Rowling launches novel to fanfare, mixed reviews 羅琳新書《臨時空缺》話題性高 書評兩極

Thu, Oct 04, 2012 - Page 10

After months of hype and anticipation, J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults has appeared, swept into the arms of hopeful booksellers and an army of grown-up Harry Potter fans eager to find out what his creator has done next.

A gritty and darkly humorous tale of ugly realities in a pretty English village, The Casual Vacancy seems a long way from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and reviewers gave it a mixed reception. But, Rowling said last Thursday that she was not worried about the response.

“I have had my books burnt,” said the author, whose magical stories were condemned as Satanist by some Christian groups. “I have got quite a way to go to upset people that much with A Casual Vacancy.” A story of ambition, envy and rivalry, the novel recounts the civic warfare sparked in the fictional Pagford when the unexpected death of a town official leaves a vacancy on the governing body. Characters set on a collision course range from the affluent lawyer Miles Mollison to the Weedons, a ramshackle clan living in The Fields, the run-down housing project on the edge of town.

Rowling told a 1,000-strong audience at London’s Southbank Centre that the idea for the book — “Local election sabotaged by teenagers, basically” — came to her on a plane several years ago.

Writing for a more adult readership, she said, had been “freeing” — though “in other senses it is a challenging book,” told from multiple viewpoints.

Rowling said the book’s focus on teenagers, the heart of Pagford and of the novel, was not a million miles from her previous work — although these troubled and profane youngsters are “not Harry, Ron and Hermione.” “They are very different teenagers,” Rowling said. “They are contemporary teenagers.” The book’s sex and swearing have drawn the most comment so far — some audience members were startled to hear the “f-word” pass Rowling’s lips during the reading last Thursday. But the presence of death is perhaps the book’s most adult element, and one that loomed over Harry Potter’s world, too.

“Death obsesses me,” Rowling said. “I cannot understand why it does not obsess everyone. Think it does. I am just a little more ‘out.’” Five years after the last Potter book appeared, Rowling remains the world’s most successful living writer. The lines were shorter and the wizard costumes missing, but The Casual Vacancy appeared to some of the same fanfare that greeted each Potter tome, with stores wheeling out crates of the books precisely at 8 am as part of a finely honed marketing strategy.

And Rowling retains the intense loyalty of Potter fans. In contrast to the tight security that preceded the book’s release, the atmosphere at the reading last Thursday was warm; it felt like a reunion. Several audience members asked Potter-related questions, which Rowling answered at length. One young man, wearing a “Rowling is our Queen” T-shirt, asked if he could give her a present. Rowling accepted it graciously.

Many in the crowd were young adults who had grown up on Harry Potter and are keen to follow her wherever she wanted to go.

“She has been such an inspiration to everyone,” said 18-year-old university student Milly Anderson. “She has not just influenced people’s childhoods — she has molded them.” Anderson said she was loving The Casual Vacancy — once she had got over the change from stories of the boy wizard and his Hogwarts chums.

“There is swearing and sex,” she said. “It is a bit of a shock.” The Casual Vacancy is already at No. 1 on Amazon’s US chart, and bookmaker William Hill put 2-1 odds on it outselling Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which sold 2.6 million copies in Britain on its first day.

(AP)

歷經數月的大肆宣傳與萬眾期待下,作家羅琳第一本寫給成人的小說終於問世。書商與已長大的《哈利波特》書迷們,爭相拜讀這位哈利波特創造者的下一部著作,以滿足好奇心。

這本新書《臨時空缺》(暫譯),場景設在英國景色優美的村莊,描述一個勇敢又帶有黑色幽默,並顯露人性醜陋的故事。該書與霍格華茲魔法與巫術學校相去天淵,而書評則褒貶不一。不過,羅琳上週四表示,她不會在意這些回應。

羅琳表示:「我的書被焚毀過。」因為書中魔法故事被基督教團體評為惡魔崇拜。她表示:「《臨時空缺》再怎麼被批評,也遠遠不及《哈利波特》令人失望的狀況。」這是一個充滿野心、忌妒與競爭的故事,描述在虛構的派格福小鎮上,鎮議會一位議員驟逝後,因補選而引發的一場民亂。故事人物從一場衝突而生,從富裕律師邁爾斯‧莫利森,到住在城市邊緣貧困集體住宅德菲爾茲的放蕩幫派「維頓斯」都有。

羅琳在倫敦南岸中心對著觀眾席上千名觀眾表示,創作《臨時空缺》,來自她多年前在飛機上所得到的靈感,該書大體上是述說青少年破壞地方補選的故事。

作家表示,寫一本給更多成人看的書,讓她感到「解放」,但要呈現書中人物對同一事件的多重觀點,則「這是本具有挑戰性的書。」

羅琳表示,該書重心圍繞在派格福鎮上的青少年,雖然這群惹事生非且口出穢言的年輕小夥子,「不是哈利、榮恩與妙麗」,倒也不至於與之前的出版作品相差十萬八千里。羅琳表示:「他們是非常特殊的青少年。」她說:「他們是當代的青少年。」目前引來最多評論的部分,是該書關於性與髒話的內容─甚至有些參加上週四新書發表會的觀眾,當場聽到羅琳口出穢言,感到驚嚇不已。不過,死亡其實才是該書被視為最具成人話題的元素,並且也陰森逼近《哈利波特》的世界。

羅琳表示:「我對死亡著迷。」她說:「我不了解怎麼會有人不對它著迷。我覺得它是迷人的,且我只是比一般人更『迷』一些罷了。」最後一集《哈利波特》出版後,迄今已五年,而羅琳至今仍保持世界最成功存活作家的地位。雖《臨時空缺》句子簡短且魔法服飾不再,但該書還是引起像《哈利波特》每個系列出版時般的轟動盛況,每間書店上午八點整準時將一箱箱新書推出,這是精心設計的市場策略之一。

並且,羅琳留住嗑《哈利波特》的忠實書迷。相較新書開賣前的森嚴警備,上週四新書發表會的氣氛則顯得溫暖,就像是一場團圓聚會。幾位觀眾提出《哈利波特》的相關問題,而羅琳則以長篇大論回應。一位身穿印有「羅琳是我們的女王」短袖圓領汗衫的年輕男子,問羅琳是否可以送她禮物,而羅琳則大方接受。

觀眾席中多半是閱讀《哈利波特》長大的年輕朋友,他們渴望追隨羅琳到天涯海角。

一位十八歲的大學生米麗‧安德森表示:「她一直是位鼓舞人心的人。」她說:「她不僅影響了許多人的童年─她還能改造他們。」安德森接著說,當她從男孩魔法師與霍格華茲魔法學校同學們的世界走出來後,她就愛上《臨時空缺》。

她表示:「書中有髒話與性。」「令人有些震驚。」《臨時空缺》已登上美國亞馬遜書籍排行榜冠軍,而出版商威廉希爾預期,該書將以二比一的比例,賣得比英國首日賣出兩百六十萬本的《哈利波特:死神的聖物》還要好。

(美聯社/翻譯:林亞蒂)