I’ve been waiting for this day for months. Possible even years. I remember once thinking, about ten years ago: I wish JKRowling would write a novel for adults. This morning, at around ten, I set off to my local Waterstones on Gower Street (the one that used to be Dillons, if anyone remembers that defunct bookshop chain…), picked up my bright yellow hardback at the door and paid for it with a £10 book voucher that Waterstones had presented me with for having spent so much money there in the last year.
Then I went off to the Costa downstairs and broke my so far extremely useless detox diet and had a flat white and a breakfast loaf (I wish they still did the plain one…they’ve only got the banana one now). I was happily recognised by my favourite Costa barista, the gap-toothed fellow, who commented that I hadn’t been in for a while. Something to do with my useless detox, probably.
I finished reading the short opening chapter before I’d even had my first sip, needless to say. To be honest, I don’t care how good the book is. I don’t care what it’s about. I just want to run my eyes over JKRowling’s words, the way you would over a painting that hangs on your wall and never stops giving you pleasure. I want to read sentences that I like, sentence construction that I wish I could echo, even faintly.
Here it is: a public confession.
JKRowling is my favourite author.
She’s also one of the very, very people on this planet that I admire.
Several years ago, after my mother had died – once I’d moved from sad sentimental grief to rage and hatred and insanely rebellious anger – I realised that I had No Respect For My Elders. I’ve never had any respect for anyone older than me just because they were older than me and I’ve never respected all the people you are supposed to: your parents, teachers, prime ministers (God forbid). I’ve never had a mentor and wouldn’t want one. If anyone had to ask me I would not be able to say who my role model was because I’ve never had one of those either, not even as a teenager: no one I wanted to grow up to be like, no one I wanted to copy. There was no one I admired. It wasn’t that I didn’t think anyone was better than me – quite the contrary. I think everybody is terrible, including myself. I see people’s awful flaws, I see what breaks them and I see it on their faces and flooding out of them when they’re trying so hard to keep it secret (this is why I have no friends: who wants to be read like a book all the time.) There has never been anyone that I’ve wanted to emulate. There are no writers, that I’m aware of, that have influenced me.
Forcing myself to find SOMEone, ANYone, that I could admire, I finally came up with JKRowling, and this was only through a process of elimination. I was slow to catch on to the Harry Potter series but once I did, I was on the HP train (the Hogwarts Express, in this case) for life. I’ve reread the series every year for the last five or six years, usually around a time of severe depression when I find I can’t read anything, when nothing interests me, when I’ve gone into a state of utterly, unfeeling numbness. And every time, I’ve managed to move out of my miserable state into one of hope. Every time. Without fail. This year, I’ve not – yet – reread the series but I have read the 7th book again and again, despite this being at least the tenth or eleventh time of reading, I’ve found something else in it that I never noticed before. My favourite line, though, is always the same one: HP asks Dumbledore if this [their meeting at Kings Cross] is real whether it had all been happening inside his head. “Of course it is happening inside your head,” says Dumbledore. “But why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
I’m sure there are many writers who have done this better, classic writers, philosophers, the type of books you “should” read; great writers; respected writers; writers you study at uni; writers you read at your book club; writers who win the Booker and not the Smartie. Perhaps it says too much about me that I get such profound relief and spiritual gratification and hope and understanding and self-awareness from a writer who basically wrote a series of books for kids. Perhaps I’m just stupid. Well, fuck it, then I am. I never professed to be any kind of intellectual. I’m not smart. I’m not clever. I just want to be better.
I don’t care enough to want to apologise for it. I don’t need to look cool.
If I had to begin explaining WHY these books save me every year, I would be writing a very long blog indeed and this isn’t the time or the place. I’ve thought about it at length, though, in the past. At the very least, I could say that it’s because, as a writer, JKRowling isn’t afraid of looking into the utter darkness of her own self, or, at least, uses her characters to do that for her, and that, more than anything, is what I understand most.
Understanding someone is about as close as I’m ever going to get to admiring them, so JKR ended up at the top of my list. I then set myself the even harder task of finding a MAN to admire/respect/understand and the best I could come up with was Marilyn Manson, which says more about me than I’d care to admit, so perhaps I’ll just abandon this topic now…