Yesterday, as you may have heard, The Casual Vacancy was released. It’s the new book by J.K. Rowling aka “The Harry Potter Lady”. I wrote about my own experiences with it both here and at GoodReads.
The reviews for the book–mostly negative, but a few positive–were uniform in one aspect. Each and every review I’ve seen mentions the graphic nature of the book. (Tangent Alert: They all say this is an “Adult” book. Can we agree right now that we should stop using “Adult” and start using “explicit”? Because “Adult” should not mean “comfortable with abusive sex including pedophila, drug abuse, lying and cruelty.” Those things are not “Adult”. If anything they are a malignant immaturity.) Several reviews printed lines outright, including long, graphic depictions of pornography as seen through the eyes of teenage boys. Apparently they’re teenage boys with a medical degree because Rowling uses the word Vulva. Now we all know I’m a fan of the word vulva but if you’re writing about the world seen through the eyes of teenage boys they aren’t going to be all Medline Diagram about the thing. File this under “complaints about the writing”.
Those select parents with whom I’m angry–aren’t I supposed to be talking about The Parents? And why I hate them? Okay, here we go. If you typed Casual Vacancy into Google yesterday–Two Words–in thirty seconds or less you would have seen at least ten reviews all of which talk about the “Adult” nature of the book. When I went to GoodReads late last night to weigh the opinions of non-pro reviewers I was hit in the face with LiveJournal-style fandom juvenalia. This is the world of children hyperstimulated by visuals, who can’t express themselves in words and must use a surfeit of obnoxiously annoying moving GIFs to display their feelings. I saw thousands–literally thousands–of uses of the word “SQUEEE!” and pictures of people, cats and Disney Characters emoting wildly.
There are a lot of children excited about this book. A lot of children who still think it’s a cozy mystery a la Miss Marple. There were also a lot of children who openly admitted that their parents bought them the book without vetting it.
I will be open here. My parents let me read anything I wanted. Anything. There was not a single thing that was forbidden to read in my house, although my mother was not happy with Helter Skelter or The Shining. I read Hitler: A Study In Tyranny when I was eight years old. (It was the only book on our camping trip I hadn’t read three times.) I’m in favour of kids reading anything they want.
But I’m also very much in favour of knowing what they want. If I had asked for this book my mother would have asked me what it was about, but she would have also asked other adults. She wouldn’t ask to forbid me, but to know what I was reading. But apparently many of the parents that are raising our next generation are so disengaged from their children that they have no idea they’re handing over a five-hundred page political satire full of pedophilia, drug addiction and adulterous sex.
Every one of the problems Rowling addresses are real things that we all need to be aware of. As a Christ follower I firmly believe we need to have awareness of the enemy’s world so that we know exactly how to fight. But I don’t think the twelve-year-olds who are obviously subliterate to begin with, so unable to handle words that they use pictographs to express themselves, are in the place where this book will do anything but leave them with darkness in their mind and a true disappointment with reading altogether.
Parents, stop checking out of your kids’ lives. Quit trying to buy them off with gadgets and amusements. Talk to them. Teach them the value of words, the value of listening. Last night I saw a bunch of kids who seemed to have been raised in a world where they are never listened to fully and must express themselves in a stream of inane babble and moving pictures.
You have wasted your precious gifts, and I can’t pretend I’m not angry about it.