Chicago Tribune ‘Printer’s Row’ Preview of ‘Casual Vacancy’: Searching for Signs of a Maturing Potter Fandom at LeakyCon

Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz wrote a feature article in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune that is nominally about Casual Vacancy‘s appearance in four weeks and substantially about the state of Joanne Rowling’s readership, a status gauged after conversations with a few Potter Pundits (friend-of-this-blog Suzanne Keen and myself, among others) and with the thousands gathered at Leaky Con this August.

Titled ‘Under a literary spell: J.K. Rowling is about to publish her first adult novel. Have her ‘Harry Potter’ fans grown up to be book lovers?,’ it is well worth your time — a thoughtful piece touching on quite a few topical bases as well as being wonderfully open in letting the many voices of fandom speak for themselves about what Harry has meant to them and what they are reading now.

Is this the first of many articles we can expect about Casual Vacancy? I think that is a very safe bet. Here’s the problem: we cannot speculate at any depth or length (well, not at depth at least!) about what the book will actually involve because it’s not preceded by novels in a series and all we have been told is that Vacancy is an “adult work.” Get ready for all kinds of creative approaches online and in traditional media to discussing this subject, consequently, as Publication Day nears.

Vacancy is #23 at Amazon, 1 of only 3 books in the Top 100 that are not yet in print, and #393 in the Paid Kindle Store. Nothing Potter-esque about those numbers but we’re a month out…


  1. Dolores Gordon-Smith says

    That was a fascinating article, charting the knock-on effect of Harry Potter on readers who grew up with the series. Being slightly older (!) than the interviewees, I well remember what a relief it was to have 11 year olds and teenagers actually reading. Before Harry there was a mantra in the publishing world (at least here in Britain) that long books for children/teenagers were unpublishable. Modern kids, so the set in stone rule ran, could only think and read in very short bursts. Children’s books were full of bad jokes, rude words and cartoonish characters and (mercifully in most cases) very, very short. Then came Harry…
    The great thing about Harry’s world is that it is a world, coherent, well imagined and so compelling that the reader wants to live in it, even if it’s only a life lived in the imagination. However, the ideas learned in that imaginative life carry over to our real lives, and, as we all know, we can do nothing unless we’ve imagined it first. Dumbledore, in King’s Cross, had something to say about the link between imagination and “real” life! CS Lewis, too, argued that reading great books trained us in what he called “the stock responses”, that it was vital to fill our minds with role models that gave us the example of how life should be lived. GK Chesterton, that wonderfully earthy man, wasn’t so struck by the sort of books that are sometimes hailed by the critical establishment as “Literature”. He robustly said that Literature was a luxury, Fiction, with heroes and villains, a necessity.
    And so we’re all looking forward to “The Casual Vacancy”. My only expectation is that it’ll be good (Jo Rowling is a cracking writer) and, like Harry Potter, very funny.
    On a personal note, my own new book, Frankie’s Letter, a First World War spy story that’s a total labour of love, is published on the same day! It certainly has heroes and villains and I can only hope that a little of JK Rowling’s magic rubs off on me. Accio Readers!

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