J.K. Rowling proves yet again that there's always more to write about the world of Harry Potter. And that she never sleeps.
Today the author posted part one of the “History of the Quidditch World Cup” on Pottermore, the interactive website for fans of the wizarding world. Since Pottermore's public launch in 2012, Rowling has used the platform to share extra original stories, character histories and more.
According to The Telegraph, part one imparts historical and technical detail of the tournament, as well as tales of controversial matches, such as the Tournament that Nobody Remembers of 1877. Part two will be posted next Friday and will include a closer look at the hilarious and absurd World Cup rulebook, including limitations placed on dragons. At 2,400 words, it is one of the longest stories ever to be featured on the site.
For those who aren't Pottermore members, a World Cup amuse-bouche:
• A literary treasure brought to our attention by Open Culture: The British Library has posted a digital copy of Jane Austen's simply delightful parody, "The History of England," which she hand-wrote and illustrated when she was just 15 years old.
• HuffPost presents 8 female characters who deserve their own book. (My addition to the list: Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca.)
• Ever wondered what sorts of books Bill Gates likes to read? (Some might be a little surprising!)
• J.K. Rowling recently admitted to having a few regrets about the ending of the Harry Potter books, inspiring the folks over at The Millions to round up a slew of other infamous literary second thoughts.
• Stein by Picasso, Zola by Manet—Book Riot offers up 9 portraits of great authors painted by great artists.
So you've read all the Harry Potter books at least five times. You've been to Harry Potter World. You bought a wand, and then another wand. You did the Pottermore thing and got all your friends who haven't read Harry Potter to get sorted, just so you know.
Fortunately, we all may continue to absorb ourselves in the world of Harry Potter (forever and ever), because J.K. Rowling has agreed to write a series of films set in her wizarding world. The films will be based on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a textbook used at Hogwarts, and will follow the adventures of the book’s fictional author Newt Scamander. It will be Rowling's screenwriting debut.
No dates yet, but that should be enough to hold us Potterheads over for now!
Read on for a quote from Rowling in the Warner Bros press release:
“The idea of seeing Newt Scamander, the supposed author of ‘Fantastic Beasts,’ realized by another writer was difficult. Having lived for so long in my fictional universe, I feel very protective of it and I already knew a lot about Newt. As hard-core Harry Potter fans will know, I liked him so much that I even married his grandson, Rolf, to one of my favourite characters from the Harry Potter series, Luna Lovegood.
Although it will be set in the worldwide community of witches and wizards where I was so happy for seventeen years, ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but an extension of the wizarding world. The laws and customs of the hidden magical society will be familiar to anyone who has read the Harry Potter books or seen the films, but Newt’s story will start in New York, seventy years before Harry’s gets underway."
• For some reason, it surprised me that Virginia Woolf rolled her Rs. What do you think of this rare 1937 recording of her speaking, a true literary treat posted over on The Paris Review?
• Last week, we linked to Book Riot's list of five books that had awful original titles. This week, The Huffington Post upped the ante by sharing the working titles—some awful, some not so awful—of 24 classics.
• Speaking of titles—and Book Riot—raise your hand if you agree with this list of four overly used title formulas that should be retired.
• Keep your hands raised if you suffer from the same "read and forget" affliction that Ian Crouch describes on Page-Turner.
• We always like to include a little eye candy, so here's Book Riot's compilation of some neat, quirky bookish lamps. Which one would you want to read by?
• Check out this Open Culture post of an essential reading list that Hemingway put together for a young aspiring writer back in 1934. Is anyone aside from me having trouble picturing Hemingway reading—much less recommending—Wuthering Heights?
• Finally, a one-of-a-kind first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, annotated by author J.K. Rowling, fetched $227,421 in a charity auction this week. Wow.
• The 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction finalists were announced earlier this week: Threats by Amelia Gray, Kind One by Laird Hunt, Hold It ’Til It Hurts by T. Geronimo Johnson, Watergate by Thomas Mallon, and Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. The winner will be named on May 4. Which one will you be rooting for?
• GalleyCat has given us a peek inside the just-published children's picture book Flying Henry, a collection of whimsical images of photographer/artist Rachel Hulin's son.
• Did you know that Moby-Dick was inspired by real-life events? A ship attacked and sunk by an enormous whale, three months drifting at sea, cannibalism—and even a crew member actually named Owen Coffin! A fascinating Smithsonian blog post details the entire gruesome story.
• Dutch artist Frank Halmans' architectural book sculptures look so cozy that we wish we could pack our bags and move right into one.
• The Paris Review notes the passing of Barnaby Conrad, writer, boxer, matador, and one of the coolest guys you've probably never heard of.
• Who knew so many writers were gifted in the visual arts, as well? Flavorwire has compiled a collection of 20 self-portraits by famous authors. Flannery O'Connor, Edgar Allan Poe, Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood—which one is your favorite?
• The Baltimore home where F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald lived (with their daughter, Scottie) from 1933 to '35 is up for sale, which means we get to peek inside. Also posted this week is Scott's 1921 passport application, which features a crossed-out description of his chin as "prominent" replaced with "round." And apparently, his mouth was "medium"—whatever that means.
• Finally, Book Riot has collected photos of some very impressive literarily themed Lego projects. It sounds silly, yes, but we dare you not to be impressed by the Harry Potter one, which was built with 400,000 Legos!
As part of our Best Books of 2012 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
J.K. Rowling's first published novel for adults has received more mixed reviews than any other book published in 2012. We are firmly in the "worth reading" camp. In her story of warring factions in a small town in England's West Country, Rowling reminds us of how good she is at slowly building a world with small details; at writing catchy dialogue (does anyone have a better ear?); and at touching our hearts. The Casual Vacancy is sobering and sad, but the characters will stick in your mind, maybe even changing how you think about people born into poverty.
View our Best Books of 2012: #26-50. Full list to come later this week!
Warning: This post does not contain major plot spoilers of The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, but it does include plot details and reactions. So if you don't want to read ANY impressions of the novel at all
. . . stop here!
The reviews are starting to roll in for Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling's first adult novel, and let's just say the opinions are mixed. The Casual Vacancy is "dull." It includes "many nice touches." It's "ambitious, brilliant, profane, funny, deeply upsetting and magnificently eloquent." It's "a sour novel."
I read and reviewed the novel last week, and I'll certainly agree that the story—which is about small-town gossip, poverty and politics—lacks the magic of Harry Potter. And I mean that in several different ways: Literally, this novel is about real life, in all its messy glory (and I think Death Eaters might be easier to fight than the cycle of poverty). The novel does not zip along with the same energy as Harry Potter, and the characters will not imprint themselves in your imagination with the same permanence as Harry and the gang. (I mean, really: I feel like Hermione has been my friend since I was 11 years old!)
But The Casual Vacancy has merit. Here's an excerpt from my review:
Rowling is a master at fleshing out characters and describing their world, and she takes her time, examining moral dilemmas and town gossip from multiple points of view. Though it does not include spells and sparks, the climax of The Casual Vacancy is wrenching. We have come to know these characters and to root for them. Even though they are flawed—and some are repulsive—it is painful to watch them fall. Readers often want stories that “transport” them. The Casual Vacancy is a difficult read because it transports us to a sad and serious reality. The only fantasy here is the characters’ wish for a better life.
We're just a month out from the publication of J.K. Rowling's first novel for adults, The Casual Vacancy, on September 27. Little, Brown has been keeping details about the novel, other than the official description, top secret—sources say that only a select few have had time with the embargoed manuscript, and all cell phones and recording devices must be left outside the door.
That's not unusual for a big title (although it's less common for fiction), but the lack of pre-pub hype from the publisher is. As USA Today reports, there's been little to no push on this one—no promo materials, no midnight release parties—and stores are having a hard time figuring out how to get the word out, or what to tell their customers when asked about the book. The head buyer at R.J. Julia Booksellers is quoted as saying, "We had no posters … It hasn't been easy. People are curious, but they don't know what to expect."
The article goes on to say that the lack of a dramatic publicity onslaught is likely due to Rowling's own wishes, since rumor has it the world's best-selling author would prefer that her first adult novel stand on its own merit and not on her reputation. But a successful transition to adult fiction after becoming known as a YA author is a tricky one. Other YA authors who've made the jump in the last few years include Sara Shepard (Pretty Little Liars series), who released her first adult novel last year to little fanfare, and Ann Brashares, whose 2010 adult time-travel romance was the first in what looks like a stillborn series.
But perhaps the best comparison for a writer like Rowling is Stephenie Meyer, who moved to adult fiction after publishing the Twilight series. Her sci-fi novel The Host wasn't a big jump from the teen fantasy she is known for, yet it still sold just 2 million copies in hardcover (yes, an impressive figure, but the fourth Twilight novel, by comparison, sold 1.3 million copies on its first day of sale!). She has yet to publish the promised sequel, although perhaps that will be announced when the film version of The Host is released in March 2013.
The Casual Vacancy couldn't sound more different from the Harry Potter series, and although some people are sure to buy based on the Rowling name, its level of success will depend on the word-of-mouth response from readers. Stay tuned for our review on September 28!
Do you plan to read The Casual Vacancy?