11:59 pm EDT, September 26, 2012

‘Potter’ it ain’t: A ‘Casual Vacancy’ parental guide

“Oh look! The Casual Vacancy, the latest book by J.K. Rowling! What a bright and beautiful cover! My nine-year-old loved the Harry Potter books, she’s sure to love this!” – Every parent in the world in about 24 hours.


It can be a habit, especially with parents that don’t read, to just pick any book off the shelf to satisfy their bookworm child. Reading is good for a growing brain, right? Right.

Here’s the deal: People, especially authors, are given free license to write what they please. If an author feels the need to break away from children’s literature with a bit of fresh real-world fare, they should feel welcome to.

Since books don’t normally come with MPAA ratings (Fifty Shades of Grey is meant to teach my child about colors, right?), this leaves parents with the sticky decision of deciding what their darlings should read.

Highly attentive parents, especially with children that haven’t yet hit their teen years, normally would want to read everything they give their children first. Y’know, in case the book turns out to be about heroin and vaginas.

Quickly, let’s consider one of the most outwardly vulgar quotes from arguably the darkest book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

“Not my daughter you bitch!” – Molly Weasley

OOOOOHHHHH SNAP! Mrs. Weasley just whipped out the B-word on one of the series’ most feared villains! Now, everyone just calm yourselves down.

I know, vulgarity is exciting, but like my fifth grade teacher said before he put on that sex-ed tape, “If we can’t handle this like responsible adults, then we’re just going to have to do math.” Nobody wants to do math, right?

Now, let’s take what may very well be the “dirtiest” quote from A Casual Vacancy and play a quick game called, “Does this sentence make you uncomfortable?”

“Together they had explored as much online porn as they could access for free: shaven vulvas: pink labia pulled wide to show darkly gaping slits: spread buttocks revealing puckered buttons of anuses; thickly lipsticked mouths, dripping semen.”
The Casual Vacancy

……………….yeah. Not to worry though, this isn’t the only “interesting” bit.

Note that the above quote is not largely representative of what you’ll find in the story, but it is a sample of the “adult” writing you can expect to find.

Rowling has been saying for years that her first post-Potter book would be “for adults,” but since that particular interview isn’t required viewing for every parent on the planet, I think it can be pretty clear that the shit is about to hit the fan.

That’s not it, either. Among the themes in The Casual Vacancy are subjects like rape, masturbation, drug use, teenage violence, self-abuse, domestic violence and child abuse. We’re not talking “Harry doesn’t get any bacon and sleeps in the cupboard” abuse, either. Things in The Casual Vacancy get pretty real, and there’s a very fair reason why.

It’s meant to be real.

Occasionally, an author feels the need to hold a mirror up to society; not the wonky, rose-tinted fun-house mirror that an author of children’s literature is sometimes limited to.

Sometimes an author just feels the need to tell a story the way it’s currently happening, not through metaphors like magic and pixies, but through actual problems like drugs and abuse. That’s what good art has the potential to do. It shows us what we really are.

Rowling has spent the past decade and a half writing exclusively about a fictional magical world, and although she single-handedly managed to craft one of the most elaborately splendid universes available in literature, there must have been a portion of her that wished that she had the license to really do what she felt held a mirror to the world.

In a world that is full of heroin and corruption and…well…vulvas, it’s sometimes fitting to discuss a world with heroin and corruption…and vulvas. We live in a very morally bankrupt society, people. Watching thirty minutes of the news on any given night and being forced to hear about foreign genocide and mass murder-rape can give anyone enough proof of that.

Speaking of the news, the world is about to blame J.K. Rowling for an awful lot right now, including (we can almost guarantee this), the corruption and vulgar indoctrination of our world’s youth.

They’ll say things like “using her name as an author to poison the minds of our children,” and “It was RIGHT next to Harry Potter at Target, wizards and books are trying to ruin a generation!” or something equally as stupid.

The fact is, Rowling is not a children’s author. She never has been. Rowling is an author.

We want to stand as tall as J.K. Rowling. We want to recognize that The Casual Vacancy may not be a novel for everyone, but it is certainly a novel for people that have grown up in a world that has festered a reputation for vulgarity and ugliness.

We aren’t saying that you should blindly give this particular novel to a nine-year-old, but we are saying that you shouldn’t blindly censor it from your fourteen-year-old.

We encourage people, especially young people, to make the decision to read the book (or not read the book) for themselves.

Parents, you obviously have license to monitor what your children do, see, and watch, so take the knowledge we’ve provided you and do with it as you will, but first, take the time to ask yourself this question.

Is it your children’s innocence you’re protecting, or is it your own stubborn insistence that words, including the word “fuck,” are truly the ugliest thing they could be exposed to?

“If we can’t handle this like responsible adults, then we’re just going to have to do math.”

And nobody likes math.

What do you think? Will you be reading ‘The Casual Vacancy’?

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