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Short Cuts

Paul Laity: Little England

24 May 2001
... to the discovery that the list of the BWMA’s honorary members – there’s Jilly Cooper, Peter Hitchens, Norris McWhirter, mad Patrick Moore – includes the name of the universally adored J.K.Rowling OBE. Is this not taking the antique Englishness of Harry Potter just a little too far? But then I remember that the ‘feasts’ served up at Hogwarts boarding school are of ‘roast beef, roast ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Second Novel Anxiety Syndrome

22 August 2002
... writers with Second Novel Anxiety Syndrome, which appears to get worse in direct proportion to the success of a first novel – though it might simply be that those cases are more prominent. (J.K.Rowling, suffering from the much rarer condition of Fifth Novel Anxiety Syndrome, seems to have got the message, and has applied for planning permission to add a little room to her large house in Edinburgh ...

Can you spot the source?

Wendy Doniger: Harry Potter Explained

17 February 2000
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 
by J.K. Rowling.
Bloomsbury, 317 pp., £10.99, July 1999, 0 7475 4215 5
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... he’s really a swan. It haunts real-life adoption, too, fuelling the obsessive search for biological parents, and part of it (the rags-to-riches, Cinderella part) shapes the real-life story of J.K.Rowling, who rose out of obscurity and deprivation to claim her literary sovereignty. Rowling has been praised for what Lurie and others regard as a particularly British talent for writing for children, but ...

At the British Library

Katherine Rundell: Harry Potter

14 December 2017
... It seems eccentric​ to say it of a person richer than the queen, but J.K.Rowling is, I think, undervalued. Or rather, she gets credit for the less important things, for being a marketing phenomenon whose books have sold more than 400 million copies, and not for the painstaking ...

‘I worry a bit, Joanne’

Adam Mars-Jones: ‘The Casual Vacancy’

25 October 2012
The Casual Vacancy 
by J.K. Rowling.
Little, Brown, 503 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 1 4087 0420 2
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... The Casual Vacancy is as much an event as a novel – J.K.Rowling’s first book for adults! – but only the novel aspect can be reviewed. Incidental atmospherics don’t come into it – an astronomer trying to establish the composition of a comet will try to ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Literary Prizes

10 May 2001
... democratic gesture against the elitism of literary prizes. Zadie Smith won in the New Talent category; Jamie Oliver was best for Home and Leisure and Simon Schama for General Knowledge; J.K.Rowling wrote the best children’s book and Maeve Binchy’s Scarlet Feather won the Fiction Award. These results, of course, could have been predicted with a fair degree of accuracy by anyone casting their ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Fastsellers

22 March 2001
... Bestseller’: ‘Second only to P.D. James in the run up to Christmas’ deserving more respect, of a certain kind anyway, than ‘No. 1 at a quiet time of year’. I say P.D. James rather than J.K.Rowling because the precocious Potter has been banned from ‘fiction’ for being both underage and too successful, although I’d have thought ‘The No.5 Bestseller after Harrys Potter 1-4’ would still ...

Throw your testicles

Tom Shippey: Medieval Bestiaries

9 December 2019
Book of Beasts: The Bestiary in the Medieval World 
edited by Elizabeth Morrison, with Larisa Grollemond.
Getty, 354 pp., £45, June, 978 1 60606 590 7
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... of rank and prestige as the horse and country estate pictures of the later English aristocracy.Bestiaries have continued to have their fans. Unicorns are pervasive in modern fantasy and J.K.Rowling has made good use of ‘fantastic beasts’, basilisks, centaurs and hippogriffs. In T.H. White’s The Witch in the Wood, the second book in his Arthurian series, Sir Palomides and Sir Grummore read ...

Worse than Pagans

Tom Shippey: The Church v. the Fairies

1 December 2016
Elf Queens and Holy Friars: Fairy Beliefs and the Medieval Church 
by Richard Firth Green.
Pennsylvania, 285 pp., £36, August 2016, 978 0 8122 4843 2
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... because there is no ‘incubus’ left lurking in the bushes except for the friar himself, and he ‘ne wol doon hem but dishonour’: all he will do is dishonour them (sexually). The Wife’s joke tells us a few things. One is that in Chaucer’s late medieval milieu at least – educated, metropolitan, sceptical – belief in fairies was a thing of the past. Chaucer mentions fairies several ...
13 July 2016
An Encyclopedia of Myself 
by Jonathan Meades.
Fourth Estate, 341 pp., £9.99, February 2015, 978 1 85702 905 5
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... to anatomise his own childhood. Nostalgia, a form of ‘delusory’ and pathetic ‘infantilism’ (‘look at moron executives bonding through paintballing … look at them unabashedly reading J.K.Rowling’), isn’t an option, and yet he accepts that childhood ‘tugs at our sleeve all our life’ and is therefore a worthy subject. The approach he settled on is neither misery nor nostalgia but ...

Pop your own abscess

Rory Scothorne: Definitions of Poverty

22 February 2018
The New Poverty 
by Stephen Armstrong.
Verso, 242 pp., £12.99, October 2017, 978 1 78663 463 4
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Poverty Safari 
by Darren McGarvey.
Luath, 244 pp., £7.99, November 2017, 978 1 912147 03 8
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... well in Scotland, propelling him to the front cover of Holyrood magazine, effectively the house publication of the Scottish political class. It has earned praise from Nicola Sturgeon, J.K.Rowling and Irvine Welsh, the latter two providing glowing quotes for the book’s cover, and has received positive reviews. It’s worth noting that one element of his critique which hasn’t been embraced ...

Sonic Foam

Ian Penman: On Kate Bush

16 April 2014
... exile of Charles Foster Kane; and Joan of Arc, ‘beautiful in her armour …’) Ever since, she has lived a life in many ways more like a writer’s than a modern pop star’s: pop’s own J.K.Rowling. (With her Roman Catholic background and taste for bittersweet mysticism, other names suggest themselves here too: Muriel Spark, Penelope Fitzgerald, Angela Carter, Fay Weldon.) She slowly assumed ...

The Person in the Phone Booth

David Trotter: Phone Booths

28 January 2010
... But it isn’t all CGI, yet, at reality’s interface with illusion. Harry Potter, for example, nips into a sanctuary of rather more traditional design to place a call to the Ministry of Magic. J.K.Rowling has enough respect for folk memory to register his surprise that the phone actually works. A lot depends on genre. ‘Don’t go there,’ would be sound advice to characters in most kinds of ...
19 October 2000
... thought. Somewhat.’ The lecture was to be given at what I can only describe as a disused school. There were school corridors, and those polished shields on the wall that say things like ‘J.K.Rowling, Cantab 1963’. There was a smell of school, residual – polish and feet. But there were no signs of actual, present-day pupils. Perhaps they had all fled into the hills, and left it to the Book ...

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