the Troubled Blood seven chapter preview released last week, and sent me this kind note. Enjoy!

Good morning, John. 

I trust all is well with you. 

Unwilling to travel abroad this year, we are currently enjoying a ‘staycation’ in Cornwall. 

After a much looked forward to visit to the Lost Gardens of Heligan yesterday, we took a diversion on the way back to our holiday accommodation to visit the costal town of St Mawes for obvious reasons. 

We had hoped to lunch at the Victory Inn but unfortunately they were not serving food. I did take a photo of the outside however and also a few photos of the beach, sea wall and the ferry stop most of which are to be found on the Strike fan site on the Internet, but the beach photo I took illustrates the location of the Victory to the sea wall (look for the sign amongst the roof tops) which I thought might be of interest. 

We also drove down Hillhead Road which I understand to be the location for Aunt Joan and Uncle Ted’s cottage.

This is a one way steep twisting road which runs in the direction from the top of the hill to the sea front with vehicular access from the top of the Hill only. In the future, I can imagine it would be tricky to film in this street, however there were some pretty cottages with front gardens overlooking the sea which might with a little tv wizardry make for an easier location for Strike and Lucy’s chat.

I also picked up a local tourist guide which has maps of the town and the Roseland peninsula in which it is located and which I thought may be of interest as the plot unfolds and if locations are mentioned. 

Anyway, today here in Cornwall, the weather is as Strike remembers: 

Strike remembers how the rain is different in Cornwall, remembering how it “lashed like whips” against the windows of the spare bedroom of his Aunt and Uncles house. 

We are staying in our holiday cottage avoiding the rain and reading (thank you for the Hogwarts Professor post on the first seven chapters of Troubled Blood and the Beatrice Groves pillar post, perfect reading for today) and playing board games … much to the disappointment of our dog Trowser who can’t see the problem in going out at all ! 

Kind regards, 

Lesley 

Thank you, Lesley, for the kind note and for the wonderful photographs! I have reproduced here as many as the WordPress blogging software allows — and add this ‘thank you’ paragraph, both to express my gratitude and in order to include The Victory foto you mention taken from the seawall. Your being in St Mawes this week reminds me of Prof Groves’ trip to the White Horse Inn while reading Lethal White; I hope you are able to enjoy the first seven chapters of Troubled Blood while you’re in St. Mawes!

Guest Post: Ickabog Notes & Predictions

Written by David Martin on Sunday, July 5th, 2020, five days before the end of The Ickabog will be published.

A few comments about the Ickabog story so far:

When contemplating the venality and cruelty of the Cornucopian government, it may be well to remember that Rowling worked as a translator in the London office of Amnesty International for a while. She spoke of the nightmares that work gave her in her Very Good Lives address at Harvard.

Cornucopia seems to have the same level of technology as England in about 1800. The clock Bert watches while waiting for his mother to return has a minute hand. Cooking is done on stoves rather than in fireplaces. There is (or was at the start of the story) regular postal service in the kingdom. On the other hand, they are still using quills and all lighting is by candles and flaming torches. They don’t even have gas lights yet. Only Basher John has keys at the orphanage. Apparently Ma Gunther does not have duplicates. (Basher John, like Hagrid, is a “keeper of the keys.”) This suggests that metal working was not yet advanced enough to make duplicate keys common for locks.

The absence of newspapers strikes me as odd. There is also no mention of a town crier. How do people get the news?

One of JKR’s tricks is to not mention something, such as the name of Barty Crouch’s son. We are not told why Lady Eslanda is living in the castle. What is her backstory?

As in Harry Potter, the good guys read books (especially Lady Eslanda) and write letters. The bad guys seem to avoid reading and writing. Lord Spittleworth has a library, but it is dusty. Further, Lord Spittleworth seems to be in several ways at war with letters. He reads (censors) all the King’s mail and blocks the mail from outside Chouxville. Spittleworth and Flapoon rely a lot on messengers and face-to-face conversations, just as the Death Eaters did.

A lot of this story revolves around food. The towns are described in terms of what food they create. The names of the towns seem to link to food:

  • Chouxville: “Choux” is the French word for cabbage. (It is also used in the phrase “mon petit choux” as a term of endearment.)
  • Kurdsburg: Curds are the “soft, white substance formed when milk sours, used as the basis for cheese.” (Wikipedia)
  • Baronstown. I have no idea about what Baron has to do with meat. Any ideas?
  • Jeroboam. A “jeroboam” refers to either a 3-liter bottle of Champagne or Burgundy or a 4.5-liter bottle of Bordeaux. Biblically, Jeroboam was the first king of the northern Kingdom of Israel who ruled somewhere around 920 to 901 B.C. (Taken from https://www.winespectator.com/articles/how-did-jeroboam-wine-bottle-get-its-name-56204)
  • And of course, the name of the country itself – Cornucopia – suggests an abundance of food.

Ma Gunther’s orphanage is terrible in part because of the food. The children are half-starved when rescued by the Ickabog. Maybe expressing wealth and poverty as having or lacking food is just a way of making those two conditions more understandable to young children.

On the other hand, the name of the river – Fluma – is very close to the Portuguese word “fleuma” which means phlegm. Recalling chapter five of Prince, this would not be the first time Rowling has played with that word.

Thinking about possible fictional antecedents for the Ickabog’s situation of guarding its many offspring, two creatures come to mind:

Now some rash predictions or guesses about how the story will end:

  1. There will be a final battle in which Captain Goodfellow slays Lord Spittleworth.
  2. Lord Flapoon will not be killed. He, the Dark Footers, and Ma Gunther will be sent to the dungeons where they will have to live on cabbage soup.
  3. The money stolen by Lord Spittleworth and Lord Flapoon will be recovered and used to rebuild the country.
  4. King Fred will be dethroned.
  5. Lady Eslanda will discover something important in the library – something old. Her discovery may show that King Fred is not the rightful king and/or that Cornucopia should have a different relationship with the Ickabog. Perhaps there was an ancient treaty?
  6. Several couples will live happily ever after:
  • Lady Eslanda and Captain Goodfellow.
  • Bertha Beamish and Dan Dovetail.
  • Daisy Dovetail and Bert Beamish.
  • Martha (whose last name we’ve never been told) and Roderick Roach. (Maybe)
  1. The Ickabog will be given the right to live in peace in the Marshlands, to collect or cultivate mushrooms.

I look forward to seeing in just a few days how Rowling will, in all likelihood, surprise all of us again with an unforeseen revelation at the end of the story.

  • David Martin of Hufflepuff

Please Share Your Predictions for the Coming Week in the Comment Boxes!

Guest Post — Of Time, Terra, and Narnia: The Forgotten Ideas Behind C.S. Lewis and Vladimir Nabokov (Chris Calderon)

Of Time, Terra, and Narnia: The Forgotten Ideas Behind C.S. Lewis and Vladimir Nabokov

By Chris Calderon

Popular culture is often unkind. Once you reach its level, you soon discover all that counts is how well a complex subject can fit into this or that pigeonhole. In that sense a good working definition of pop culture is a place to put things so that you can forget them because its better that way, safer. Even beloved literary icons aren’t immune to this problem. C.S. Lewis’s reputation has become like that. He’s a name on the tip of the tongue who wrote a few kiddie books a while back and was something of a fundamentalist; that is all. The same thing happened to Vladimir Nabokov. All anyone can remember him for was writing a perverted book, and for some reason Stan Kubrick thought it would make a good film. Then there’s Jo Rowling, just another welfare queen who got lucky with another set of kiddie lit; “Life is very long”. That’s about as far a popular understanding can go, and it never deals with any of these subjects at all.

It can’t help readers understand that, thanks to the efforts of critics like Michael Ward, we now know that Lewis was a closet Berkeleyan Idealist, and that the good Bishop was perhaps his second “Other Master” after George Macdonald. Nor that few except a handful of close readers where able to say the same about the author Lolita. The thought and writings of George Berkeley form one of the most interesting thematic links between two writers who are never considered in the same aesthetic space together. There’s a story to be told about that link, and it has to do with a solitary dreamer. His name was John William “J.W.” Dunne, and he’s almost like a figure in a story, even if he was real.

Dunne was an aeronautics engineer. He was the very model of a modern day respectable. It would almost be true to say he represented the ideal picture of the norm for modernist Britain. Then somehow the table was upended. Dunne may have lost the respect of his neighbors and cohorts, though it remains for you to decide just what he gained in the end. Respectability came to an end for Dunne with a series of peculiar dreams. The first involved a stopped watch that didn’t malfunction until at least a day after Dunne dreamed that it did. The second was more dire. In his sleep, Dunne saw himself standing on an unstable strip of ground that was beginning to crack. Light was emerging from those tears in the earth, and he knew to go near any of it meant incineration. He could make nothing of this dream until the eruption of Mt. Pelee became the Pompei of the 20th century.

The same experience kept repeating itself. Dunne would see an event in his sleep, and later that event would sometimes repeat itself in real life. JWD was not a mystic. By training he had a degree in physics, and liked to keep track of the work of scientists like Einstein and Arthur Eddington. In addition, while he was practical, it was this same critical thinking streak that, paradoxically, made him an intellectually convinced Anglican. What he had on his hands amounted to little else except a repeating phenomenon with no other word to describe it except miraculous. Dunne was the sort of methodical thinker who couldn’t leave it at that, however. Like Lewis, he devoted a meticulous study to the subject as it occurred, and brought all his scientific acumen to bear on it. The result was An Experiment with Time, a text with an influence on both VVN and CSL. [Read more…]

Guest Post: Keats Epigraphs in Strike5?

Why John Keats “May” Provide Epigraphs (and other materials) for Strike Five

By ChrisC

A recent theory on this site is that Marilyn Manson’s lyrics will form the epigraphs for the next Cormoran Strike Mystery. I have an alternate take on that subject, however. What if the poetry of John Keats is what readers have to look forward to, at least in terms of thematic chapter-header quotes in Book 5?

My reasons for bringing this up center around one of the author’s clues and the literary subject matter attached to it. The clue was Ms. Rowling’s brochure for the Chelsea Physic Garden. It was founded by the Society of Apothecaries in 1837, and Keats was an intern there as part of his early medical studies. His notebooks demonstrate a remarkable knowledge of pharmacology, and both Hermione De Almeida and Jennifer M. Wunder have shown that Keats’ medical studies intertwined with his neo-Platonic-hermetic poetical interests. In addition to this, Keats was not the only Rowling linked artist to be related to the Chelsea Garden. There is one other author who, along with Keats, may form a major part of the fifth book’s creative compost. To find out more about this, and how Agatha Christie may have a part to play, join me after the jump. [Read more…]