To bamboozle the public and the book trade through clever and costly orchestrated hype, where tight security was so ironclad as to conceal the content of the book, was in itself a sign that the story does not stand close scrutiny and the campaign primarily designed to attract a great flurry of pre-orders to cause the maximum impact. Apart from stunning the public senseless it amounted to a clear strategy of inducing the book trade to buy a pig in a poke.
The brouhaha that followed publication has not so far translated itself into the formation of hysterical queues of people to be the first to secure a copy of the book, nor does it seem, if some of the press is to be believed, that current sales are matching the phenomenon which greeted Harry Potter’s progress.
It is in any case too early to speculate. We simply don’t know what the author’s formidable publicity machine has up its sleeve over the next few weeks.
J.K. Rowling, who has the reputation of being a control freak, is of course the author in question. Her novel The Casual Vacancy is her first adult book which we are told, not in so many words but in a promotional blitzkrieg and by inference, will be the publishing sensation of the year as a follow-up to the exceptional success of the Potter books, reported to have made her a fortune in excess of £540million.
Very few contemporary authors have been as well known or as successful. For a decade and a half we were under her spell and adoringly followed her every step while she refused to give interviews except to a privileged few left-wing publications.
Her privacy she says was very important to her yet she wasn’t shy or reluctant when it suited her purpose to talk about being a single mother in Edinburgh living on benefits, so poor that she often sought refuge in the local café just to keep warm. Her middle-class background was skipped over to gain additional sympathy for her unknown years. It now transpires she is not what she made us believe. Her new novel, reading between the lines, reveals her hatred of the middle classes with unparalleled viciousness as she lays the blame on them for not being supportive of the poor and disadvantaged.
To her, they are stuck up, pompous and uncaring bigots. What a diatribe from somebody who you think should know better.
The book, with its mishmash of a plot, has no literary merit. Her writing is not stylish nor does it have the elegance of Anita Brookner or the insights of John Updike. The characters are nasty, uncouth, the sex crudely portrayed and the rest is a cheap manifesto of crapulent Socialism. Her legion of young admirers, who used to queue up sometimes all night to get a copy of Potter’s latest, will be shocked, even traumatised, to read this tirade of bigotry from someone who was their role model.
It is as if the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Pope were writing racy novels, full of sexual perversion, and expecting their congregations to applaud their efforts and courage.
J.K. Rowling must be inhibiting a weird world of her own where it seems everything goes. I certainly would not wish to be the parent whose children are pestering to read pornography.
Has she in fact shot herself, and the entire Potter industry, in the foot? The reviews have been mixed but generally not exceptionally good. There are, however, the few who are still in awe of her; who write approvingly of her novel for fear of being isolated from a section of the press whose left-wing convictions can make them formidable foes. These few are now invigorated by such unsavoury ravings in The Casual Vacancy, particularly against the middle classes whose contribution to the wealth of the nation in every sphere is incalculable.
I only hope that this vile book is rejected by the readers as ugly hokum, not worthy of a jiffy of anyone’s time.