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October 18, 2012  | by: Robert Brazen
Casual Vacancy

A bookseller perfecting her display.

J.K. Rowling, the insanely successful author of the Harry Potter books, has written, for the first time, a book for adults. “The Casual Vacancy,” published by Little, Brown and Company, was released worldwide on the 27th of September.  Sales, as you may have guessed, are phenomenal.  The reviews?

Michiko Kakutani, the behemoth begetter of ballast over at the New York Times, said in only the second sentence of her review that, “There is no magic in this book — in terms of wizarding or in terms of narrative sorcery,” (emphasis mine).  That’s pretty harsh.  She goes on to say, “It’s as though writing about the real world inhibited Ms. Rowling’s miraculously inventive imagination, and in depriving her of the tension between the mundane and the marvelous constrained her ability to create a two-, never mind three-dimensional tale.”  That is totally harsh.  (To be fair, though, Ms Kakutani is very wont to behave that way).

There were positive reviews too, however. Wonderfully named Lev Grossman, after commenting on how low his (and everyone else’s) expectations were, wrote, “But The Casual Vacancy is a different beast entirely. It was not what I was expecting. It’s a big, ambitious, brilliant, profane, funny, deeply upsetting and magnificently eloquent novel of contemporary England, rich with literary intelligence and entirely bereft of bullshit,”  That’s definitely the opposite of harsh.

Despite mixed reviews, you can’t write it off yet.  Only time will tell.  For now, though, it remains atop the NYT hardcover fiction best sellers list.  I imagine Ms. Rowling is enjoying her casual occupancy of the top.

What do you think about “The Casual Vacancy?”

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