J K Rowling and the cursed child

The release of the new book ‘Harry Potter and the cursed child’ brought back my memories of my journey with Harry Potter. It also has a personal meaning for me. So I thought I would rant on the same.

The first Harry Potter book was released in 1997. At that time I was just entering my bachelors program in Engineering and I had not even heard of this series. It was 2001 by the time I first came to know of these books and by that time 4 books were already out. I acquired the books and read them all back to back over a two day marathon reading session. Having not yet fully been initiated into the world of fantasy fiction at that point of life, I was completely blown away. Over the next couple of years I had read the 4 books over and over multiple times - the only books I have read so many times since my childhood days.

It was quite a wait for ‘Order of the Phoenix’. My grandfather expired around the time it was getting released. So I missed buying it. However my team lead at work had bought it and he had finished reading within a day and he lent it to me. Then again it was a long wait for ‘The Half Blood Prince’. I actually managed to place a pre-order for this book at the local book store and hence had it in my possession on the very day of release. But then a sudden wave of generosity struck me and I ended up lending it to my little cousin to read first. She was not the maniacal reader kinds and she took her own sweet time to complete it and that left me a week behind the rest of the world.

The wait for the last book was so long that I had completely forgotten Harry Potter for good by the time it was released. Also I had become a complete fantasy buff in the years in between. So Harry Potter no longer held any special fascination for me as such. When the last booking was due for released I was in my final trimester of MBA - I find it interesting how the first book was released in my first year of college education and the last during my last year.  Someone within the campus managed to get a pirated soft copy of the book a day before the official release and it began circulating within the campus. Having always lagged the rest of the world, I could not resist the temptation to go one up on the last book. So I ended up opening the pdf file that landed in my mail box and sat through the night reading and managed to complete the book barely hours before its release. And that marked my end of the Harry Potter journey.

Everyone was gaga about the movies as well. Somehow I could not get myself to watch them – I just watched one of the movies – the first part of the ‘Deathly Hollows’. I can’t say I was very impressed. I have always wondered what J K Rowling would do after Harry Potter series. The series structure was such that it could not extend beyond 7 books. So what would she do after they were done I wondered. Wouldn’t her life fill with emptiness and frustration at not being able to re-create the magic of Harry Potter? In large part, my apprehensions have come true. I was not tempted to pick up ‘Casual Vacancy’. And from what I heard, it did not make the kind of waves Harry Potter did. That is why I guess she tried a different tactic - a different genre under a pseudonym. Maybe she was hoping she could start as a ‘nobody’ and once again create the magic all over again. But then that was not to be. In a connected world, she could not keep her identity secret. And as far as I could make out, her success as Robert Galbraith has been more on the back of her Harry Potter aura only than on independent merit. I for one was not at all tempted to pick up any of her non Harry Potter books. For me, it was always about Harry Potter and not about J K Rowling. So Rowling outside of Harry Potter meant nothing to me.

So somehow I feel she is now stuck with Harry Potter for good and has to live with him the rest of her life. How much ever she tries, people will probably still talk of Harry Potter only. She is by no means the first author to suffer this fate. Her illustrious predecessor from Britain Arthur Conan Doyle had to undergo the same. He was just not allowed to think beyond Sherlock Holmes. The author struggled desperately to put Holmes behind him and focus on Professor Challenger and Sir Nigel. So much so in a desperate attempt to get rid of Holmes, he had Moriarty fling him off the Reichenbach falls in a deathly embrace. But no! Even death could not free him from Homes’ vice like grip. He had to revive him and bring him back in ‘The Return of Sherlock Holmes’.

The sense of frustration is something I can relate to as well at a personal level at a much smaller scale. Eight years ago, when I started my blog, I wrote a series called ‘The Great Indian Bride Hunt’. This series acquired so much popularity that gave me momentum to seriously take up writing. But today, when people still praise that series so much even though I have written so much more ever since, I wonder if I am also stuck with ‘Great Indian Bride Hunt’ the way Rowling and Doyle are stuck with Potter and Holmes. And more sad it would be if that were the case for despite it being my most popular piece of writing, its popularity does not even match that of some of the country’s top bloggers far from reaching anywhere near the iconic heights of Harry Potter or Sherlock Holmes. Even if one were the discount the popularity aspect, still it would be nothing short of tragedy for a complete unromantic like me who does not even like series like ‘Friends’ and ‘How I met your mother’, to be best known for relationship related humor.

Anyways coming back to Rowling, the hype around ‘Harry Potter and the cursed child’ go on to reiterate how much Harry Potter has entrenched himself in public psyche and how next to impossible it will be for her to produce something that can exceed the popularity of Harry Potter. That is the curse she has to live with for the rest of her life – a Midas touch of sorts. Harry Potter - the cursed child in J K Rowling's life.


Suresh Chandrasekaran said...

True - resting on your laurels is easier said than done.

By the way, I remember reading a short story, long ago, about an author whose first story was such a huge hit that publishers refused to take up his subsequent stories because they did not measure up to the first one, though they were good. He is reduced to writing stories under a pseudonym. After a time, he produces one story which his publisher sees as being as good as that first one and the author says, "Burn it" :)

T F Carthick said...

Interesting story, Suresh.

Ramesh Grandhi said...

Typecasting or slotting does happen, especially so in the creative fields; Rajesh Khanna for all his superstar popularity simply vanished from the scene once the audience tastes changed. JKR is I guess blessed and cursed at the same time (though I must say any and all writers would give their eye teeth to be in her position). I agree with you that it will be incredibly difficult for her to get out of HP's shadow but then she has all the time in the world to come up with something new to captivate her legions of fans. We must appreciate the fact that she did attempt to write under a pseudonym and not take advantage of her fame.

T F Carthick said...

Let us see, Ramesh. I have been keenly watching. Doyle actually wrote really well - I liked the Challenger and White Company stories. But they never found the acclaim that Sherlock Holmes story found.

Bushra M said...

That's a great observation. I myself would not be interested in anything she writes other than 'Harry Potter' :P Anyways, you should watch the first 4 movies, those are the best. :) The last movie was crap, it failed to live up to the actual book!

T F Carthick said...

Is it? I somehow could not get past first 10 minutes of first movie. Maybe because I remember everything from the book so vividly and the movie is true to the book - so it is like a repeat for me.

umashankar said...

Well, I almost avoided reading this post of yours for the fear of spoilers it might have led me into. The special edition of The Cursed Child hit the Homewarts today and my twins are hogging over it —I will have to wait for my turn in the queue.

I am glad I read the post nevertheless and was duly entertained by your reminiscences. Like you, I had also come to know about Harry Potter in 2001 when everyone started talking about this movie; I picked up the books later. I had already met my employer by that time. Unlike you, I found the last installment by paying a premium of Rs 50/-, a sum I never repented. I read Casual Vacancy and didn't like what I read promptly wrote a review. I read the first of the Galbraith series also (again wrote a review) and was not quite thrilled. I don't blame people for hating Mr Doyle for having Mr Holmes flung into an abyss by his arch-rival, such is the charm of the inimitable detective. Then you talked about your own experience with 'The Great Indian Bride Hunt'. I guess people have a way of simplifying affairs by stereotyping even what they expect from a writer. Then there are those who step ahead the accepted thresholds and try to guide you into the groove they want you to be in. They may not necessarily be your detractors but they hardly can be called your well wishers. I guess it is the worst kind of patronising one can be subjected to. Now would you mind if I used a very contextual spell from the Harry Potter saga: Expecto Patronum !!!

T F Carthick said...

Glad your fear of spoilers did not make you miss this post, Umashankar. I am somehow not excited about the book and no young Harry Potter fans at home like you. I do need an expecto patronum given the dementers the office folks are sending after me.

Antarik Anwesan said...

Felt great to read another Potterhead's journey into the world of Harry Potter. Cursed Child and all other future Potter stories (if any) from JKR, would be part of the hype because of the world they come from, but it is unlikely that anything can match the success of the initial series. Not to forget, the generation that grew up with Harry, has advanced 10 years since Deathly Hallows released :)

T F Carthick said...

So true, Antarik. Thanks for the visit.

Anonymous said...

True. The ghosts of past good works never leaves an author. Still to read the Cursed Child which my son reported, was "not as good" as the rest. I watched the movies and read the books..while of course, the movies couldnt cover everything.. I thought the Goblet of Fire was especially well made, as it managed to capture the essence of it.

Deepika Sharma said...

JK Rowling i am huge fan of yours. You are really nice lady and for me successful celebrity .

Post a Comment

Kind words of appreciation/feedback

For whom the bell tolls

A book of faces