Re-Writing of Introduction to Pillar Posts

Re-Writing of Introduction to Pillar Posts


I hope in the New Year to make twice a month updates here about our ‘Pillar Post’ project. Consider this Report #1.

As you may have noticed, I collapsed the almost forty listings in the left Pillar Post sidebar down to eight. This has the downside of making the subjects within the larger files impossible to see on the home page, e.g., ‘Literary Alchemy’ is hidden inside KEYS FOR INTERPRETATION, and ‘Crimes of Grindelwald’ inside INDIVIDUAL ROWLING WORKS, but the list was so long it seemed unlikely to me that a reader would scroll through them all and sense anything but a grab bag rather than a coherently organized collection of posts. File this decision under ‘Lamentable but Necessary Trade-Offs.’

I also put together a new introduction to the project that now heads the list, the only subject not in ALL CAPS: The ‘Why’ and ‘How To’ of Pillar Posts. Let me know what you think of the new explanation by writing a comment beneath that post or this one — and please share the items and points of organization that will help you most. The whole idea is to make the HogwartsProfessor blogpost collection much easier to use — and only you can tell me what needs to be done to make sure that happens.

Thanks in advance for your feedback, and, as always, for your stopping by and joining in the conversation!

Agatha Christie’s Eleven Missing Days

Lethal White: The Moving Finger


Happy St Basil’s Day! It’s the ‘Russian New Year’ at least that’s what it was called in Pennsylvania years ago and the beginning of 2019 on the Church calendar. I’m excited about the coming year and projects on hand from the Pillar Posts and podcasts to speculation and research into the clockwork guts of Fantastic Beasts and Cormoran Strike. Thank y’all for joining us in the past year and in advance for joining the conversation in the New Year. Maybe I’ll find time this weekend to put up a Greatest Hits of 2018, a very busy year indeed for Rowling Readers.

I managed to read a book that had been on top of my pile of things to read (apart from the PhD thesis mound of ‘Must Reads’) in the first week of the twelve days of Christmas, and, as I expected, it was both a delight and a revelation. I rush to share the three things I learned from Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days by Jared Cade. Two points are in order as introduction, though, for the Harry Potter fan out there who may not know the basics about Agatha Christie.

We joke that only God and Chairman Mao have sold more books than J. K. Rowling and that Mao had help with his Little Red Books sales and distribution. Rowling’s sales, though, while unprecedented on a per volume basis at least with the Hogwarts Saga parts, fall far short of the hard to fathom book sales of two English women writers, Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie. Christie is not only the ‘Queen of Crime Writers’ by common acclamation, her Poirot and Marple novels have been translated into more languages and sold more copies than any other writer of fictions in history with the possible exception of Shakespeare, who, much as I love the Bard, except for his place in the English canon and consequent forced readership in schools, would only be read by thespians and antiquarians. Christie’s mysteries still sell millions of copies annually to readers who delight in them for their own sake.

Agatha Christie was a very private woman, however, and would be happy, I think, that the reading public knows very little about her life. One event in that life, however, that is well known and Christie worked her whole remaining time on earth trying to downplay (it was a condition of every one of the rare interviews she granted that the topic not be raised) was her disappearance for eleven days in 1926, which vanishing act was the occasion of a national woman-hunt. She turned up in a spa at Harrogate; she claimed to have suffered an attack of amnesia, a story from which she never broke in all the remaining decades of her life.

Jared Cade in his  Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days demonstrates what has always been suspected, namely, that the amnesia story was a deliberate fabrication and that Christie disappeared in order to punish her husband who had just told her he wanted a divorce so he could marry his mistress, a mutual friend of theirs.

Why should a reader of J. K. Rowling care? Three things in this short biography of an author whose work Rowling knows well struck me as meaningful, even important. Join me after the jump for those eye-openers!

(1) Rowling-Christie Life Story Parallels: Readers of this weblog’s posts about Rowling and her Robert Galbraith pseudonym’s Cormoran Strike novels have seen repeated references to The Presence’s interview with crime writer Val McDermid at the Harrogate Festival in 2014. I confess that after reading Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days I thought Rowling may have accepted the invitation to appear in Harrogate because it was where Christie was found under her pseudonym (the same last name as her husband’s lover…). The parallels with her life and Christies are that numerous and strong, beyond the “best selling author of her time” connection.

Like Rowling, Christie showed little promise of amounting to anything worthy of great public note as a younger person. She was not born into the aristocracy but an Austen-esque middle gentry family and had a decent education but well short of anything Oxbridge. She was a natural red head, a fact that I confess to being delighted by because all of the pictures of her that one sees on book jackets and the like are of a blue or gray haired matron in her dotage. She rather stumbled into writing mysteries, being a big fan of the genre and wanting to outstrip or at least compete with her much older sister who had had some succes as a playwrite.

She married a superficially gallant man, Colonel Archibald Christie, a hero of sorts in WWI aviation, and, as noted, he tired of her and fell in love with his favorite golfing partner (Christie made it a condition of her second betrothal that her new husband promise not to take up golf; he agreed but took a mistress anyway). This failed first marriage led to her disappearance, which created a publicity avalanche as the Fleet Street denizens went into a frenzy of special editions for the eleven days she was gone, which led naturally to her despising media intrusions into her personal life.

And there are other points that a Rowling-ologist will note beyond the allergy to questions about her private life. Christie ‘loved a Royal,’ for instance, taking special pride in her DBE, was overwhelmed by success, became sick of and tried to turn away from her key characters’ franchises (but always returned to it), and succeeded in shielding her family from the public eye.

(2) Christie Wrote Under a Pseudonym: A parallel I really loved, though, was that Christie successfully wrote and published six romance novels under a pseudonym, the ‘Mary Westmacott’ novels. Unlike Rowling/Galbraith, however, it was almost thirty years before Christie’s pen name was discovered and the author outed. So what? Beyond the correspondence with Rowling also having chosen to write under a pen name in a radically different genre is the connection that under the pseudonym Christie chose to wrote very revealing portraits about her personal history under the thinnest of story-telling veils. The idea that Rowling is writing mystery novels that simultaneously shadow and comment on the Hogwarts Saga septology gets a little boost, I think, from the Christie/Westmacott stratagem.

(3) The Pivotal Event of Her Life is Embedded in Everything She Writes: One of the more memorable forehead slapping moments of my life as a Potter Pundit was reading the chapter in Patrick McCauley’s Into the Pensieve in which he discussed the centrality of violence against women in Rowling’s work and the link of this pre-eminent theme and the experience of Rowling’s first marriage. For Rowling, McCauley strongly suggests, the focus on the consequences to abused women and all those in relationship with them (Harry’s mother, Snape’s mother, Voldemort’s mother, Dumbledore’s sister, Robin Ellacott, Leda Strike, others) stem from the violence surrounding her first marriage’s break-up and her much less well known escape from it. Rowling does not blush about pouring autobiographical elements into her stories; Casual Vacancy is proof enough of that. McCauley’s theory, though, is that one event above all the others, shaped the predominant theme of her work.

For Christie, I learned in Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days, that event was the break up of her first marriage, the nightmare she experienced in the flood of publicity resulting from her punitive charade, and her consequently very subdued and tolerant response to the sustained infidelity of her second husband (who, if a cad, was always very kind to his much older wife and who at least had the sense not to ask for a divorce). Jared Cade, who has something like a memorized knowledge of Christie’s work — his Amazon bio blurb includes this bon mot: “in 1993 [Cade] appeared on The 64,000 Dollar Qestion, correctly answering all questions on his specialist subject of Agatha Christie’s novels and winning what was then British television’s biggest cash prize” — reveals how Christie writes repeatedly about marital infidelity and revenge of the abused party, both up front and in subtle fashion.

I recommend Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days, consequently, to Christie fans and to serious readers of Harry Potter. No, I haven’t broken with my core formalist first principle that disregarding biographical data in favor of close reading of the text is essential. I’m just allowing that biogaphical data shouldn’t be totally disregarded, either. The author isn’t a bloodless machine, after all. If one is careful to focus on the writer’s intentional artistry rather than the inevitable and comparatively irrelevant bleed from personal experience, awareness of that experience need not be shunned or denied. I mean, can you really understand Agatha Christie without knowing that she was perhaps the first English woman to practice stand-up surfboarding in Hawaii? Yes, you can — but it’s fun to know that anyway.

What do you think? Click on ‘Leave a Comment’ up by the post’s headline and let me know. Happy St Basil’s Day and a joyous New Year to you all!

New Political Maturity from Rowling?

New Political Maturity from Rowling?


In response to Rowling’s anodine New Year’s advice to writers in the form of ‘Answers to FAQs’ on her website, a nasty bloke or madame asked her two more questions, namely, ‘Why is your writing so shit?’ and ‘How are you so politically delusional?’ She chose to respond to the troll under the internet bridge.

She explained that her ‘writing is so shit’ because, well, “I do the best I can with the talent I’ve got, but I know my writing isn’t to everyone’s taste.” Her millions of followers, of course, rushed in the thread to reassure her that her writing is very good indeed. I’m not sure you take this as authentic humility, fishing for praise, or some combination of insecurity and rising above the nastiness. Your call.

In answer to the question of how she arrived at her “political delusions,” though, I think we see a remarkable shift in her tweeting posture, if it is a sincere response and not a one-off dismissal to a troll. She wrote that “my politics probably spring from my life experience and my temperament, like everyone else’s.” Which is to say, as ardent as the opinions she shares in her tweets and re-tweets about Brexit, Trump, and illegal immigration on the American border can be, that she recognizes they are only opinions rather than demonstrated truths that no thinking or kind or honest person can deny or disagree with. The opinions she has are only some mixture of temperament and experience.

She added a third answer, this time to a question “unwritten but implied” by the nastygram tweeter. “Try being less of an asshole.” Rowling’s admirers and detractors on the comment thread seem to have played the Jeopardy game of finding the question from the pithy answer and come up with either “What is my best advice for you, Gentle Reader?” or “What is my New Year’s Resolution for 2019?”

I’m hopeful that it is the latter and that Rowling will simultaneously continue to embed her political views in her work, more or less balanced in despising radical left and right if Lethal White is any measure, and back-off the vulgarity and condescending dismissals of those with whom she disagrees via Twitter. This post when combined with her sixteen point KJV thread and prophecy of late last year may mark a turning point of sorts in Rowling’s political savvy and maturity. Not the end of the nonsence, obviously (and I know she implies via re-tweet that all yellow vests protestors are Nazis…) but a sign of the beginning of the end?

I suspect you must disagree, especially if like many of her neo-Marxist followers, you fist pump every time Rowling laughs at or derides the bad guys. I hope you will take Rowling’s third answer to heart in 2019, as will I.



Rowling’s ‘New’ Thoughts about Writing


Rowling has made two New Year’s additions to JKRowling.com, both answers to FAQs about writing. You can read them here and here. They’re worth the time it takes to read them.

In a nutshell, Rowling’s advice to wannabe writers is “keep at it” and “ignore those scam artists who want to sell you magic beans in the shape of ‘writing rules’ that successful story tellers all follow.”

This is simultaneously encouraging and, well, bullocks.

Rowling is doing a good job as “Most Successful Author of the Millenium” in saying the encouraging words that those who dream of repeating her Cinderella story long to hear. Here’s hoping there is a writer out there of Rowling’s quality who reads these words inspiring courage and carries on to finish that manuscript (or to make the fourth revision that makes the story magical — and appealing to a publisher or literary agent).

But that there are no rules for writers beyond persistence and reading widely? C’mon. I get the idea that she is discouraging wannabes from being taken in by online programs that claim they have the secret sauce that will help the talented and the deluded to ‘Write Like Rowling.’ But the suggestion she makes is that her rules for writing, ones we know well that she follows, either do not exist or are not repeatable.

As in planning a slow narrative release over several stories, the Rowling signature. Or ring composition story scaffolding, the template of human stories from time immemorial that Rowling uses in all her novels and screenplays. Or literary alchemy, a symbol set used by Rowling, Meyer, and Collins in the best selling series of our times and one which strectches back to Shakespeare and Chaucer and winds its way through many of the English ‘Greats.’

Those are rules that writers can learn and which will improve their writing. The least Rowling could have said, I think, is what she has said continuously since 1997, that her success as a writer is due mainly to her planning, what close reading of her works suggests most would call “obsessive planning.”

We can all agree that there is no magic formula to great writing or, if there are, then without creative genius and the writing skills to bring them to life, they are worthless. But there are rules for great story telling — or guidelines and parameters or models if the R-word makes you flinch. Wannabe writers who think they are going to be great or just ‘writing like Rowling’ without getting into the tool bag she has built up and learning the rules she follows are as misled by the ‘No Rules’ delusion as they might be by magic beans salesman.

Now that I have that off my chest, let’s get back to the important work of trying to read the notes under that peacock paper-weight that headed both of the JKRowling.com posts. It looks like stray thoughts on Fantastic Beasts to me. You?

12/21: International Chiasmus Day

12/21: International Chiasmus Day


Today is the 21st of December on the Orthodox Church Calendar or 12/21 in the US and 21/12 in the UK. Besides meaning that there are only four more days until Orthodox Nativity and the Twelve Days of Christmas, it also marks what I hope will hereafter be celebrated as International Chiasmus Day.

I think this day of all days is best for commemoration of self-echoing phrases, verses, passages, books, and series of books both because it is the only calendar date that has digits repeating the other in reverse order (I say “Fie!” to those offering up March 30th as 03/30…) and because it is the date by which Phileas Fogg had to complete his 80 days circumnavigation of the globe in Verne’s chiastic Around the World in Eighty Days.

Yes, I believe Verne chose this date to highlight the ring structure of the work in question; my 2013 post on the subject details how Fogg’s journey is an exact mirror reflection in forward and then reverse order, the return trip beginning with his sailing from Japan, complete with hilarious inverse parallels in the adventures Fogg, Passepartout, and Aouda have in India and America.

I have moved the date from Fogg’s calendar to the traditional Christian one because the Church calendar includes both solar and lunar components and there was a lot of kerfuffle about 12/21 in 2012. Too many people think “Mayan Apocalypse!’ when they see that date in December so I thought a move to Gregorian January might help. Not to mention the date slipped by me.

How to celebrate International Chiasmus Day? Sadly, Worlds of Fun, an American Theme Park dedicated to Vernes’ Around the World in Eighty Days (I kid you not) is closed until the Spring. And though you can fly around the world on commercial flights, believe it or not, in eighty hours, that is still a might long for Chiasmus Day as a single day. And trying to do it in eighty minutes? You’d have to break into Cape Caneveral or Bill Gates’ 401k to do that.

I think the best way to celebrate the day is to pick up a favorite book by an author that is known to have structural concerns and read that book chiastically, a ring-reading. This involves reading the first chapter, then the last, then the second chapter and the next to last, and so on until you reach the middle. Did you discover hidden correspondences? Is the ‘meaning in the middle’?

I’ll testify that this a lot of fun, especially with Rowling’s books and screenplays (and Galbraith’s!). Tomorrow I’ll share my notes on Crimes of Grindelwald when read as a ring composition. I look forward to reading your findings on Crimes or your favorite book. Until then, find a Palindrome Pal and get reading!

 

 

 

 

HogwartsProfessor: 11 Years Old Today

HogwartsProfessor: 11 Years Old Today


‘Merry Christmas’ to all of you on the nominalist’s calendar, believers and secularists alike! A blessed St Spyridon’s Day to any Orthodox Christian stopping by today, as well.

I have been posting online since 2004, even earlier if you include the classes I taught at Barnes and Noble University right after the publication of Hidden Key to Harry Potter at the end of 2002. But HogwartsProfessor.com didn’t take its present form as a WordPress weblog until 25 December 2006 when I wrote and postedWelcome to the New HogwartsProfessor.com!We were off and running that same day with my first thoughts about the possible meanings of the then just announced title of the Hogwarts Saga finale, Deathly Hallows[If you’re looking for someone to laud or blame for all this, Travis Prinzi was the webmaster who created the site as we have it, trouble shot the many glitches, and hosted it as well on a server for many years.]

So the site is 11 years old today, 12 if you live in Japan (where you are ‘1’ rather than ‘0’ in your first year of life). To mark this numerologically significant occasion I have gone all-in on the ‘Pillar Posts’ project. This morning I put up place holders in the dedicated sidebar for seven categories of Pillars with twenty-eight subcategories.

The answer to ‘why bother?’ is two-fold. (1) There are a lot of posts, currently 388 pages with 1,937 articles of various lengths, with a boat-load of quality content and (2), mixed together as it all is in the archives,  it’s very difficult to find the relevant posts on a specific subject. The searchbar, frankly, is undependable and scrolling through close to 400 pages in hopes of a ‘find’ is a task for mad-hatters and trust-funders. 

The project will progress in three stages. The first has been installing the sidebar widget (thank you, BlogMechanic!) and organizing and posting the preliminary place holders in sequence. That was the easy part I finished today.

The second stage will involve updating those blank place-holders with lists of urls for the subject and then organizing those lists into topic categories with short explanations and pointers about where to start. For a look at the url listing page looks like, see the ‘Literary Alchemy’ Pillar Post work in progress.

The third stage will be a proper introduction to the subject as well as an annotated index to HogwartsProfessor posts on the subject. I’m working on that for the Lethal White pillar to go up this next week. On larger subjects, this will take some doing but it is exciting to have started on the necessary journey of organizing the weblog after all these years.

Thank you to Travis Prinzi for his example, encouragement, and patronage at the start and through the years. Thank you, too, to the HogwartsProfessor faculty, especially Elizabeth Baird-Hardy and Louise Freeman, for sharing your thoughts here, and to the host of Guest Post writers for your various contributions.

And ‘Thank you’ most of all to you loyal readers, from the distant past before Deathly Hallows was published to those joining us for the first time this month to talk about Newt Scamander and friends in Paris. Your comments, corrections, and conversations have been the proverbial wind in my sails. The six books I’ve written and published since 2006 were all conceived here and much improved because of your feedback.

Thank you one and all for your patience with me since 2006, and, in advance, with the Pillar Posts project. 

Rowling as Labour’s Tweeting Prophet


J. K. Rowling with 14.6 million followers has the largest twitter following of any author on planet Earth. She has been using her bully pulpit there, not only to occasionally bully those followers who dare disagree with her and to dismiss in as patronizing a fashion as she can muster the master bully, the President of the United States, but also to push (on a daily, frantic, even frenetic basis) the cause of a ‘People’s Vote,’ that is, a second go at the Brexit referendum. Rowling is a passionate ‘Remainer’ and, except for Lumos notes here and there now that the tidal wave of Fantastic Beasts publicity is done, her twittering is all about the idiocy of Brexit and the inevitable apocalypse that will result if the first referendum results are respected as final.

As near hysterical as much of this or just the weight of the number of re-tweets is, Rowling has chosen this time, of all times, to break with the political party of her youth and maturity, the leftist Labour Party now headed by Jeremy Corbyn. Part of this, of course, must be that Corbyn refuses to support a second referendum on Brexit. Rowling’s given reason, however, has made her a lightning rod for criticism from the UK’s political left. She says that she can longer vote Labour because of Corbyn’s anti-Semitism and the defense of same by his supporters. Prejudice against Jews for Rowling is a professed red-line that not even political reds, the leftists of her progressive stripe, can cross without losing her allegiance (and one assumes, generous financial support; Rowling has been known to gift Labour up to a million pounds sterling at one go).

On 22 December 2018 Rowling posted a 16 part twitter feed in something approaching King James English syntax and spelling in which she tells the story of her tribulations as a prophet to the tribe of Labour about how they have forsaken the right path and can expect a divine wrath of sorts. It is simultaneously comic, seering, and self-satirizing in a way that is re-assuring, at least to this serious reader of Rowling, that she hasn’t completely lost her mind or sense of humor about political disagreements.

After the jump, I publish the sixteen tweets, furnish a few necessary annotations Brit friends have sent me for references this Yank couldn’t grock (thank you, Elspeth!), and then explain the importance of the tweet beyond the Brexit kerfuffle for Rowling-ologists.

Rowling Twitter Thread of 22 December 2018

And lo, unto her did appear a host of Corbyn defenders, who did descend upon her mentions, and she was not sore afraid, because she was used to it. And the host did sing with one voice, ‘ungodly woman, thou foolest us not. We know the true reason thou despisest Saint Jeremy.’ 1

And she did say unto them ‘share thy hot take.’ And with righteous wrath they did declare, ‘thou fearest Saint Jeremy, friend of the poor, because he shall take from thee in taxation much more even than Herod, and so thou attackest the meek and honest saviour of this land.’ 2

And she did reply, ‘I shall not call ye dimwits, for it is the season of goodwill, but tis not Saint Jeremy who shall tax me, nay, not even if he enters the house of Number Ten, for my tax rates are set by Queen Nicola, in whose kingdom I do abide, and unto her I do pay 3

my full portion, seeking neither to flee to Monaco nor to hide my gold in far flung lands, like St Jacob, Patron Saint of Filthy Hypocrites.’ ‘Speak not of hypocrites!’ cried the host, ‘for thou dost claim to care about the poor yet doth rail against their champion, St Jeremy!’ 4

And she did answer, ‘How shall the poor fare under Brexit, which thy Saint hath always in his secret heart desired, yet he hath not admitted what was in his heart, lest fewer attend his next Sermon on the Glastonbury B Stage.’ And they did answer, ‘Saint Jeremy will achieve 5

a miracle, and he shall bring forth a Jobs First Brexit and all the land shall rejoice.’ And she did answer, ‘bollocks.’ But she bethought her of the season of goodwill, and repenting of her ire she did speak further. ‘I have, for all my life, voted Labour, yet now I cannot.’ 6

‘But his goodness doth shine out of his every orifice!’ cried the host, swarming anew into her mentions. ‘Behold his beard! Look upon this picture of him being led off by police when he was protesting racism in all its forms!’ And she did say, ‘I have looked upon his beard 7

…and also upon this picture. It is a good picture and I do like a beard, as I have oft declared. Yet must I protest, thou it breaketh my heart so to do, that this party of Labour, which I have so long loved, has become, under St Jeremy -‘ 8

‘Speak not of the Jews!’ cried the host. ‘Why must thou speak so oft of the Jews?’ ‘Yea, I must speak,’ said she, ‘for when Jews no longer feel safe in Labour then I too must leave.’ And one of the host did shout something about the Rothschilds 9

and he was hastily hushed by his brethren, who did declare, ‘he is not one of ours, thou he sports a halo.’ And another did speak and he said, ‘it is not antisemitic to criticise Israel,’ and she did put her face in her hands and want to weep. 10

But she did then look up and see many stars shining brightly in the sky and lo, they did arrange themselves before her eyes into a ‘who would make the best Prime Minister poll’ and she did cry, ‘Will ye not raise up your eyes to the Heavens? See there the People’s mind!’ 11

And they did look up at the stars and read there that St Jeremy was, as for ages past, in third place after Pontus May and Don’t Know. And she spake further, ‘do ye not see that St Jeremy is hurting your party, yea, that his inability even to organise a vote of no confidence 12

doth embolden and strengthen this calamitous government, of which all despair?’ But they did close their eyes to the stars and some did answer, ‘you are a fool who doth not understand St Jeremy’s master plan’ 13

and others still did beseech the woman to descend from the ivory tower in which, for the purposes of this story, they would wish her to dwell. And they besought her to descend into Bethlehem, and go to a certain allotment, 14

where she would find the Messiah busy with his marrows and she would be filled with the spirit of Momentum. But she did shake her head and declare that she was and would remain an unbeliever, yet full sorrowful she was, for Labour had been her home. 15

And the host did despise and condemn her, and many did tell her to fuck off and join the Tories, and before they did depart one of their number cried unto her, ‘it’s because he’ll tax you more, isn’t it,’ and she did sigh and wished him a Merry Christmas. 16X

Annotations for Americans:

Queen Nicola (3) Queen Nicola I’m guessing is the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon. Tax rates are higher in Scotland than in England. Rowling’s counter to the criticism from pro-Labour partisans that she is only complaining about Corbyn because she fears the higher taxation of a Labour government in England is that, if she were a tax dodger, she wouldn’t be living in Edinburgh.

St Jacob, Patron Saint of Filthy Hypocrites (4) I have it on good authority that this ‘Jacob’ who “hides his gold in far-flung lands” is a reference to Jacob Rees-Mogg (Wiki) who scandalously, in the minds of Remainers like Rowling at least, supports Brexit but has moved his financial holdings off-shore, which is to say, out of reach of the UK tax authorities. See ‘Brexiters Putting Money Off-Shore’ for that story (you’ll need to scroll down to find St Jacob; quite a few wealthy Brits have chosen this option to protect their money). Cormoran Strike readers will recall that The Silkworm opens with a Lord and MP who has his millions invested offshore; that vignette now reads like Rowling’s wish-fulfillment fantasy about “St Jacob” Rees-Mogg getting his just desserts.

“Something about the Rothschilds” (9-10) This is perhaps the part most likely to escape readers like myself in the US who do not follow the inside-baseball of UK politics (we are lucky to learn in the American news media a mention of a change of UK Prime Ministers; we’re much better informed on the Royal Family and its conjugal condition). It turns out that the flag always waved by anti-Semites, the Rothschilds international banking conspiracy guide-on, has recently been brought out out of the closet by a Member of Parliament and given an enthusiastic re-tweeting; see Rothschild’s Twitter Tirade: Antisemite MP?

The MP denies any anti-Semitism in his criticism of the Rothschilds. To those aware of the historic dog-whistle implicit to this charge, outside the guilt or innocence of the Rothschilds empire, it is very hard to ignore the association (think ‘Swastika: Hindu symbol or Nazi emblem?’). Rowling raises this subject to tar Labour with trying to hush up its anti-Semitism or at least to separate themselves from its members who are anti-Israel, Rothschild critics, and perhaps haters of Jews.

Importance for Rowling Readers

What are we to make of what some in the UK claim is a “Frankly libellous” tirade of Rowling’s against Labour and Jeremy Corbyn? Here are my three contributions to the conversation which I offer in hope of your sharing your thoughts:

(1) Stephanus Numbers and Twitter Threads: I don’t know if this is a first — I have to doubt it but this is the first time I have encountered it — but I found the use of twitter bites in biblical language hilarious. The content is funny, but what tickled me was that I had never noticed before that tweets in a numbered thread when read are indeed something like reading Christian scripture, divided as it is into chapter and individual verse numbers, the so-called Stephanus numbers

(2) If It’s Biblical, It’s Chiastic: Note the structure of the 16 ‘verses.’ The beginning and end, verses 1-2 and 16, are accusations that Rowling is rich and therefore (QED) she is only really concerned about protecting her hoarded wealth. This is straight Marxist cant and a touchstone of cultural Marxists in our time that is always on parade in order to disenfranchise the wealthy and ‘privileged’ because their views are necessarily self-interested, unlike the poor (and the wealthy who claim to speak for them) who speak the truth independent of concerns about advantage.

In true ring fashion, as Rowling-ologists would expect, this bracketing is reflected in the passage’s center; in chiasmus, the ‘meaning is in the middle’ which echoes and points to start and finish. The center of Rowling’s phillipic is about the Jews and Corbyn’s anti-Semitism.

Rowling’s meaning, then, in the voice and tone of Hebrew prophecies, is in this criticism of the neo-Marxism and class hatred of the Labourites; she identifies herself with the hated rich and calls down those leftists who are prisoners of envy or who are just inciting hatred of the better off to further their political ambitions. Again, readers of Cormoran Strike and especially Lethal White will have no trouble recalling Jimmy Knight, ‘heroic’ leftist agitator, first class cad and deadbeat (did I mention ‘abuser of women’?), and shameless anti-Semite.

(3) Self Mockery: After my second reading of the 16 verses I thought of Alexander Pope and his Rape of the Lock. Pope writes a poem in the style of Homer and Virgil about the least important of subjects, the theft of a lock of hair from a woman by an overly enthusiastic suitor. The sum of the artistry, satire to the point of burlesque, is to render the trivial social concerns of Pope’s contemporaries ridiculous. I think Rowling’s thread has much the same effect and it reflects as much on her as it does on the Labour strawmen with whom she argues, a self-mockery that I choose to think is intentional.

Note the parallels of the turtle-back structure, for instance. There is no counter in the front half to verse numbers 11-13, in which Rowling calls as Prophetess for the Labourites who have departed from the True Faith to look to the heavens, which in this case reveal the results of opinion polls concerning who would make the best Prime Minister (Corbyn polls third behind May and ‘Don’t Know’). This passage is wonderfully ironic and self-immolating; can anything be less ‘heavenly,’ that is, fixed and eternal, than the ephemera of opinion polls which change by the hour? I think we’re obliged to assume Rowling is laughing at herself as much as at the Labourites and the pathetic quality of this conversation, always voiced in the language of God’s Prophets and the Coming Apocalypse. Do you think Isaiah would give a fig about Brexit?

The mock-heroic quality of the tweet stream in KJV cues the careful reader that Rowling is aware of her own overboard passions on the subject and that maybe we can calm down and have a good laugh about this, as apocalyptic as she obviously really does believe a No Deal Brexit will be.

Or am I being too generous? Too critical? Click on ‘Leave a Comment’ up by the post’s headline and let me know what you think!