Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Did I miss the bit where J.K. Rowling became a member of the Royal Family?

Her Serene Highness
I ask, because it’s impossible to switch on the television or radio these days without hearing or seeing Ms Rowling being asked oleaginously respectful questions about her new novel in  the tones once reserved for questions about Budgie the Helicopter and The Old Man of Lochnagar. You could almost hear BBC Arts Correspondent Will Gompertz having to stop himself adding “Your Royal Highness” to each question when the woman was given four minutes of free advertising on the Lunchtime News today. (J.K. ended the interview with a friendly "Thanks, Will" - isn't that cosy?)

I wouldn’t mind so much if she had anything interesting to say, or had a sparkling personality, or was utterly gorgeous. But, like most authors, she doesn’t interview particularly well, is fairly dull, and looks pretty ordinary. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she has an absolutely maddening habit of pretending that the idea contained in the ploddingly pedestrian questions being lobbed her way have never occurred to her before. She has a tendency to pause and sigh and look sideways before giving the answer we all knew she was going to give anyway: it’s like watching paint after it’s dried.

J.K. Rowling is a commercial author plugging her latest book, but, for some odd reason, the BBC has decided to tear up its own rulebook and offer her almost unlimited publicity. Of course there’s quite a bit of public interest in whether Britain’s most successful living author has managed to make the transition from kiddie to adult literature (she won’t have) – but not that much, surely. I'm sure that, for most of us, reading one or two reviews will be quite sufficient to quench our curiosity.

So why does the BBC (in particular) appear to have gone so screamingly over the top?

Is it – as a commenter on the Biased BBC website suggested - because Ms Rowling is a raving leftie who donates lavishly to the Labour Party (as Umbongo put it: “Were she staunchly right-wing and a major financier of UKIP I think the BBC would have been able to contain its incontinence”)? Or is it because she’s such a shining example of a once-struggling single mother (bless!) who went on to achieve enormous success? Or because she recently once more proved her impeccable, cuddly liberal credentials by casually letting it drop that she’d always imagined Dumbledore was gay? Or because she gave capitalistic arch-fiend Rupert Murdoch a good kicking during the Leveson Inquiry? Or because she’s already told us that The Casual Vacancy is about how snobbish the middle classes are (we are such bastards!) and “poverty” (yawn!) and that it includes satirical digs at the current government? (Gompertz informed us that it was about an English village “riven by hate, prejudice and exclusion” – oh, goody!). Or is it because she looks like a standard-issue, top-flight BBC executive?

Or a mixture of all of the above?

Even if I’d been thinking about reading the damned thing (I wasn’t), I’d have been put off by the BBC’s misuse of license fee money to enthusiastically market a commercial work by someone who, politically speaking, makes their pants stick out. Get a room, guys!


  1. Having read most of her books to my children, I think we deserve a break. From about the fourth one onwards, she was obviously too important for the publisher to allow the editor loose with a red pencil, which is what the last few books desperately needed. Much as I agree with your post on the use of synthesised voices, there were times when I would have paid handsomely for the Hawking voicebox or the Satnav woman to take over

  2. I agree totally. The same thing happened to Stephen King, whose first three or four novels were ruthlessly edited - he was even made to rewrite a large part of "The Stand". And then he became so wealthy that, like Topsy, his books just "growed and growed" - he got it back after about five or six years. With J.K., the first two books read as if they'd been tightly edited, and then the corsets came off and they became unreadable - lucky, my son lost interest after the third one (strangely, as the books got worse, the films got better).

    Of course, some writers are such stylistic masters that it would be sacrilegious to line-edit their work - but J.K. Rowling definitely isn't one of them.