The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling‘s first non-Harry Potter novel, hit bookstores this morning, and the general critical consensus seems to be: Can you believe this thing isn’t Harry Potter? The Washington Post wishes the characters had wands. Canada’s National Post is shocked that it is “stripped of the fantastic.” And The New York Daily News quipped: “Indeed, the spell has been broken.”
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I was one of 11 folks queued up outside of Barnes & Noble this morning when the doors opened, waiting to buy my own copy of The Casual Vacancy, and while we were all very excited to get our hands on a fresh set of Rowling words, we couldn’t help from buzzing about the BBC interview yesterday in which Rowling said that while she was done with Harry’s story, she had “left the door ajar” into his world. “If I had a fabulous idea that came out of that world, because I loved writing it, I would do it. But I’ve got to have a great idea,” she said.
Of course, my fellow Barnes & Noble patrons and I had some great ideas to offer: The Potter series retold from Hermione’s point of view, a seven-book series about the Marauders (one for each of their years at school), the story of the Potter/Weasley children’s journey through the hallowed halls of Hogwarts, the full story of Albus Brian Wulfric Percival Dumbledore. Would we read them? Hell yeah, we’d read them. We were lined up at an actual bookstore to buy a physical book printed on real paper based solely on the name on the cover, weren’t we? In these dire bookstore revenue times, it was practically like following Rowling to the end of the earth. But did we really want her to write them?
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On the one hand, Harry Potter books are my favorite books in the world. I attended four midnight release parties for the books, and five midnight screenings of the films. I’ve read them all at least a dozen times. And I even have a foreign language collection of Potters from every country I’ve ever visited (and then some). The chance to read brand new stories by the creator of the most magical world of all time is almost too glorious to contemplate. But on the other hand, the Harry Potter series was pretty damn perfect. Book after book, Rowling exceeded all of our expectations, enchanting us beyond our wildest imaginations, and when we turned the final page of Deathly Hallows, what else could we ask for? The Horcruxes were destroyed, the ultimate evil was defeated, the mysteries were solved, the trio lived.
I guess, for me, it comes down to a question of trust. Do I trust J.K. Rowling to write more books in the Potterverse? And the answer is: Of course. It’s not like she’d be doing it for the money. She’s richer than the Queen, for Merlin’s sake. And it’s not like she’d be doing it for the fame. She’s notoriously private. She’d be doing it because there would be a story inside her that needed to be told. And if she lets her imagination run wild down the path toward King’s Cross Station once more, I’ll be lining up at midnight again like a kid on Christmas Eve.
Do you want J.K. Rowling to write another Harry Potter book? Will you read The Casual Vacancy?