Really, who would have thought it?
Preparing us for the launch of her first “adult” book (in the non-50 Shades of Grey sense of the word), JK “Richer Than God” (or at least the Queen) Rowling has lowered expectations, saying it may not be all that good and that she considered publishing it under a false name.
And I don’t think she’s acting phony-modest here. She supposedly has a reputation for being distant, some say even a bit haughty. I doubt she’d say anything self-deprecating if she didn’t feel it might in fact be true.
She’s as insecure as a first-time author. In part because, as far as writing for grownups goes, she is a first-time author. But partly because, I think, everyone is a first-time author every time they write.
Back when Entertaining Welsey Shaw was just a glimmer of an idea, a should-I-or-shouldn’t-I, I also considered going the nom de plume route. I mean, you’re going to give your first shot at a very grown-up thing, writing a serious novel, something you can’t really get instruction on how to do (you can follow all the “rules” and still come up with muck; you can break them and have a masterpiece), something you just have to put out there, and it will be attached to your name forever.
So of course I wanted to hide behind a pen name too. Maybe I should have. Maybe this blog was a stupid mistake. We’ll see.
It’s kind of like Welsey’s dilemma in a way, and the dilemma of anyone in the “performing arts.” You have a bad day at the office, you can’t hide. Artists make their mistakes in public.
Rowling, who has been guaranteed immortality because of the Harry Potter books, says of her opus The Casual Vacany, “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.”
Behind the bravery of that statement lies, I can assure you, sweaty palms and a churning stomach.
It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Rowling, despite what seems like a flawless life. Some reviews of the Potter franchise have been unflattering, calling her work flat, her prose clunky, her stories repetitious. The San Francisco Chronicle was perhaps the most unkind, at least about the fifth book, Order of the Phoenix: “There hasn’t been this much bad faith in the air since ‘Star Wars: Episode I‘ opened…For most of the book’s nearly 900 pages, a pervasive sense of stale familiarity hangs over the entire affair…Two books in a row have now centered on which of Harry’s friends might die, and whether Harry will discover sex. This is the work of a maturing novelist?” It’s the Star Wars Episode I comment that cuts deepest to me. Say what you want about Harry Potter, at least Rowlings didn’t invent Jar-Jar.
For the record, I’ve never read anything from the series, so I have no idea if I agree with these swipes or not. I was never one for children’s books, particularly fantasy books. The Wizard of Oz, Winnie the Pooh, whatever else children are supposed to grow up on, I didn’t grow up on. I read the non-fiction on my parents’ bookshelves and at the local library (astronomy books, Richard Halliburton’s Book of Marvels, The Outline of History), or as much of them as I could understand, and enjoyed but one children’s book, Sam The Firehouse Cat. Hardly a classic, I liked it mostly for the jokes my father would make while reading it to me (which were rather off-color, considering my moist, pink ears).
So I have no idea if Rowling’s modesty and insecurity are warranted or not. But it’s nice to know that, even after all her fame and wealth and success, the lady still get knots in her stomach and cares what we think.
Here’s an interview she gave yesterday. This is probably not something she enjoys doing. She’s very guarded and a bit uneasy, not at all braggadocious, similar to another blonde celebrity I know of…
Frankly, I think this is great. It’s a big relief for me. JK Rowling is nervous about a book! Isn’t that like Heidi Klum finding a pimple or something?