How very appropriate, I thought.
Because what JK Rowling did with her latest book takes a lot of guts. Even if you are the first author billioniare.
Harry Potter made Rowling rich and famous, but also beloved. Children all over the world were raised in her charming, quirky and sometimes dangerous wizarding world. But a funny thing happens when we come to love something so obsessively like that. We don’t want it to ever stop, and we don’t want it to ever change. So there was a lot of pressure (and a lot of incentive) for Rowling to keep writing more children’s fantasy.
But if you read the whole series, if you paid attention, you knew she wasn’t going back to children’s literature. The themes and writing style of the Harry Potter books grew up with the kids who read them—and Rowling’s writing style grew up, too. Perhaps her writing style has developed more with all the time she’s been able to spend writing, or perhaps that kind of fame and success inevitably has an affect on a person, but I don’t think Rowling’s writing style could go back to that first Harry Potter book any more than Harry himself could go back to being the little boy he was before discovering he was a wizard.
All the same, what she’s done with The Casual Vacancy took a lot of guts. After reading it, I am sure that some people will hate her with as much passion as she was loved for Harry Potter.
And she knows this.
She’s been clear and straightforward about this in her promotion for the book. And she wasn’t kidding. Even though I devoured early news about The Casual Vacancy every chance I got, I have to admit, that first F-bomb in The Casual Vacancy had a little bite to it for me. And the way she talks about horny high school boys was a bit of a shock.
Kids, we aren’t in Hogwarts anymore.
And good for her. In fact, I think it’s probably good for all of us. Creative growth is an important, health, even necessary thing. The mania around Harry Potter could easily have boxed Rowling in for the rest of her life, and she’s make a killing doing it. But what a waste of talent that would be!
As for the rest of us, well, we shouldn’t cling to children’s stories for the rest of our lives either. One of the wonderful things about the obsession with Harry Potter was how many children it got to love reading. Let’s face it, the first Harry Potter book was published 15 years ago—those kids are adults now. And we too benefit from exposure to many different things, and even a challenge now and then.
So it makes me so happy for Rowling that she was brave enough to depart from her legacy and forge a new path for herself. Watching her in interviews, she is cool, calm, comfortable with herself. She knows The Casual Vacancy is not for everyone, that some will even hate it. But after all her struggles with fame and paparazzi, maybe that doesn’t sound so bad.