J.K. Rowling is discussing everything from 50 Shades of Grey to Barack Obama to The Casual Vacancy in an extensive new interview in today’s issue of UK publication The Guardian.
The article is online now and you will be able to find it in the weekend edition of The Guardian tomorrow. It’s a must read; a brilliantly written piece about a subject we all love to talk about. Here’s some excerpts from it:
JK Rowling’s new novel arrives with the high drama and state secrecy of a royal birth. Its due date is announced in February, and in April the disclosure of its title, The Casual Vacancy, makes international news.The release of the cover image in July commands headlines again, and Fleet Street commissions a “design guru” to deconstruct its inscrutable aesthetic, in search of clues as to what might lie within. Waterstones predicts the novel will be “the bestselling fiction title this year”. Literary critics begin to publish preliminary reviews, revealing what they think they will think about a book they have not yet even read.
I am required to sign more legal documents than would typically be involved in buying a house before I am allowed to read The Casual Vacancy, under tight security in the London offices of Little, Brown. Even the publishers have been forbidden to read it, and they relinquish the manuscript gingerly, reverently, as though handling a priceless Ming vase. Afterwards, I am instructed never to disclose the address of Rowling’s Edinburgh office where the interview will take place. The mere fact of the interview is deemed so newsworthy that Le Monde dispatches a reporter to investigate how it was secured. Its prospect begins to assume the mystique of an audience with Her Majesty – except, of course, that Rowling is famously much, much richer than the Queen.
In a way, [she is a debut author meeting her first fan (the journalist)]. Rowling has written seven Harry Potter books, and sold more than 450m copies, but her first novel for adults is unlike them in every respect – unless you count the location where the concept came to her. “Obviously I need to be in some form of vehicle to have a decent idea,” she laughs. Having dreamed up Potter on a train, “This time I was on a plane. And I thought: local election! And I just knew. I had that totally physical response you get to an idea that you know will work. It’s a rush of adrenaline, it’s chemical. I had it with Harry Potter and I had it with this. So that’s how I know.”
The journalist who wrote the article included her own summary of the book, with a lot more details than the publisher’s synopsis. We’ve included it down below if you’d like to read it. Just remember – SPOILER ALERT!
The story opens with the death of a parish councillor in the pretty West Country village of Pagford. Barry had grown up on a nearby council estate, the Fields, a squalid rural ghetto with which the more pious middle classes of Pagford have long lost patience. If they can fill his seat with one more councillor sympathetic to their disgust, they’ll secure a majority vote to reassign responsibility for the Fields to a neighbouring council, and be rid of the wretched place for good.
The pompous chairman assumes the seat will go to his son, a solicitor. Pitted against him are a bitterly cold GP and a deputy headmaster crippled by irreconcilable ambivalence towards his son, an unnervingly self-possessed adolescent whose subversion takes the unusual but highly effective form of telling the truth. His preoccupation with “authenticity” develops into a fascination with the Fields and its most notorious family, the Weedons.
Terri Weedon is a prostitute, junkie and lifelong casualty of chilling abuse, struggling to stay clean to stop social services taking her three-year-old son, Robbie, into care. But methadone is a precarious substitute for heroin, and most of what passes for mothering falls to her teenage daughter, Krystal. Spirited and volatile, Krystal has known only one adult ally in her life – Barry – and his sudden death casts her dangerously adrift. When anonymous messages begin appearing on the parish council website, exposing villagers’ secrets, Pagford unravels into a panic of paranoia, rage and tragedy.
Pagford will be appallingly recognisable to anyone who has ever lived in a West Country village, but its clever comedy can also be read as a parable about national politics. “I’m interested in that drive, that rush to judgment, that is so prevalent in our society,” Rowling says. “We all know that pleasurable rush that comes from condemning, and in the short term it’s quite a satisfying thing to do, isn’t it?” But it requires obliviousness to the horrors suffered by a family such as the Weedons, and the book satirises the ignorance of elites who assume to know what’s best for everyone else.
Along with the written article, The Guardian has released a video of the interview. In the video, Rowling talks 50 Shades of Grey, being star-stucked by Barack Obama, the political fairytale we’ve all been waiting to read, and much more. You can watch that video right here.
If you live in the UK, be sure to pick up a print copy of the interview tomorrow! If you live out of the UK, you can read The Guardian on iPad for free.