Tag Archives: the guardian

The 10 best words the internet has given English

From hashtags to LOLs to Cupertinos and Scunthorpe problems, Tom Chatfield picks the most interesting neologisms drawn from the digital world

(Reblogged in full from The Guardian)

My book Netymology: A Linguistic Celebration of the Digital World is about the stories behind new words. I’ve been an etymology addict since I was a teenager, and especially love unpicking technological words.

It’s a great reminder of how messily human the stories behind even our sleekest creations are – not to mention delightful curiosities in their own right.

1. Avatars

This word for our digital incarnations has a marvellously mystical origin, beginning with the Sanskrit term avatara, describing the descent of a god from the heavens into earthly form. Arriving in English in the late 18th century, via Hindi, the term largely preserved its mystical meaning until Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash first popularised it in a technological sense.

Fusing notions of virtual world-building and incarnation, it’s the perfect emblem of computers as a portal to a new species of experience.

2. Hashtags

In 1920s America, the # sign served as a shorthand for weight in pounds (and they still call it the pound sign). It was first brought to a wider public thanks to its adoption by telephone engineers at Bell Labs in the 1960s as the generic function symbol on their new touch-tone phones – and if you’re looking to sound clever, you could call it an “octothorpe“, the tongue-in-cheek term coined at Bell to describe it. It’s on Twitter, though, that hashtags have really come into their own, serving as a kind of function code for social interaction #ifyoulikethatkindofthing.

3. Scunthorpe problems

Computing can be as much combat as collaboration between people and machines, and the Scunthorpe problem is a perfect example. Entirely innocent words can fall victim to machine filth-filters thanks to unfortunate sequences of letters within them – and, in Scunthrope’s case, it’s the second to fifth letters that create the difficulty. The effect was labelled in honour of the town in 1996, when AOL temporarily prevented any Scunthorpe residents from creating user accounts; but those who live in Penistone, South Yorkshire – or people with surnames like Cockburn – may be equally familiar with algorithms’ censorious tendencies.

4. Trolling

Although the archetypical emblem of an online troll is of a grinning bogeyman, the word can be traced back to the Old French verb troller, meaning to wander around while hunting. “Trolling” entered English around 1600 as a description of fishing by trailing bait around a body of water, and it was this idea of baiting the unwitting that led to the idea of online “trolling”, where experienced net users would simulate naivety in order ensnare the naive. The noun “troll”, meanwhile, does refer to a wide class of monstrous Nordic creatures: a sense that has dovetailed neatly with the increasingly viciously art of trolling.

5. Memes

Richard Dawkins coined the term “meme” in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene as a shortening of the Ancient Greek term mimeme (“an imitated thing”). He designed his new word to sound like “gene”, signifying a unit of cultural transmission. Little did he know that his term would become one of the most iconic of online phenomena, embodying the capacity of the internet to itself act as a kind of gene-pool for thoughts and beliefs – and for infectious, endlessly ingenious slices of time-wasting.

6. Spam

The most enduring gift of British comedy series Monty Python’s Flying Circus may prove to be a digital one: the term “spam”. The key episode, first broadcast in 1970, featured a sketch called “SPAM“: the brand name used since 1937 by the Hormel Foods Corporation as a contraction of the phrase spiced ham. Set in a cafe where almost every single item on the menu featured spam, the sketch culminated in a chorus of Viking warriors drowning everyone else’s voices out by chanting the word “spam”.  A satirical indictment of British culinary monotony, it took on a second life during the early 1980s, when those who wished to derail early online discussions copied out the same words repeatedly in order to clog up a debate. Inspired by Python, the word spam proved a popular way of doing this. “Spamming” came to describe any process of drowning out “real” content – and the rest is repetitive history.

7. LOLs

If you type “LOL” or “lol”, you’re not literally “laughing out loud”. You’re offering a kind of stage direction: dramatizing the process of typing. It sounds simple, but this is part of a radical change in language. For the first time in history, we’re conducting conversations through written words (or, more precisely, through typing onto screens). And in the process we’re expending immense effort on making words and symbols express the emotional range of face-to-face interactions. Yet it’s all, also, performance; a careful crafting of appearances that can bear little resemblance to reality.

8. Meh

There’s a special place in my heart for the supremely useful three letters of “meh”, which express an almost infinitely flexible contemporary species of indifference. In its basic exclamatory form, it suggests something along the lines of “OK, whatever”. As an adjective, it takes on a more ineffable flavour: “it was all very meh”. You can even use it as a noun: “I stand by my meh.” Apparently first recorded in a 1995 episode of The Simpsons, some theories trace meh back to the disdainful Yiddish term mnyeh. Its ascent towards canonical status, though, embodies a thoroughly digital breed of boredom.

9. Cupertinos

Also known as “auto-correct errors”, a Cupertino error occurs when your computer thinks it knows what you’re trying to say better than you do. The name comes from an early spell checker program, which knew the word Cupertino – the Californian city where Apple has its headquarters – but not the word “cooperation”. All the cooperations in a document might thus be automatically “corrected” into Cupertinos. Courtesy of smartphones, Cupertinos today are a richer field than ever – a personal favourite being my last phone’s determination to transform “Facebook” into “ravenous”.

10. Geeks

“Geek” arrived in English from Low German, in which a geck denoted a crazy person; in travelling circuses, the geek show traditionally involved a performer biting off the heads of live chickens. By 1952, the sense of a freakishly adept technology enthusiast had appeared in science fiction maestro Robert Heinlein’s short story “The Year of the Jackpot” (“the poor geek!” being the phrase) – and by the 1980s it had become a common label for socially awkward children obsessed with new technological devices. As this generation of tech-savvy youngsters provided the first generation of internet millionaires, and then billionaires, the unthinkable happened: geeks became cool (not to mention chic) – and ready to inherit the earth.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

Exclusive story from Neil Gaiman in the Guardian

The Thames is a filthy beast: it winds through London like a snake, or a sea serpent. All the rivers flow into it, the Fleet and the Tyburn and the Neckinger, carrying all the filth and scum and waste, the bodies of cats and dogs and the bones of sheep and pigs down into the brown water of the Thames, which carries them east into the estuary and from there into the North Sea and oblivion.

It is raining in London. The rain washes the dirt into the gutters, and it swells streams into rivers, rivers into powerful things. The rain is a noisy thing, splashing and pattering and rattling the rooftops. If it is clean water as it falls from the skies it only needs to touch London to become dirt, to stir dust and make it mud.

Nobody drinks it, neither the rain water nor the river water. They make jokes about Thames water killing you instantly, and it is not true. There are mudlarks who will dive deep for thrown pennies then come up again, spout the river water, shiver and hold up their coins. They do not die, of course, or not of that, although there are no mudlarks over fifteen years of age.

The woman does not appear to care about the rain.

She walks the Rotherhithe docks, as she has done for years, for decades: nobody knows how many years, because nobody cares. She walks the docks, or she stares out to sea. She examines the ships, as they bob at anchor. She must do something, to keep body and soul from dissolving their partnership, but none of the folk of the dock have the foggiest idea what this could be.

You take refuge from the deluge beneath a canvas awning put up by a sailmaker. You believe yourself to be alone under there, at first, for she is statue-still and staring out across the water, even though there is nothing to be seen through the curtain of rain. The far side of the Thames has vanished.

And then she sees you. She sees you and she begins to talk, not to you, oh no, but to the grey water that falls from the grey sky into the grey river. She says, “My son wanted to be a sailor,” and you do not know what to reply, or how to reply. You would have to shout to make yourself heard over the roar of the rain, but she talks, and you listen. You discover yourself craning and straining to catch her words.

“My son wanted to be a sailor.

“I told him not to go to sea. I’m your mother, I said. The sea won’t love you like I love you, she’s cruel. But he said, Oh Mother, I need to see the world. I need to see the sun rise in the tropics, and watch the Northern Lights dance in the Arctic sky, and most of all I need to make my fortune and then, when it’s made I will come back to you, and build you a house, and you will have servants, and we will dance, mother, oh how we will dance…

“And what would I do in a fancy house? I told him. You’re a fool with your fine talk. I told him of his father, who never came back from the sea – some said he was dead and lost overboard, while some swore blind they’d seen him running a whore-house in Amsterdam.

“It’s all the same. The sea took him.

“When he was twelve years old, my boy ran away, down to the docks, and he shipped on the first ship he found, to Flores in the Azores, they told me.

“There’s ships of ill-omen. Bad ships. They give them a lick of paint after each disaster, and a new name, to fool the unwary.

“Sailors are superstitious. The word gets around. This ship was run aground by its captain, on orders of the owners, to defraud the insurers; and then, all mended and as good as new, it gets taken by pirates; and then it takes shipment of blankets and becomes a plague ship crewed by the dead, and only three men bring it into port in Harwich…

“My son had shipped on a stormcrow ship. It was on the homeward leg of the journey, with him bringing me his wages – for he was too young to have spent them on women and on grog, like his father – that the storm hit.

“He was the smallest one in the lifeboat.

“They said they drew lots fairly, but I do not believe it. He was smaller than them. After eight days adrift in the boat, they were so hungry. And if they did draw lots, they cheated.

“They gnawed his bones clean, one by one, and they gave them to his new mother, the sea. She shed no tears and took them without a word. She’s cruel.

“Some nights I wish he had not told me the truth. He could have lied.

“They gave my boy’s bones to the sea, but the ship’s mate – who had known my husband, and known me too, better than my husband thought he did, if truth were told – he kept a bone, as a keepsake.

“When they got back to land, all of them swearing my boy was lost in the storm that sank the ship, he came in the night, and he told me the truth of it, and he gave me the bone, for the love there had once been between us.

“I said, you’ve done a bad thing, Jack. That was your son that you’ve eaten.

“The sea took him too, that night. He walked into her, with his pockets filled with stones, and he kept walking. He’d never learned to swim.

“And I put the bone on a chain to remember them both by, late at night, when the wind crashes the ocean waves and tumbles them on to the sand, when the wind howls around the houses like a baby crying.”

The rain is easing, and you think she is done, but now, for the first time, she looks at you, and appears to be about to say something. She has pulled something from around her neck, and now she is reaching it out to you.

“Here,” she says. Her eyes, when they meet yours, are as brown as the Thames. “Would you like to touch it?”

You want to pull it from her neck, to toss it into the river for the mudlarks to find or to lose. But instead you stumble out from under the canvas awning, and the water of the rain runs down your face like someone else’s tears.

 

 

• Supported by the national lottery through Arts Council England

Reprinted in full from The Guardian

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors, Latest News

Literary Mixtape: What’s Happening This Week

#10

What do we make of Marcel (Proust)?

#9

More children are using libraries

#8

Self-Publishing 2013 with Catherine Ryan Howard

#7

The Book Thief film adaptation

#6

Sylvia Plath: Reflections on her legacy

#5

The National Emerging Writer Programme

#4

A new look into Jane Austen

#3

On Richard III being found in a Leicester car park.

#2

How much should you budget to self-publish your book?

#1

Get a free copy of Poetry Magazine!

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

Don’t judge The Bell Jar by its cover

Faber’s new cover for The Bell Jar may be garish, but if it finds a new audience for Sylvia Plath’s novel then who cares?


This post is reblogged in full from The Guardian website and is written by Sam Jordison.

It may have first come out 50 years ago, but The Bell Jar still causes controversy. The anniversary has seen all the old arguments and enmities boiling over again, but this book strikes such a nerve that even a new cover can start a row.

Writing on the LRB blog, Fatema Ahmed pours scorn on Faber’s “silly” 50th anniversary edition, calling it a woefully inappropriate attempt to rebrand the book as chick lit. She quotes the always reliable Twitter feed from Melville House asking: “How is this cover anything but a ‘fuck you’ to women everywhere?” and Andy Pressman, a graphic designer, who derided the new cover as “awesomelycomicallyhistorically inapprop” and said: “And by ‘historically’ I mean ‘incorrect on a scale of which we have few historical precedents’, not ‘That typeface didn’t exist in that era’.”

There is a strong argument against the new design. Ahmed says:

 

“The anniversary edition fits into the depressing trend for treating fiction by women as a genre, which no man could be expected to read and which women will only know is meant for them if they can see a woman on the cover.”

 

I can see where she’s coming from. That is indeed a depressing trend. And the cover does indeed look a bit like those other garish covers that supposedly only appeal to women. While I’m notching up the negatives, there’s also the simple fact that the original cover by Shirley Tucker is a thing of great beauty: a timeless classic that is to the new cover as a single-malt is to tar water.

But, here’s the thing. This latest edition has sold truckloads. The official figures aren’t out yet, but Faber have assured me it’s doing the business. There’s no evidence that this cover has ostracised a potential part of its audience, but there is already some that it has helped the book reach a new generation of readers.

Okay, this is an inexact science, and perhaps those sales should be attributed as much to the 50th anniversary publicity and renewed interest in the author as they are to that garish red cover. But the fact remains that the book is selling – and quite possibly reaching a new audience, as Faber claim is their exact intention. Hannah Griffiths, publisher of paperbacks at Faber, says they were aiming for a more “welcoming package” in the belief that “there is a reader for this novel who could enjoy its brilliance without knowing anything about the poetry, or the broader context of Plath’s work”.

Of course, as soon as anyone picks it up, breaks the spine and reads that first sentence they’ll know they’re in for something different. “It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.” Hardly Sophie Kinsella, is it? I even quite like the idea of someone mistaking the book for a sexy summer beach read and falling headlong into Esther Greenwood’s cruel world.

What’s more, those actually reading the novel – rather than judging the cover – may even see something in that blood red, in the queasy glamour of the 50s model checking her makeup, in the serious face in the mirror. It certainly conjures up a time and place, a sense of nausea and introspection. The novel’s Esther Greenwood would probably mock the new design mercilessly, but that too seems appropriate. Perhaps it’s right that she is at odds with the world in which she finds herself and the way she is presented? Perhaps this new cover isn’t quite so silly after all?

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors, Latest News

Interview: Olwyn Hughes, Sylvia Plath’s literary executor

Ted Hughes’s sister tells Sam Jordison how misrepresented she feels the story of her sister-in-law’s death has been


The following post is reblogged entirely from the Guardian online.

I spoke to a number of Plath biographers and friends after speaking to Elizabeth Sigmund (including Al Alvarez, Carl Rollyson and Ronald Hyme). They confirmed the substance of what she said – in particular, that Plath had not wanted The Bell Jar to go out under her own name while her mother was still alive. Elizabeth also produced a scan of the letter from Charles Monteith explaining that Faber was unaware that those were Sylvia’s wishes.

However, since it was almost 50 years after the event, and Faber were consequently unable to supply any further information, it became clear that the only person who really knew about the omission of the dedication to Elizabeth and her husband from the 1966 edition was Olwyn Hughes. Fortunately, she agreed to speak to me and set down her side of the story.

The following conversation comes verbatim, from my notes. I would just like to add that in spite of the force of many of her words, that Olwyn seemed good-humoured and peculiarly charming. It might help if you imagine the following spoken in a warm Yorkshire accent:

I want to ask about the name change on The Bell Jar?
She [Plath] was very worried about it because she thought it was going to upset her mother. It was a nightmare for her, actually. She got quite paranoid about it towards the end. And then she was disappointed when it came out and it didn’t have a very good press.

Sorry, I meant the decision to actually use her name?
The decision to use her name was taken after her death, when everybody really seemed to know it was by her. Her friends all knew. There seemed no point in not publishing under her own name.

I’ve been speaking to Elizabeth Sigmund …
Oh God, have you? I mean gabble, gabble, gabble, gabble … Has she some new stories for you?

She was telling me about the dedication.
She [Plath] dedicated it to Elizabeth and her husband, because she didn’t want the London lot to know – you know, her real friends. She didn’t know Elizabeth very well, you know. Although according to Elizabeth … Anyway, we’ve had enough of Elizabeth … [Goes on to suggest that Elizabeth Sigmund’s accounts of events were not always reliable.] What has she told you?

She was saying she was left off the 1966 edition …
Oh yes, that was a Faber error. She thought that was a terrible plot of Ted’s. I don’t know what that was about. It was just Faber left it off. These things happen in publishing.

She also said that she was sure that Sylvia Plath never wanted it published under her own name.
Well, yes. She didn’t want to upset her mother. What it tells, The Bell Jar, is a watered down version of her own breakdown. And that was also very painful to her – quite apart from the fact that there’s a passage in the book that’s rather unpleasant for her mother to read, about the mother’s snoring or something. Sylvia got very het up about the book because I think it was so self-revelatory. In a way she liked that – and in a way she didn’t.

That’s certainly what I think happened with Ariel – her whole trauma, her father’s death upsurged. I think writing The Bell Jar provoked that … And all that traumatic material that came up in Ariel. I think it caused her a lot of aggro. She was a very agonised lady. She had to battle to live every day – as you might glean from The Bell Jar. When I read it after she died, I just wept.

But people don’t realise. They didn’t then, even. She didn’t always show how troubled she was – but she had no inner calm at all. The Bell Jar deals with the beginnings of the trouble. Then she spent the rest of her life dreading its return.

Oh God.

The nonsense that has continued to be written about the story is shocking to me. Sylvia wasn’t the innocent victim, or half so helpless as she’s been made out to be. You just have to look at some of her poetry. She was just nasty in the last poem about her husband and father [“Daddy”]. She was vicious and I think a bit crazy. I watched her going through her torment and it was agony. But Ted was so taken with her. I don’t know why. I don’t know how she did it … Especially because I don’t think that she could control the negativity in herself. You’ve got to remember the venom that Sylvia dished out.

I don’t think anyone has taken into account how injurious the rubbish that’s been written about her has been. What the feminists don’t take into account was how much psychological trouble she was in. She was a very difficult woman with a very difficult personality. She was horribly unjust both to her mother and to Ted. And I’m sick of reading that he left her for Assia – that’s all you get whenever his name is mentioned. Assia. But Ted didn’t walk out.

It was actually a friend of Assia’s who told Sylvia. She rang her up and thought maybe she was helping her, or wanted to warn her, or something, I don’t know. But this person had no idea how on edge Sylvia was. That she wouldn’t be able to cope with this information. And so when Ted next went down [to their house in Devon] she was in a rage and threw him out.

I wish the newspapers would get it right. He didn’t even know that Sylvia would find out about Assia. He’d done everything he could to be very discreet. It was just one of those things … And of course Sylvia, when she did hear about it, it reminded her of all her terrors about abandonment and everything else. She wouldn’t listen to anything but separation and divorce. But he didn’t leave her for Assia. That’s just not true. He was actually staying on friends’ floors in London until he got a little place by himself. He certainly wasn’t living with Assia.

Oh and she took all the money out of their bank account. She was a monster actually.

So what about changing the byline. How was that decision taken?
What people want after they’re dead. That just goes. And nobody was going to be able to keep the secret about who wrote the book for decades. Besides it was a very good little novel.

She was disappointed when she was alive – she was worried about the Jennifer Dawson’s novel The Ha-Ha – which was similar and got a lot more attention at the time. She hadn’t the calm in her necessary to cope with it.

There was all that martyr talk, even after Ted’s death … in America there were a couple of biographies that were terribly bad. They didn’t take account of the fact that Ted had nursed the bloody woman for seven years. The patience that he had with her!

Of course, I didn’t quite understand or realise that she was quite sick. We didn’t know as much about psychology in those days. But let me tell you about one thing. Ted was meeting an old teacher once – and she just ran off. He had to run out onto the moors after her. She did that in front of his old teacher. Can you imagine? And he lived with it.

And when you read her journals – there were some very dark things in there … And there was a furore when they first came out that they were cut. And a few things were taken out – mainly at the request of her mother, but otherwise he did nothing. But there was this great furore and suggestion that there was an attempt to hide things. But what were the secrets?

Of course, nobody actually read the journals! They were too busy focusing on what they thought wasn’t there. And if they did read it properly they’d have found a very damaged girl. A very mixed-up girl. You just had to look at the dreams she described. Her dreams were bad enough to spoil your own.

I understood then how powerful a grouping the feminists can be. And how it still goes on. This crap. No matter what goes on, you can’t counter it. They just lie, and if they find themselves in the wrong, they just ignore it.

I’m collecting all the press I’ve got and giving it to Pembroke College. There was one thing, by someone from the Guardian that I found really upsetting … Katherine … I can’t remember her name. All that martyr stuff. It was just a few days after Ted died that it came out and I thought aren’t The Guardian ashamed of themselves? [We’re unable to pin down the piece to which she’s referring. There’s an article by Katharine Viner on the Plath diaries from 2000, but this was 18 months after Hughes’ death.]

I don’t have any time for them, really the press. I don’t normally talk to journalists.

I must be very fortunate …
Hmm. Well. I wish you’d print what I actually say. You know I would love to talk to some journalist and they could take me seriously – and actually put down what I say. That would be the first time.

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors, Latest News

Lost Robert Burns Manuscripts Discovered


Robert Burns statue in Leith. Photograph: Jason Baxter/Alamy

The following article is reblogged in full from The Guardian website

 

Three long-lost manuscripts by Robert Burns – as well as correspondence between the beloved Scottish author and his friends – have been discovered by a researcher in what is being described as one of the most important Burns discoveries in years.

One of the texts is a letter from “Clarinda”, the pen name taken by the woman Burns loved, Agnes McLehose, following the poet’s death. Clarinda, who in life Burns had addressed variously in his poems as the“mistress of my soul” and “Queen of Poetesses”, was writing to Burns’s friend and doctor William Maxwell, three months after his death in 1796. Maxwell had been at Burns’s side when he died, and after asking for the return of the intimate letters she had written to Burns – whom she knew as “Sylvander” – she also wrote in a postscript that “an account of our late friend’s final scene, if it is not too bold to ask for, would be considered a singular favour”.

“It’s right at the end of a very businesslike letter, as though she couldn’t help herself,” said Chris Rollie, the researcher who discovered the manuscripts. Rollie was contacted by an old friend about the material, but originally dismissed her belief that she had stumbled across something important inside an Extra Illustrated W Scott Douglas edition of The Works of Robert Burns, dating from 1877-79, which belonged to Burns’s publisher, William Paterson.

“I get quite a few calls like this, and I tried to let her down gently,” he said. “But she said she still thought I should have a look. Within 15 minutes of looking at them I could see there was some very important and original material.”

Also unearthed were a handwritten manuscript by Burns himself of the song “Phillis the fair”, with minor textual variations, a pencil manuscript by Burns of an early draft of “Ode to a Woodlark”, lost since 1877-1879, and a handwritten letter from Burns “to Robert Muir, Kilmarnock”. The treasure trove also contained a letter from Clarinda to Burns, dated 2 August 1791 and containing for the first time her complete poetic response to Burns’s poem “On Sensibility”.

“‘The finding of the Clarinda letter in full is very timely as we move towards a new edition of Burns’s correspondence, and the other new manuscript findings of letters will also similarly help,” said Professor Gerry Carruthers, co-director of the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Robert Burns Studies, which is hosting a Burns conference on 12 January where the findings will be presented in full. “It is very exciting that such lost manuscript material continues to emerge in the 21st century.”

The manuscripts have now been sold to a collector.

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors, Latest News

Looking over the last week…

Spoilers from JK Rowling’s upcoming novel are released, a guide of London from NW by Zadie Smith is printed, new life is breathed into Moby Dick with the help of well-known celebrities, a new biography exposes John Keats as an opium addict and Stephen King reveals the publication date for his sequel to The Shining.

This is all too much news for one blog post, so let’s focus on the first piece of literary fact.

According to the Guardian, JK Rowling’s first novel for adults, The Casual Vacancy, draws on her own experience of living on the margins of society and satirises a political landscape in which the poor are regularly cast “as this homogeneous mash, like porridge.”

The idea for the novel, her first since the Harry Potter series that made her the world’s first author to become a billionaire solely through her writing, came to her on an aeroplane. “I thought: local election! And I just knew. I had that totally physical response you get to an idea that you know will work. It’s a rush of adrenaline, it’s chemical. I had it with Harry Potter and I had it with this.”

Set in the fictional West Country village of Pagford, which bears a passing resemblance to Rowling’s own childhood home in the Forest of Dean, and telling the story of a parish election triggered by the death of councillor Barry Fairbrother, The Casual Vacancy investigates the agendas and infighting that fuel local politics, and the class divisions that rive even the most picturesque English communities.

The election ultimately turns on the fate of Pagford’s grotty council estate, the Fields, embodied in The Casual Vacancy by the wretched, wrung-out Weedon family: mother Terri, struggling to kick her drug addiction, three-year-old son Robbie, under threat of social care, and teenage daughter Krystal.

“So many people, certainly people who sit around the cabinet table, say: ‘Well, it worked for me’ or ‘This is how my father managed it’,” Rowling said. “The idea that other people might have had such a different life experience that their choices and beliefs and behaviours would be completely different … seems to escape a lot of otherwise intelligent people. The poor are discussed as this homogeneous mash, like porridge … They talk about feckless teenage mothers looking for a council flat. Well, how tragic is it that that’s what someone regards as the height of security or safety?”

The stratospheric success of the Harry Potter franchise has placed her in the enviable position of being able to do “whatever the hell I like”, she said. “I am the freest author in the world. My bills are paid – we all know I can pay my bills – I was under contract to no one, and the feeling of having all of these characters in my head and knowing that no one else knew a damned thing about them was amazing … Pagford was mine, just mine, for five years. I wrote this novel as exactly what I wanted to write.”

The Casual Vacancy is released this Thursday. To see a (rare) interview with JK Rowling, click here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors, Latest News