If you had the opportunity to ask J.K. Rowling one question, what would it be?
On June 21st, a website called Goodreads.com announced that it would give Rowling fans just such an opportunity. However, there’s a catch: the one question must be about her novel The Casual Vacancy, which was released in hardcover worldwide on September 27, 2012. That certainly disqualifies any question that I would have asked her, as I still haven’t read the book.
When The Casual Vacancy was first announced, I pre-ordered it as soon as Amazon made that option available. I was more than a little excited when I received it in the mail in September. However—and here’s where the excuses begin—I am a middle-school Language Arts teacher, which means 1) September is a very busy month for me as I am trying to start the school year off on the right foot and 2) I typically only read Young Adult novels, as I want to keep up with what my students are reading. Furthermore, with Harry Potter, I was hooked from the very first page—from the first sentence, in fact.
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.
Rowling wrote Harry Potter with such snark and sarcasm—something that is woefully missing from the movies—that it is impossible to put the book down. It’s impossible not to warm up to these characters from the moment we meet them.
Despite that I teach my students not to judge books by their covers, I am about to do so: I was not hooked by The Casual Vacancy from the first page, or the second, or the third. After I read the first chapter, frankly, I was bored. Perhaps I need to give it another chance, but to this day, since reading the first chapter, my hardcover edition sits neglected on my bookshelf, devoid of its jacket, as it met a sloppy demise when I dropped it in the snow on my front deck last fall. A missing jacket from one of my Harry Potter novels would have driven me nuts. A missing jacket from The Casual Vacancy? I barely notice it.
In fact, it’s an improvement. I never much liked the design for the hardcover.
However, the design for the paperback is a entirely different story. I love the paperback, both the US and UK editions, shown below. In fact, Rowling is answering a question about The Casual Vacancy now 10 months after its release, because the paperback editions will be released next Tuesday, July 23rd. Goodreads.com (a social website dedicated to sharing books—those that we have read, are reading, or want to read—with our friends) took submissions for questions from June 21st to July 7th, then chose their 5 favorites, which then went to the Goodreads members for a vote.
Voting ended on July 11th. The winning question (by a margin of only 1.9%) was the following:
The most haunting idea I was left with came from your gritty exposure of the ugliness and weakness of human nature (it’s far too easy, after all, to write about the potential and existent beauty of our natures). How important is it to you that this kind of real-ness exists in your characters? And if your hope was to showcase this, do you have a goal in mind, in terms of how we can rise above or grow from humanity at its worst?
The question was submitted by Goodreads member Anne Gunden. A total of 2952 votes were cast. You can view the voting results and read the other four questions at this link. If you’re really curious (or bored), you can read all the submitted questions at this link.
Goodreads should have an answer to this question from Rowling on July 26th, next Friday. They will release the answer at this same link, and FictionRow will also report her answer when the time comes.
Have you read The Casual Vacancy? What question would you have asked? (Do you accept my excuses for not reading it?) Share you thoughts in the comments.