Archive for October, 2012



Late last night…comparatively, that’s eons. It’s not a long book and I’ve finished the last few Harry Potters in less than 24 hours after I got them, but this one was a lot different. The thing where I wrote short posts while reading rather than one long review after is new, and I think it helped this time. I might keep doing that for future books.

My best advice to anyone who picks up this book is this: Try your darnedest to ignore that JK Rowling wrote it, and forget (as you’re reading and for a while after) that you ever knew anybody named Harry. There are definitely some recurring themes and parallels between the characters/places in The Casual Vacancy versus Harry Potter, so if you’re looking for the story of your favorite boy wizard within these pages, it’s not hard to find. But if you put this new story in the context of the series, you will almost certainly destroy every memory of Harry Potter that was once innocent and magical. There are things you actually see and experience with these characters that you only hear about in Potter, and while I’m sure putting them together would be a wonderful project for some Literature student somewhere, I’m not up for it. Certain connections just happened in my head before I realized it; I regret those already and I’m not keen on going farther down that road. 

Also, if you’re new to the adult fiction genre, pick up The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or something similar and see if you can get through that first. I found The Casual Vacancy that level of intense. I feel like there’s very little I can say that can ring true for most readers, though. What you think about this book will be all about what’s “real” to you. For me, the majority of Pagford, the Fields, and what festers there was real, and that’s why I might find it more disturbingly chilling than someone else would. That’s less likely to be true for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo because that story, while morbidly engaging and fascinating, is a bit more removed from the readers’ lives.

It’s Rowling’s ability to create a world that completely draws you in that does it…it’s a priceless gift I wish I had, but in this book, it’s almost sinister. Like I said, there’s not much I like about most of the characters. My growing dislike of Pagford – it reminds me of a place I’ve lived that I absolutely detested – made me want to slam down this novel and go read some Dr. Seuss instead, and the fact that I physically couldn’t shows that Jo’s writing here is as powerful as it ever was in Harry Potter. At the end of the book, I was so invested that I wanted a few of them (namely Fats, Simon Price, Obbo, and almost all the Mollisons) thrown off a cliff. They’re so damaging and destructive that they probably would’ve turned the sea below into liquid nitrogen.

Instead, the one who pays the price is the only one who is completely without rebuke. The way JK Rowling pulled off that ending is nothing short of poetic. I don’t think I can call her Jo anymore.

This is a brilliantly written book, but whatever humor is there is completely black. Nothing is sacred, no one carefree, no place an escape. She does an expert job at weaving them all together to make sure of that. The whole thing is so unrelentingly grey that I’d rather be back in Snape’s dungeon or in detention with Dolores Umbridge with the relief of an actual enemy to fight. At least they inspired some form of unity in resistance. There’s nothing unifying about Pagford; in fact, to me, it’s a picture of the banality of evil.

Pagford is not the safe haven that Hogwarts was. It’s a place I wouldn’t ever want to go back to, except I’ve already opened the damn Pandora’s box inside my head. I’m not sure what, if anything, is still left in it.

I know the thought of experiencing Rowling’s writing for the first time again is exciting, but trust me, don’t go there until you’re good and ready for it. Or you’ll end up making ignorant-ass comments like Kevin Nance’s comparison of Fats to Ron Weasley in his review for the Chicago Sun Times.

Ron is one of the most relatable and beloved HP characters, you snooty little condescending prick. He jumped in a frozen-over lake to save his best friend, while Fats gave his best friend a peanut inside a marshmallow knowing that Andrew was allergic. Fats is a sadistic, cowardly psychopath among the purest forms of evil in this book, and from your work, you sound like the type of person who would be nodding with an indulgent smile if you were to sit down and discuss his poisonous bullshit about authenticity over mimosas. If anything, Fats is Voldemort. Go back, reread, and in the future, stick to being an architecture critic.

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It’s getting better…


Could it be? An actual glimmer of something resembling hope?

It’s not hope, exactly. More something along the lines of defiance. Mmm, that stuff is delicious with a side of rebellion and some superbly awkward dinner conversation drizzled on top.

I’m at page 220 now and for the life of me I don’t understand what Samantha’s deal is…is she just antagonistic for the sake of being so? Is there really anything deeper than disdain for Miles and a desire to live like she doesn’t have a husband and two kids on her mind? I don’t even know.

I’m relieved that Jo hasn’t put in anything too intense yet after what I was talking about in the previous post…although I have to admit that this book is already changing my idea of what “intense” is.


Okay not really but omg it just got unbearable.

Thanks a lot, Jo. I’ll never be able to unread that.

I understand why she would write something like this, of course. I know enough about what she’s said about her life to make sense of it. It’s just completely bewildering that there’s no conventional theme of love or goodness triumphing over evil. There’s no “good guy” at all. It’s just evil in degrees.

That character I mentioned who I liked the most earlier? She just became a racist. At page 149 the one I like best is Barry, the crooked politician who passed away.

God, I hope this ends well.

Actually, scratch that. I just hope it ends soon.


There is so little I like about any of the characters or their situations that I don’t even know if I want to finish it.

These people are awful. In so many different ways. The one who I think is least awful as of page 137 is a teenager who smokes like a chimney, is in near constant trouble at school for everything one might imagine, slapped her mother across the face, and has yet to express her liking for another person in any way other than by stealing things that belong to him/her.

The best part, though, is that this is the kind of book where the characters you hate and…well, hate the least, will change probably every time you read it. I love Jo’s ability to do that. Who says this book doesn’t have any magic in it?

Real talk…not even The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo gave me this many doubts about finishing it, and that is a terrifying book to read. Especially at night. Alone.

…*Awkward face as I pick The Casual Vacancy up again*…

I revise my last post


If you are a kid, do not go out and buy The Casual Vacancy. It’s an adult book…at first when I heard that, I thought it meant in the sense that even Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and all the HP books that come after it could be considered adult, but no. This is legitimately an adult novel.

Now I’m kind of wondering how she managed to keep Harry Potter so comparatively hopeful and upbeat while this stuff was also inside her head.


I’m stoked. Stoked! I’ve only finished the first chapter (which is only a couple of pages) so far, but I already love it and know it’s going to be sort of a bittersweet experience for me.

The first character we meet is named Barry. He’s married to a woman named Mary. That alone feels like a smile and wave from a friend who I thought had forgotten all about me.

Go buy the book, kids. I’m off to enjoy my brand-new hardcover copy for which I paid the actual retail price – something I haven’t done since…oh yeah, Harry Potter. 🙂


That’s cheating, I know…but I couldn’t choose between them. It’s not meant as a diss to Imelda Staunton’s Umbridge or the written portrayal of Barty Crouch Jr. They’re both wonderfully despicable.

Look at that. David Tennant’s face could become a meme right there. He was amazing in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. That’s a really important book in the series and the Prisoner of Azkaban movie kind of disappointed me, so when I went to watch the movie I was nervous about how well the story would be represented on screen. This was the period when directors were being switched around and things looked as unsteady as possible for a film series that has never changed the three main actors, but David Tennant did not disappoint. His whole story is morbidly fascinating, made only more so by his being one of the Death Eaters who tortured Neville’s parents into madness, and he conveys the qualities of his character perfectly on screen. It’s a fairly difficult task given how many little details from the book were left out.


On to Umbridge…to be frank, I think she was way scarier in the books than in the movies for some reason. She didn’t end up looking as unpleasant as I was hoping (although the abundance of pink did help her get there) and I was particularly upset that the teacher inspections and fights with McGonagall were either cut out or nowhere near as intense as I expected. From my perspective, those were a key part of her character because that’s how her evil was articulated in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Imelda Staunton didn’t really take risks with the character like David Tennant did (quick tidbit: the tongue thing was actually an improvisation on his part and not in the script…genius). I don’t mean to compare them as actors rather than characters, but when you’re talking about a beloved book that became an equally beloved movie, it’s hard not to. In the books, she gets under everyone’s skin and makes students and teachers alike hate her so much that she kind of becomes a unifying force among those who might not otherwise even speak to each other. The obvious example is the formation of Dumbledore’s Army, which teaches Harry such an important lesson (that he doesn’t have to do everything alone, even if he is the Chosen One) and is so incredibly important to his ultimate triumph. Not gonna lie, though, I kinda wish we’d gotten to see the bitch dying at the end of Deathly Hallows 2.

So, do you agree? Disagree? Have a different villain in mind entirely?

A/N: Yes, I am aware that September aka Harry Potter Month has ended. However, I did such a pathetic job of it that I feel like it’s physically impossible for me to call it quits yet. I have some awesome posts lined up for the grand finale, and I’m gonna get them out of my drafts queue. So I’ll extend HP Month to the end of October, but that’s it. I’ll probably still do some HP posts after that, but it’ll be back to business as usual for the most part.