We're certainly not in Hogwarts anymore.
J.K. Rowling's new novel "The Casual Vacancy," which hits stores Thursday, delivers enough doses of teen sexuality, prostitution and drug use to make Harry Potter blush, according to recent reports.
In the book, Rowling has said goodbye to Hogwarts and hello to the fictional English village of Pagford. A 512-page tale of class warfare in a small village, the book is a radical departure for Rowling in the post-Harry Potter era. After selling 450 million books and amassing a personal fortune approaching $900 million in the seven-book Harry Potter series, Rowling, 47, is making her first foray into adult novels.
The "Fifty Shades of Grey" phenomenon had no effect on her decision to write an adult-themed novel, as she told The Guardian that she “promised’’ her editor she wouldn't read the E.L. James books. She considered writing her new book under a pseudonym but chose to boldly go in another direction rather than stay in her comfort zone of children’s books.
“But in some ways I think it's braver to do it like this,’’ she told The Guardian. “And, to an extent, you know what? The worst that can happen is that everyone says, 'Well, that was dreadful, she should have stuck to writing for kids' and I can take that. So, yeah, I'll put it out there, and if everyone says, 'Well, that's shockingly bad — back to wizards with you', then obviously I won't be throwing a party. But I will live. I will live.’’
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Writing a different type of novel freed her from some of the constraints of the fantasy genre.
“The thing about fantasy — there are certain things you just don’t do,’’ she told The New Yorker in a recent profile. “You don’t have sex near unicorns. It’s an ironclad rule. It’s tacky.’’
"The Casual Vacancy" deals with the class warfare that begins when a council member in Pagford dies, creating a rift between Padford and the nearby town of Fields. Rowling told The New Yorker that the book is a “comic tragedy,’’ and that she drew on experiences from her own upbringing in Gloucestershire, England, for the setting of the novel. Poverty and heroin addiction are part of the storyline along with frank sexual descriptions of teenage sexuality such as a “lustful boy” who sits on a school bus “with an ache in his heart and in his b----.”
A description of a female character talks about how the “leathery skin of her upper cleavage radiated little cracks that no longer vanished when decompressed.’’ There is also a mention of another girl’s “miraculously unguarded vagina.”
“I had a lot of real-world material in me, believe you me,’’ she told The New Yorker.
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Despite the different material, Rowling maintained that there are some similarities between the new novel and her Harry Potter books. The deceased council member who is the story’s moral center has similar virtues to Harry, and there are other themes that run through both works.
“I think there is a through-line,” she told The New Yorker. “Mortality, morality, the two things that I obsess about.”Story: J.K. Rowling to make rare appearance in NYC in October
With five years having passed since the release of the final Harry Potter book in 2007, Rowling admitted to some trepidation in releasing this new book and that she initially contemplated not publishing it.
“I thought I’d feel frightened at this point,” she told The New Yorker. “Not just because it’s been five years, and anything I wrote after Potter — anything — was going to receive a certain degree of attention that is not entirely welcome, if I’m honest. It’s not the place I’m happiest or most comfortable, shall we say. So, for the first few years of writing ‘The Casual Vacancy,’ I kept saying to myself, ‘You’re very lucky. You can pay your bills, you don’t have to publish it.’ And that was a very freeing thought, even though I knew bloody well, in my heart of hearts, that I was going to publish it. I knew that a writer generally writes to be read, unless you’re Salinger.”
Rowling also is not concerned about potentially alienating the millions of young readers she gained with the Harry Potter books.
“There is no part of me that feels that I represented myself as your children’s babysitter or their teacher,” Rowling told the New Yorker. “I was always, I think, completely honest. I’m a writer, and I will write what I want to write.”Story: J.K. Rowling promotes new Harry Potter book club
Regardless of what she writes, Rowling is still considered a publishing force. Best-selling British author Ian Rankin usually releases a new novel every October, but his publisher has pushed the release date this year to November in order for it not to get buried by "The Casual Vacancy," according to The New Yorker piece.
She also announced that she is working on a pair of books for children younger than her Harry Potter readers and has also started writing another adult novel.
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