Posts tagged ‘thoughtsonreading’

August 2nd, 2013

WDJKRD?

by Madeleine Rex

So, What Did J.K. Rowling Do?

Until July 14th, I, and most people I know, had never heard of The Cuckoo’s Calling. Now, most of us own a copy and are reading it as quickly as we can. The revelation that J.K. Rowling is the author behind the pseudonym Robert Galbraith certainly shook up the world of books.

The reviews on the back of the book, written before the leak, are hilarious. It seems some of the reviewers were psychic. Mark Billingham says, “Cormoran Strike is an amazing creation and I can’t wait for his next outing. Strike is so instantly compelling that it’s hard to believe this is a debut novel…” Mike Cooper couldn’t have known how true his last sentence is, “Robert Galbraith’s debut is as hardbitten and hard-driving as its battered hero. CUCKOO’S CALLING scales the glittering heights of society even as it plumbs the dark depths of the human heart. A riveting read from an author to watch.”

For those of you who haven’t been keeping up with all the news, the leak was the friend of the wife of Rowling’s lawyer. The woman, Judith Callegari, posted the author’s true identity on Twitter. In a statement, Rowling expressed her anger at having been outed as The Cuckoo’s Calling‘s real author:

“To say that I am disappointed is an understatement. I had assumed that I could expect total confidentiality from Russells, a reputable professional firm, and I feel very angry that my trust turned out to be misplaced.”

Needless to say, I’m glad I’m not Judith Callegari or Rowling’s (former) lawyer. How could you ever live down betraying the woman who created Harry Potter? Talk about shame. And public humiliation. You can read more about Rowling’s statement, as well as the law firm’s pathetic attempt to save-face, here.

But I think the real question is: Why the charade? Publishing under the pseudonym resulted in sales that were microscopic in comparison to what Rowling could have gotten. Approximately 1500 copies of the book sold between April and mid-July. Since then, it’s risen to the top of every best-sellers list I’ve looked at.

Rowling insists that she was enjoying the anonymity, and it doesn’t seem as though she ever intended to announce her authorship, which is what fascinates me most. The pseudonym allowed her to prove that she could receive critical acclaim without her name slapped onto the front of her book. Though The Cuckoo’s Calling wasn’t selling all that well, the reviewers liked it. No one can say Robert Galbraith wouldn’t have found his way to best-seller-dom with book two or three or four. Maybe Rowling didn’t mind the idea of biding her time – after all, she doesn’t need the money.

The Guardian article, “JK Rowling tells story of alter ego Robert Galbraith,” goes into detail regarding Rowling’s motivations. I can’t help but wonder how long she thought she could keep it up. Beyond the first book, no doubt, but she’s so well known that I can’t believe her secret could have remained a secret forever.

All the same, it’s a shame she didn’t get to reveal her identity on her own terms.

Even more shameful is what this whole scenario says about first-time authors. Despite solid reviews, The Cuckoo’s Calling wasn’t flying off the shelves. I’d never heard of it before, and I work in a book store. What does this say, then, about readers? What does it take for us to open a book and take a chance on something? I wish I could say I’d bought The Cuckoo’s Calling before I’d known who the author was. I wish I was a fan of Robert Galbraith’s and J.K. Rowling’s. Considering I haven’t read much crime fiction, there’s a good chance I’d have never picked up this book without knowing the truth of its authorship.

This saddens me. I’m reading the book now, and though I’m at the beginning, I can see that it is a great piece of fiction. Its tone is dry yet detailed. The characterization is remarkable and the premise unusual. The humor is clever and often grim (yes, grim humor). I would not know any of this if Judith Callegari hadn’t tweeted J.K. Rowling’s secret. Yet another Guardian article highlights the negative repercussions of Rowling’s “ruse” and the skewed views of the book world, which you can read here.

Whatever Rowling’s motivations and expectations, one thing is undeniable: We’ll be seeing a lot of Robert Galbraith in the future. And I, personally, am happy about that. If you’re as interested as I am in this whole pseudonym thing, check out this post on Barnes and Noble’s Book Blog, “5 Authors Who Used Pseudonyms.” It quite cleverly points out that J.K. Rowling has always used pseudonyms, her real name being Joanne Rowling.

Whatever you think of all this drama, I heartily recommend The Cuckoo’s Calling. If you’ve read it, what did you think of it?

December 14th, 2012

Literature Revealed: Symbol

by Madeleine Rex

“You want weapons? We’re in a library! Books! The best weapons in the world! This room’s the greatest arsenal we could have—arm yourselves!”

This year, in AP Literature and Composition, I’ve been assigned a remarkably difficult weekly task. I must turn in two analyses of literary terms within literature we are reading for class, explaining the context, affect, and relation to the story as a whole. Because these are taking up the time I would otherwise spend blogging, I figure I can post them here in case anyone finds them remotely interesting. Personally, I love this assignment. It’s ridiculously tedious and never-ending, but the critical thinking involved is so much fun.

Most of my terms are from William Shakepeare’s Hamlet and E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View. However, this term is from Edgar Allan Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado.

P.S. WARNING: SPOILERS

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Symbol: A symbol represents an object or idea. It is usually commonly associated with the thing it represents. When symbols are used, it is called symbolism.

Example:

“A huge foot d’or, in a field of azure; the foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel” (Poe 111).

Function: In Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, The Cask of Amontillado, the main character, Montresor, is endeavoring to lure Fortunato, against whom he has a grudge, to his death. Montresor intends to do so by promising Fortunato, a drunk, that he will be one of the first to taste a rare drink (Amontillado) that Montresor has in the cavernous vault beneath his home. As they walk through the vault, an oblivious and very drunk Fortunato says, “I forget your arms,” referring to the Montresor family’s coat of arms. Montresor describes the coat of arms as quoted above.

The Montresor coat of arms can be considered ironic, symbolic, or both. It portrays a heavy, golden foot crushing a snake after it has bitten the foot’s heel, an image of merciless retribution. The “foot of the Montresors,” as it may be called, is brutal and quick in its punishments of those who have harmed or spited it. The fact that the foot is gold cannot go unnoticed, as gold traditionally symbolizes justice and balance, which coincides with the idea of vengeance, which rewards one act with another, the balancing of two evils.

The reader, though unaware of what Fortunato did to incur Montresor’s wrath, knows that, “when [Fortunato] ventured upon insult [Montresor] vowed revenge.” The reader also knows that Montresor, though cautious, wastes no time in exacting his revenge. Such a vengeful reaction and spirit is mirrored symbolically in Montresor’s arms. Just as he is determined to have vengeance, so was the bitten foot that crushed the mad snake.

This theory is further supported by the Montresor’s motto, which translated reads, “No one provokes me without impunity.” This oath, combined with the image of the arms, solidifies Montresor’s character as a man who indignantly crushes those who have done him wrong. Understanding that this mentality has presumably been nurtured by his family for generations illuminates an aspect of Montresor’s motivation to seek revenge. He has been raised to admire such heartless “justice,” which explains the apparent clean conscience with which he lures Fortunato to his death. Our sense of right and wrong depends heavily on what we are raised to believe, so, to Montresor, seeking revenge is likely the only course of action available to him – it is his right and his duty.

The irony of the arms lies in the fact that Montresor is aware of the symbolism of its image and of who plays which part. Fortunato has no idea that he is the serpent who has – possibly in a fit of madness (or drunkenness, considering his tendencies), as the serpent is described as “rampant” – insulted and provoked the heavy foot of a Montresor, who is now determined to crush him.

November 20th, 2012

Literature Revealed: Dramatic Irony

by Madeleine Rex

“You want weapons? We’re in a library! Books! The best weapons in the world! This room’s the greatest arsenal we could have—arm yourselves!”

This year, in AP Literature and Composition, I’ve been assigned a remarkably difficult weekly task. I must turn in two analyses of literary terms within literature we are reading for class, explaining the context, affect, and relation to the story as a whole. Because these are taking up the time I would otherwise spend blogging, I figure I can post them here in case anyone finds them remotely interesting. Personally, I love this assignment. It’s ridiculously tedious and never-ending, but the critical thinking involved is so much fun.

Most of my terms are from William Shakepeare’s Hamlet and E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View. I shall post two a week (like my assignment). They’re not too long, I promise! To prove it to you, I’ll post one today.

P.S. I’m making this picture of David Tennant the picture related to “Literature Revealed” because he is awesome.
P.S.S. WARNING: SPOILERS

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Dramatic Irony: The contrast between what a character is privy to or understands in a particular situation and the understanding and knowledge of the audience.

Example:
“At such time I’ll loose my daughter to him.
Be you and I behind arras then.
Mark the encounter. If he love her not,
And be not from his reason fall’n thereon,
Let me be no assistant for a state,
But keep a farm and carters”
(II.ii. 160-164).

Function: Hamlet is a story laced with deception. Most characters seem clever and conniving, often working against each other for a certain purpose, whether it be discovering truth, personal gain, or, in Hamlet’s case, vengeance. In the passage above, King Claudius’s right-hand man, Polonius, is sharing with Claudius a plan aimed to determine Hamlet’s state of mind and the cause thereof. Polonius believes Hamlet has been driven mad by love for Polonius’s daughter, Ophelia. In order to confirm this, he hatches this plan to arrange a “coincidental” meeting between the two of them, while he and the King observe from behind drapes (“arras”). Little does Polonius know that Hamlet planned his “insanity.” In Act One, Scene Five, Hamlet tells Horatio and Marcellus,

“Here as ever before, so help you mercy,
How strange or odd some’er I bear myself
(As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
To put an antic disposition on),
That you, at such times, seeing me, never shall,
With arms encumbered thus, or this head-shake,
Or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase,
As “Well, we know,” or “We could, if we would,”
Or “If we list to speak,” or “There be, and if they might”
Or such ambiguous giving out, to note
That you know aught of me – this do I swear,
So grace and mercy at your most need help you”
(I.vi. 168-179).

This passage clues the reader in, warning them that they will likely find Hamlet much changed, acting irrationally with “an antic disposition” (insane look), and that it is immensely important no one is told it is a ruse. He proceeds to make both Horatio and Marcellus swear they will tell no one. Hamlet desires the King to believe he has gone mad, with the hope that the King will let his guard down and pay no attention to him. Then Hamlet might strike unexpectedly and avenge his father’s death. This plan of Hamlet’s is set in motion the moment he acts insane before Ophelia, knowing Polonius’s character and that he is very aware of what goes on in his children’s lives. Hamlet trusts Ophelia will tell her father of their encounter (which she does, in Act Two, Scene One), and that Polonius, as second-in-command, will report to the King. This Polonius does in the example quoted above. The dramatic irony stems from the fact the reader is aware of Hamlet’s scheme and that Polonius is unwittingly following it exactly. In line 164, Polonius goes so far as to swear he is right, and that if he is not, he is not the King’s right-hand man, but a farmer with a horse-drawn wagon. Considering Polonius’s character, there is probably little he cares for or identifies with more than his position in the Danish court (a position obviously quite influential due to the power of monarchy in the 1600’s), so this expression of certainty is incredibly serious. He has no idea his actions are precisely what Hamlet predicted they would be. Another domino falls in Hamlet’s plotted chain of events, and, inevitably, they will continue to fall until the fateful scene is enacted by the players, and Hamlet can catch the King by surprise.