Saturday, November 10, 2012

J.K. Rowling's "The Casual Vacancy" (2012)

 
The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling's first post- Harry Potter book.
 
I read part of one of the Harry Potter books, but I wasn't engaged enough to keep going. That said, I'm looking forward to reading Potter aloud with J. and T.
 
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The Casual Vacancy has a great premise, but the follow-through is weak.
 
It's the story of a small British town where a respected local councilman dies unexpectedly.
 
There's a large cast of characters, with most of the families (the Mollisons, the Walls, the Jawandas) represented by two generations.
 
Tension between the adolescent characters and their parents is a prominent theme, and there are also socio-economic issues (related to a controversial public housing complex) and racial issues (one of the council members is an Indian-Brit).
 
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So there are some great themes, right?  I was immediately reminded of Tom Perotta's books.
 
But Rowling fails somewhere: the plot, or the characters, or the writing. There's not enough dramatic tension, or perhaps she jumps too quickly from one perspective to the next, and the result is that the characters are not sufficiently fleshed out. 
 
It's hard to put my finger on it: it's not a bad book, but given Rowling's reputation I'm surprised it's not better. I imagine it's tricky to make the jump from writing for children and adolescents to writing for adults. Maybe she is still sorting it out.
 
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562. The political question of the moment: will Obama and the Congress let the Bush tax cuts expire on December 31, or will they act before year-end?  David Brooks predicted last night that the cuts will expire and the new Congress starts fresh in 2013, but I think there might be too much pressure (and too many dire predictions of market collapse) for Brooks to be right.

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