J. K. Rowling’s life story is a class warfare tale as she publicly shares she was living on welfare when she first started writing “Harry Potter” and is now worth $900 million. So her newest work, “The Casual Vacancy,” described as fiction, should be understood as a sum of her own experiences, her struggles or should I say war within society and ultimate triumph. Now I’m not saying that that’s the whole of the book, nonetheless, but it certainly make sense that the social shock and rapid matriculation from welfare to millions might have a re-directional effect on the author. Since Rowling’s new wealth has strapped her with a very different social standing, the need to share some of what has unfolded in her journey is bound to come through in “The Casual Vacancy.” It’s not at all an unreasonable prediction when you consider the fact that the author’s decision to switch genres may in part represent her need to make sense of it all. That decision alone suggests Rowling is compelled to share her changing outlook on life, which is still an evolving ongoing adventure.
The “Harry Potter” author’s first novel for adults is set to hit bookstores Thursday, and Rowling is making no excuses for the very grownup prose and plotline in “The Casual Vacancy.”
In a rare interview, Rowling shrugged off the suggestion that she will face criticism for exposing fans of her G-rated wizard series to the kind of novel that likens a used condom to “the gossamer cocoon of some huge grub.”
“There is no part of me that feels that I represented myself as your children’s baby-sitter or their teacher,” Rowling told the New Yorker magazine.
“I was always, I think, completely honest. I’m a writer, and I will write what I want to write.”
The contents of the 512-page book — already No. 3 on the Amazon best-seller list based on preorders — have been guarded as closely as the Sorcerer’s Stone.
New Yorker writer Ian Parker was forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement that initially barred him from taking notes while reading “Vacancy” in the publisher’s office.
His profile of Rowling divulges there are a few shades of gray in her “comic tragedy” about class warfare in an English village.
One passage reads: “The leathery skin of her upper cleavage radiated little cracks that no longer vanished when decompressed.”
Another refers to a boy on a school bus “with an ache in his heart and in his balls.” There’s even a “miraculously unguarded vagina.”
Many of the teenagers are troubled, and one mother is a heroin addict.
“I had a lot of real-world material in me,” Rowling, 47, said of moving beyond the world of make-believe.
“There are certain things you just don’t do in fantasy. You don’t have sex near unicorns. It’s an ironclad rule. It’s tacky,” she said.
Then she added: “It’s not that I just wanted to write about people having sex.”
Rowling considered publishing her latest work anonymously but knew her cover would be blown.
“In the final analysis, I thought, ‘Get over yourself. Just do it,’” she said.
She has already written a couple of chapters of her next book for adults and is also working on two books for kids too young for Harry Potter.
The New Yorker didn’t give “Casual Vacancy” a rave review, but that’s unlikely to hurt early sales or dampen curiosity. The book has been on Amazon’s top 100 list for 81 days, and local stores report brisk preorders.
The BookMark Shoppe, a small independent store in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, said 24 of its customers have dibs on the first copies.
“And people have been calling all day to make sure we’ll have it on Thursday,” said owner Christine Freglette.
She guessed that many of the anxious readers were adolescents when they got hooked on Hogwarts.
“They were the first Harry Potter generation. Now they’re adults and this is perfect for them,” she said.
Some snippets have hit the public forum. Instead of magical stories discussing good and bad men and women, “The Casual Vacancy” will be a whole lot more complicated, with The Daily Mail reporting themes of “warfare, prostitution, heroin addiction and teen sexuality” all present in the novel. One girl’s chest is even talked about in a particularly unflattering manner, and if you think that’s bad you should probably avoid the book, which also speaks candidly about women’s vaginas and other subjects that would be untouchable in children’s literature.
I can’t help but to reiterate that’s Rowling is compelled to express within this work the meaning of what she’s seen and heard in a society she only recently has had the privilege getting hands on knowledge of.
My best estimate of what we’re all in for is a journey that will resonate with those of us that are more mature.