Monday, July 31, 2017

Birthday: "Humans have a knack for choosing precisely the things that are worst for them."

Joanne Katherine Rowling Murray, CH, OBE, FRSL, FRCPE (1965-  )
Author, philanthropist

She was an unpromising girl, Joanne with no middle name. Her father was an unpleasant aircraft engineer and her mother was often ill.

Rejected by Oxford, she read French at Essex but mostly Dickens and Tolkien, while listening to The Smiths. She got a job as a bilingual secretary for Amnesty International.

In 1990, on a train between London and Manchester, she was looking at some passing cows when a thought came to mind: “Boy doesn’t know he’s a wizard, goes to wizard school.”

“I have no idea where it came from,” she later told an interviewer. “I think the idea was floating through the train looking for someone, and my mind was vacant enough, so it decided to zoom in there.”

She started writing, and life started getting complicated. Her mother died after a long struggle with MS. She moved to Portugal to teach English, married a local, had a daughter, and returned to Britain without the husband. She scraped out a living from odd jobs while raising her daughter, often writing in coffee shows because the pram trips but the baby to sleep.

Rowling finished Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in 1995. A London publisher, Bloomsbury, bought the book after the chairman’s eight-year-old- given chapter one- demanded the rest.

Publishable, but not career-making, the publisher advised after giving her a $2500 advance. Get a day job, he told Rowling. Bloomsbury printed 1,000 copies, half of which went to libraries. She adopted her grandmother’s name as her middle one to come up with a genderless nom de plume, J.K. Rowling.

The book was shopped to US publishers, generating enough interest for an auction. Scholastic paid $105,000 for the rights.

The book clicked with kids in America, and from there, around the world like nothing ever seen. 4,195 pages and six more books later, Rowling’s final Harry Potter book sold eleven million copies on its first day.

Total sales are now well north of 500 million copies; in 2004, Forbes declared her the first billionaire author. She denied it. Maybe $700 million or so.

The series is now a $15 billion global brand. Rowling retained tight control over the movie versions, so much so that when Coca-Cola won the bidding for principal product tie-in sponsor, she extracted an $18 contribution to her literary charities.

Sudden fame and wealth bring press photographers. Admittedly jealous of her privacy, she is celebrated for suing British tabloids, even making The Daily Mail the favorite paper of Harry Potter’s loathsome aunt.

Rowling says the Harry Potter saga is over and has published four well-regarded novels under the pseudonym, Robert Galbraith, to help establish her outside the fantasy genre. Potter carries out an active calendar as a philanthropist and has a well-earned following as one of the liveliest users of Twitter: both as an inspiration and a scourge of the stupid, especially of the Christianist tendency.

Long accused of promoting witchcraft by evangelicals, Rowling caused right-wing heads to explode when she revealed she considered Professor Dumbledore, the elderly headmaster of Hogwarts School, to be gay. She then celebrated the Irish marriage equality referendum declare that Dumbdore and Tolkien’ wizard, Gandalf, could marry there.

That inspired the reality-challenged Westboro Baptist Church to an ill-advised challenge:

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