MuggleCast 258 Transcript



Show Intro


["Hedwig's Theme" plays]

Andrew: Because for the first time in years we have a brand new J.K. Rowling book to discuss, this is MuggleCast Episode 258 for September 30th, 2012.

[Show music begins]

Andrew: Welcome to MuggleCast Episode 258. This is very exciting because for the first time - we are here on a Harry Potter podcast, but not talking primarily about Harry Potter because our queen, J.K. Rowling, has written a new book, The Casual Vacancy, and it's now available. But first I want to say: Micah, Eric, and Selina, thank you for helping the show, Episode 257.

Selina: [laughs] You're welcome.

Eric: We just had all that news to get through, Andrew. I'm sure you were so upset listening to it that you weren't on to talk about all of that ridiculous news.

Andrew: I have to say, I enjoyed listening. It was fun to listen.

Eric: Well, I enjoyed hearing you pop in.

Andrew: Oh, thank you. [laughs]

Eric: [laughs] To do the book recommendation, actually.

Micah: Speaking of, today's episode is brought to you by Audible.com.

[Andrew and Eric laugh]

Andrew: The Casual Vacancy.

Eric: Oh, is that what you're going to suggest now?

Andrew: No, actually there is no Audible ad.

Eric: Oh, come on.

Andrew: [laughs] So, there won't be. I wonder if - is it already - it doesn't look like it's available on audiobook form yet. I'm doing a search - oh, yes it is. Never mind.

Eric: Who is - sorry, did we already say who is actually narrating it?

Andrew: Tom Hollander.

Eric: Yes, of course.

Andrew: Let's listen to the sample. Why not? Here it comes. Spoiler alert.

[Audio (Tom Hollander)]: Part One. 6.11 A casual vacancy is deemed to have occurred: a) when a local councillor fails to make his declaration…

Eric: This is riveting.

[Audio (Tom Hollander)]: …of acceptance of office within the proper time…

[Andrew laughs]

[Audio (Tom Hollander)]: …or b) when his notice…

Micah: It's like watching PBS.

Andrew: PBS? Yeah.

Eric: I feel like I'm learning to speak French right now.

Andrew: This is NPR.

Selina: I used this for my media law course last year. I'm learning so much about stuff. [laughs]

Andrew: [laughs] So - okay. Well said. So, we are going to talk about The Casual Vacancy today, and one of the best parts about J.K. Rowling releasing this new book is that she's done a bunch of interviews about the book, and about Harry Potter, and even some other strange topics. And later on in the show, we also have an interview with John Noe and Bre Bishop. They have a new documentary about to be released called Finding Hogwarts. You guys have heard about this, right?

Eric: Yeah.

Selina: Yeah.

Andrew: So, I spoke to them, recorded an interview, and that will be later on in the show. It was a fun talk with them about…

Micah: It's in Orlando. It couldn't be very hard to find.

Andrew: [laughs] Well, they actually shot this before the park opened up so they had to look elsewhere for it.

Micah: Oh. That's unfortunate.

[Andrew and Eric laugh]

Micah: That could have saved them a lot of money.

Andrew: [laughs] Yes, yes. So, are we going to start with Casual Vacancy talk then? I guess so.

Micah: Why not?

Andrew: Because it's the big topic.

[Selina laughs]



The Casual Vacancy Discussion: Initial Thoughts


Andrew: We do have to throw in a little bit of a disclaimer. As we know, this is an adult book and there were some adult topics in the story, and now - so we will address some of those and there may be some more adult language on the show than we normally use. However, we will say we aren't going to spoil you because honestly, shocking revelation, none of us have actually finished the book.

[Eric gasps]

Andrew: And the reason for that may come along in this show. [laughs]

Eric: Well, we're recording this ñ we'll probably release it later, won't we? Today.

Andrew: Yeah.

Eric: Like part of doing it direct to video ñ on Sunday and the book only came out on Thursday, in the middle of the day. I, for one ñ I've worked every single day since it came out, so I have not been able to finish the book.

Andrew: And we purposely delayed recording this until Sunday because we wanted to have time to finish reading it, and I guess this is where our initial thoughts come in to start off this conversation. It is a book that most Harry Potter fans will have zero interest in.

Selina: Yeah.

Eric: Zero interest?

Andrew: Yeah. Because the topic ñ the reason we all read it is because it was written by J.K. Rowling. That's the only reason. I never would have picked up a book about a small town named Pagford in England and they're replacing somebody on the town council. It just would not interest me. So, I have been trying to get through it and it just has not captured my attention yet. I have heard that people ñ that it does pick up later on in the story, but I've yet to reach that point. Now, Selina has gone furthest into the book thus far, and as somebody who is ñ you're what, less than a hundred pages from finishing? How are you feeling about it?

Selina: Well yeah, I've done my ñ [laughs] I've tried so hard to finish before we started this recording because I felt like someone should, but it ñ I feel like ñ and these are, of course, only our initial thoughts on it, but I feel like - this is not a bad book. It's not badly written, it's not ñ for me, it's just not a story that needed to be told. Because you talk about some authors writing about real events and writing as though this is reality and I sort of - there comes a point when you think, "Well okay, if I wanted reality to this extent, I would just go outside." I feel like…

Eric: Whoa.

Andrew: What?

Selina: It's true, though, isn't it? No, okay, not right here. [laughs] Not this kind of reality. But I feel like you just ñ I don't want to be negative because I don't think that it's a bad book. It's just that I'm reading it and I'm thinking, "Sometimes there are stories that don't need to be told," and I'm not sure I'm enjoying the experience of reading. But that doesn't mean that other people can't be.

Eric: Yeah. I found the story to be a little slow-going for me, too. And not that it's slowly-paced or anything, but I'm finding it a lot harder to mull through, to mull over, to get through, than any of the Harry Potter books. And that's a given, and part of that could be due to the subject. To your point, Selina, I think there is some sort of ñ it's an art, though, to capture what's actually in the outside world and put it in a book. So, these characters that are quite a bit older than Jo's previous set of characters, that are running around the real world conniving and scheming and calling each other into question - to actually put that in a book is where the art and the craftsmanship that Jo is conducting here. That's where that comes in. So, even though it is a book about real life, I think the fact that we can read it on the page and go ñ because at several points so far, in the book, I've gone, "Wait a minute, Jo is in my head. How could she possibly know what my high school experience was like?" But there are points in the school, in this book, where I'm thinking, "Oh my God, that easily could have been taken out of a page of my life story, back from in my classroom."

Selina: That's not what I'm saying, though. All I'm saying is that - that's what I said. What she's writing, what she's written in this book, is really well done. I really think she's done an amazing job writing this book. I'm just thinking that the story as a whole ñ you know what I mean? There is no story there. There is no story. And I know to some extent it's about the small actions of a small-town group of ultimately completely insignificant people. But it's just ñ I don't know. It's just that I'm reading this, thinking, "What am I gaining? What am I getting out of reading it? What am I learning about myself and about life?" Maybe - that is going to be different for a lot of people. I don't just like Harry Potter, I like a lot of different kinds of books. And I guess it just isn't for me, but that's not Jo's problem, that's my problem. Does that make sense?

Andrew: Yeah. Micah, I'd like to think you are the most mature among us. What do you think of the book thus far?

Micah: You say that, but I think I was the one who commented to you after I started reading the book and I said, "J.K. Rowling is more perverted than I am."

[Everyone laughs]

Eric: Wow.

Micah: So, when you called me the more mature of the group, I don't know if that is necessarily accurate. But I think it's really hard because we've read a series, not just one book but an entire series, that's based in fantasy. It's a completely different type of genre for her to go from wizards and witches and Horcruxes to real life. And I think that is exactly what this book is about. It's about class warfare, it's about poverty, it's about people who are really falling on hard times, and I wonder how much of that is tied to her growing up and experiences that she had. Her work at Amnesty International comes to mind because I remember her talking about that during one of her appearances, it was either at Carnegie Hall or Radio City. So, I think you are getting more of a flavor of - and I saw a quote from her saying that this was just a book that she had to write, and I wonder how much of that comes from her own experiences and things she's had to deal with in her own life.

Andrew: Hmm.

Eric: I think...

Selina: I'm sure that's what is going on.

Eric: Go ahead, Selina.

Selina: No, that was it.

Eric: Oh. What did you say?

Selina: I said I'm sure that's what she was drawing on for some of it. I mean, it sort of calls out - it's very...

Micah: Dark.

Selina: Yeah, it's very dark but it's very typical of what you would see in real-life Britain. I mean, this could be happening anywhere right now.

Eric: I wanted to ask - I guess it helps that you are most of the way through the book too, because I wanted to ask. As a Nordic person...

[Andrew laughs]

Eric: ...do you find - you are a lot closer to Britain. Do you find that this book might be relevant to, or perhaps more relevant to, British children or Europeans than it is to Americans, perhaps?

Selina: I have spent five years in Britain, so [laughs] I would say as someone who knows a lot about how the system works over there, I think that this is the kind of story that, for me, is not a story, it's just reality. And it's very bleak and it's very depressing and there's no shadow of a happy ending or a resolution to anything, which I think is real life. That's why I was making the comment about it being real life and super depressing...

[Eric laughs]

Selina: ...because it's literally you could walk out of your house and see. But actually, my mother said something interesting. She said that she thought it might be more interesting to Americans than British people because for you guys it's an insight into what British life is like. Whereas for us, it is no different than anything you might see.

Andrew: Yeah, so it's kind of like fantasy in that regard, almost. [laughs]

Eric: Like, for us.

Andrew: Yeah.

Micah: A different kind of fantasy though, I think, because remember with Hogwarts you got to go to this world that we could only hope existed in some capacity, it was a great escape. Whereas this other world that J.K. Rowling is writing about now is in fact, as Selina pointed out, reality. And nobody wants to necessarily deal in reality, they want to deal in what could potentially be. And so I think that is why, for us, even though we grew up with it, the Potter series is more captivating than a book like this.

Eric: Well, I feel that fantasy novels on the whole or in general are actually just allegories for what actually goes on in the real world, which is why we look at Cornelius Fudge and we say the corrupt politician or the incompetent politician and that echoes, obviously, with experiences in our real world. But fantasy is more fun than, in many cases, just a straight play or straight drama about politics, which is why I think the Harry Potter series is going to continue to succeed far beyond a straight book like this.

Andrew: I don't have all bad things to say about The Casual Vacancy, though. I have been enjoying it to a point. I think J.K. Rowling's writing, as somebody mentioned earlier, is still phenomenal. She is so vivid in her writing and her descriptions of characters. And the beginning part of the book, where everybody is discovering Barry Fairbrother's death - which I don't consider a spoiler because we all knew who dies at the beginning.

[Eric laughs]

Andrew: That part, to me, took a while to get through. And I think what put me off on a bad foot with this book is there are a lot of character introductions, and it's a lot to handle.

Selina: Yeah.

Andrew: It's a lot to take in. But that said, I'm starting to get acclimated with the characters and there are particular ones I'm - whose story lines I'm enjoying. And I haven't given - so far, I can't say that this is a bad book because I have been enjoying it to a point. It's just that my reservations right now is it is slow to start, there are too many characters, I think, and the setting, it was just - this is a big, big, big jump for J.K. Rowling. I was actually saying to my friends the other day, and I'm interested in your guys' takes on this, she should have worked her way up to this book. It shouldn't have been seven books of Harry Potter fantasy and then going to this. It should have been - the next book, I think, should have been another - an older, young adult novel, something that would have captured - that feeds the audience of the grown-up Harry Potter audience, as in people our age and older than that because obviously Harry Potter spanned all ages. But adults and young adults, they grew up with this and still love J.K. Rowling's writing for what it was. Would you guys agree she should have maybe used the subject matter that could have appealed to more people? Not kids, but people our age, let's say?

Selina: I don't necessarily agree because I think that with this book, I think - clear message that she's saying, "I'm not done with Harry Potter but I'm moving away from Harry Potter, and if any of you thought that I was going to write another Harry Potter book, then I'm going to slap you in the face with this." [laughs]

Eric: Wow.

Selina: It's a heavy book, you could hit someone real...

[Eric and Selina laugh]

Selina: But my point is that I think that what happened with this book was it was marketed completely wrong, because everybody knows that the people that are going to go out and pick up the new J.K. Rowling book are going to be Harry Potter fans. And the only people that this book is not going to appeal to probably is ninety percent of Harry Potter fans. So, I feel like...

Eric: So, mis-marketed or - was it marketed at all?

Andrew: See, that's the thing. Yeah.

Eric: Because I feel like - short of the fact that there are a hundred copies of the book at every bookstore in every city in the world, this book really wasn't marketed. It sold itself, is the problem, and I think what I'm feeling that might be similar to what you're feeling, Selina, is that we needed to - when the biography was released - or sorry, the summary - was released that said this is J.K. Rowling's first book for adults, it was over quick. That was not emphasized enough, I think, that this book really wasn't for, as you said, the majority of the people who are going to be picking it up because of their love for J.K. Rowling through Harry Potter.

Micah: And here's the thing though: I think that if you're not going to market the book, if you're going to ride on the success of Harry Potter and expect that people are going to go out and they're going to purchase this book because they were such huge fans of the Harry Potter series, then you also have to expect that you're going to have this book held to the same standards and the success of Harry Potter. There's no way to kind of get around that. I'm not saying that it's necessarily fair to go ahead and do that, and say, "Well, look at what the Potter series was able to achieve," and put that up against The Casual Vacancy. But I think at the same time, if you're going to ride the heels of Potter and assume that because that did so well that you don't have to market The Casual Vacancy or do more than what was done, you're sort of setting yourself up for, I think, a lot of critical reviews.

Andrew: Yeah, I mean...

Eric: Or backlash, you know?

Andrew: I think, in terms of publicity, they did really downplay it. And there were articles about it, and booksellers were getting frustrated, like, "Oh, why isn't there more promotional material for us to use?" Like, if you walked by a Barnes & Noble, all you saw was that single poster in the window, saying, "J.K. Rowling's first book since Harry Potter." And I think that is a thing that people should really market, because it is a big deal. But that's my point with this whole transition thing. Harry Potter fans were so looking forward to the next book. I mean, Pottermore kind of let some people down. Other people enjoyed it, okay, but people have been yearning for a new J.K. Rowling book for five years. And so, when her first one out of the door is this one about ñ one as obscure a topic as this is, then it does turn off a lot of people.

Selina: I have...

Eric: Well, let's talk about the beginning of this book. Sorry, Selina. Go ahead.

Selina: I just wanted to ask something really quickly before we talk about the actual book, which was: do you guys think that this book ñ that Jo should or could have released this under a pen name? Because, in my opinion, when I first started reading I was so put off by all the references and all this - I was like, "J.K. Rowling wrote this? This is horrible!" But then ñ and also, we'll get into that later about the references ñ but then I put it away and I came back to it, and I sort of forgot that Jo wrote it and I enjoyed it a lot more for that...

Andrew: Hmm.

Selina: ...because I didn't associate it with Harry Potter at all.

Andrew: Yeah, I definitely wish ñ well no, I don't think she should have put it under a pen name. Because, look, she wants to make a lot of money off of this, there's no question about that. Everybody is - and her publisher wanted to make a lot of money off of it. So, to do that, they had to say "J.K. Rowling." Otherwise, how many copies of this book would have sold? [laughs] I mean...

Eric: Well, I don't really think she was in it for the money with this book. But at the same time, I don't think she should have kept it to herself and not sold it. You know, it's tough. I think what it is, is she's just really being herself and it's everybody else in the world that has to change their mindset about what the name J.K. Rowling means. And I think that unfortunately or fortunately for everybody involved, that's what happened here, is that she published the book under J.K. Rowling and a lot of us were expecting a completely different book as a result of that.

Andrew: Mhm.

Micah: Yeah, but would you ever associate J.K. Rowling with anything other than Harry Potter? I mean, regardless of what she writes in the future, it's always going to be Potter.

Eric: Well, I associate J.K. Rowling with good storytelling and an engrossing mystery. Now, I will say that in this book there is a lot less mystery. The plot - the end of the book is still hidden. I don't know how it's going to end up, but it's not the kind of story that Harry Potter is in many, many ways. But it is still, as we all I think would agree, well-told or well-written.

Andrew: Maybe one of the biggest mistakes that we're making as readers is kind of forcing ourselves to read it. Maybe it's a book that's best left consuming in small bits over a couple of weeks.

Micah: Yeah, but we're not forcing ourselves. We're barely a hundred pages into the book...

Andrew: Well...

Micah: ...some of us. We're taking our time, aren't we?

Andrew: Well, I was trying to get done by Sunday, but then I started reading on Thursday, it wasn't doing it for me, and Friday I tried more and it wasn't doing it for me. I mean, maybe we [laughs] would like it better if we just weren't feeling forced to finish it.

Micah: Yeah. Well, I like what you said earlier, too. The initial part of it is hard to get through because there are a lot of characters that are presented to you. There's a lot of character development. And I understand you kind of need to do that in order to progress with the story, but I felt like ñ and again, I don't mean to compare it to Potter, but her previous books ñ the character development felt much more fluid. In this book, it felt like she had to tell you all about a character in those initial chapters and get as much information as possible in front of you instead of just kind of interweaving it into the story. And so, from what I've read so far I feel like that part of it has fallen a little bit short.

Andrew: Mhm.

Eric: In addition, all the characters that she's introducing in the book - none of them are particularly redeeming or lovable.

Andrew: Yeah.

Eric: To be honest, there are a lot of just shady people and shadier people and worse people. And even the children - you can't like any of the kids because they're little bastards.

Andrew: I like Andrew.

[Micah laughs]

Eric: You like Andrew?

Andrew: Yeah.

Eric: [laughs] Yeah. I...

Selina: Wait...

Eric: But they all have such deep flaws and none of them are immediately likable.

Selina: You know what this is? This is like - you guys are going to like this one - it's like the Game of Thrones series if it had been done in this time. There are no swords and there are no maestros, which is what makes it interesting, but all of the characters are great and flawed and really intricate, and I feel like if we had got to spend more time with them then it would have really developed into some huge political canvas that felt really important. I think that it's not the characters and the storytelling that fails, it's - for me, I am not saying it fails - but it's just that there's so little importance to what they do, and I think that's probably part of her point. But it just makes it feel so redundant. You know what I mean? So, it's like clashing.

Eric: Well, look at the classics here for a minute. Think about Catcher in the Rye. It's a perfect example for me to use because I hate that book, but it's a book that was required reading in high school and I found Holden Caulfield to be an insufferable jackass. But not a whole lot happens to him throughout the history of that book. It starts off, I think, he leaves college, he goes and spends a night in a dilapidated building, and I forget what happens in the rest, but nothing of great significance is being championed in that book. That book is about the character himself, and how he was viewed at the time and how - that's one of the books that said that this kid who is young can still be very deep with his emotional analysis and how he sees the world. So, these books that are shown to us, even in school, aren't necessarily about anything. They're just - they get to be the status that they're in because of how the story is told and different things about it. So even though nothing particularly happens, like you were saying, Selina, I feel like a lot of these characters are still strong enough that this book could be received pretty well. Not only by us, but in the future.

Selina: Just really quickly, I don't mean that nothing happens. I mean that there's nothing for us to care about. There's no event that we can get invested in. You know what I mean?

Eric: Well, what about the election? Because where I'm sitting now - I'm a quarter of the way through the book - where I'm sitting now, I am interested in finding out who the candidates are going to be and that's what I'm invested in right now.

Selina: I just - from my point of view, it won't - I feel so negative, it's bad, but it won't matter who wins. Do you know what I mean? I don't know. Maybe I'm just... [laughs]

Micah: I was just going to say though, Selina, the point you brought up about Game of Thrones, I was actually thinking about that as I was reading through, because it was almost as if she could have broken it up by character, like George R.R. Martin does in his books. So it would almost be - the first chapter would be Barry and then it would go on to be about the different characters in this particular book. But a lot of people complained about the first book in that series too, saying that it felt like it took so long to kind of get the wheels going, and I feel like it's the same thing with this book. I don't know if you agree or disagree.

Eric: I think, too...

Selina: I see that.

Eric: Yeah, she didn't have seven books to tell this story. She chose to do it in one, which is why, I think, you are getting a lot of this introduction. And she has to lay the dimensions all before she can continue to tell the story, because it's absolutely important that we meet all of the players in the story during the same story that's going to finish it. You know what I'm saying? Whereas the books, every year at Hogwarts there was a new teacher and some of them have ties to Harry's past, some of them don't, but it was all laid across this grand canvas where everything here is crammed into one book. It's interesting to see that she didn't jump right into another series.

Micah: Right.

Selina: Unless it is a series.

Eric: [laughs] Do you think...

Andrew: She said it's not.

Eric: Oh.

Andrew: She said it's not going to be a series.

Eric: Oh okay.

Andrew: Umm...

Eric: But...

Andrew: Go ahead.

Eric: Yeah, go on.

Andrew: No, no, go ahead.

Eric: Oh, I wanted to talk about the first chapter, or the intro, but we don't have to.

[Prolonged silence]

Andrew: I'm just mid-chew right now, go ahead.

Eric: You're mid-chew? [laughs] I wanted to talk about the opening because to me - well, obviously the opening is really important about any book because you are supposed to be engrossed and it's got to catch you. But I found in the beginning - and it's Barry's sort of last moments of his life - I found it to be at times very brutal, the narration. Essentially he's finishing up some paperwork and he has to take his wife out for their anniversary. He kisses his kids goodbye for the last time and eventually collapses on the ground. When he's collapsed from this brain aneurysm, there's this line - let me go back to it. Okay, it says that he experienced pain that he never felt - he's having a brain aneurysm - he's experiencing this throbbing pain that was nothing like he ever felt. He didn't want to endure it but "endure it he must, for oblivion was still a minute away." So, this is like - the narrator is being very - it's torture. This guy is being tortured and we're forced to witness it. He's forced to witness it for another sixty seconds. And when he's in the ambulance, the woman who is in the ambulance with him compares the oxygen mask to a muzzle. And it's also said that he was lying unconscious and unresponsive on the ground in a pool of his own vomit, and I'm thinking, "This is really intense! This guy is dying and he's just completely helpless and we're forced to witness this terrible death in the beginning of the book." It really set an interesting tone, I thought.

Andrew: Yeah.

Eric: How about you guys?

Andrew: You're just talking about basically those first two pages there, right?

Eric: Yeah, that's the first two pages where...

Andrew: Yeah.

Eric: The narrator felt...

Andrew: I did like how - hmm?

Eric: Yeah.

Andrew: The narrator felt...

Eric: The narrator felt like they were - it was just pathetic, like there was some kind of - like he was being insulted or something, you know? He spends the last few minutes of his life thinking about, why do I even have a golf club membership, I suck at golf...

Andrew: Yeah.

Eric: ...and then he dies and he is forced to be tortured with a brain aneurysm. It brought the world - it was real. It was very real, like this really happens to people kind of thing.

Andrew: Mhm. Well, I guess we can move forward in the discussion here. I have to say, when I was going to pick up the book at Barnes & Nobles, I was very excited. It felt almost like a Harry Potter book release, going in, seeing it there right at the front, holding it in your hand for the first time...

Micah: Did you smell it?

Andrew: Uhhh, maybe.

[Eric and Micah laugh]

Eric: Did you smell it, Micah?

Micah: Well, the Potter books - we've talked about this, they had a very distinctive smell to them.

Andrew: All books have smells to them.

Eric: I think that comes from being printed on recycled paper, Micah.

Micah: Oh okay.

Eric: You know, if it used to be part of a McDouble wrapper...

Micah: Yeah, exactly.

Eric: ...it smells like a McDouble.

Micah: I wanted to go back to something you said before, talking about those first two pages, but do you think it would have been different - maybe people find it a little bit more enjoyable, not as slow, more to look forward to - if Barry Fairbrother had been murdered as opposed to just dropping dead? Somebody is after his seat on the council?

Andrew: Like a whodunnit.

Micah: Yeah.

Eric: Hmm.

Micah: Because that's honestly what I was expecting, having read the summary of the book beforehand.

Andrew: I never thought that.

Micah: I thought we were looking for more of a murder mystery/political thriller type of book.

Andrew: That would have been cool. That definitely would have been cool. Because there was rumors, I think, that her book - before we even knew it was called The Casual Vacancy or anything like that, I think there was a rumor - one author said, "Oh yeah, she's going to be writing a mystery," and we were like, "Oh okay."

Eric: Yeah, that's right.

Andrew: I think definitely it would have been more interesting. How do you classify this book? What genre is this?

Eric: Hmm. Political sleeper? What do you call those?

[Andrew laughs]

Eric: And that's not offensive, but the fact that it is - it's a character drama, that's all it is. It's a character drama set in a small town which obviously is a very accurate depiction of said small towns, I think.

Andrew: Yeah.

Eric: But again, going back to the comparison between real life and stuff, I find that the adults in this book - and there are a fair number of them - really aren't - I'm identifying all aspects of their personality, with having known adults who are like that. I'm kind of closer to the parenting age than I used to be, like when I first picked up Potter, so a lot of this time spent - these chapters about the parents are interesting me because I have this perspective where I'm like, "I wonder if my parents ever felt that way," or something like that. We're dealing with more adults and now we're closer to being adults, so I find in a very interesting way that these characters kind of still appeal to me than, say, if J.K. Rowling had written a book set in a high school or set with younger characters again like she did with Potter, I don't know that I would have enjoyed it as much.

Andrew: Hmm.

Eric: What do you guys think?

Andrew: I mean, I don't know if I could - I'm enjoying this right now because of her writing, because of her character writing, and when you get to the scenes with the dialogue I do find it intriguing. I think she does write some great character scenes. But I can't imagine a situation - if there wasn't that, if it was more of the very beginning, like the first couple of chapters, I would be incredibly - I probably would have given up. I think it is improving a little bit, and like I said at the top of the show, it does - I heard somebody say that - I've heard a couple of people say, "It gets better." [laughs]

Micah: Well, Selina, does it?

Selina: That's just the thing, though. It doesn't get better! [laughs]

Andrew: Aww.

Eric: [laughs] Oh God. Wait, better than what? Better from what?

Andrew: More fast - I heard, "Yes, it starts slow in the beginning but it picks up the pace."

Selina: I - it doesn't get better than - I don't know. Maybe it's just because it's so depressing, but I just feel like it's just more and more of the same. [laughs] It's not that I'm not enjoying it, but it's...

Micah: So there's no pay off yet?

Selina: You will literally not be able to tell the 350th page from the 20th page. Nothing has changed. And yes, you do learn more about the characters and some of the stories - Krystal's, I'm sure we're all going to be big fans of her part of the story because it is riveting and it is engaging and it is tragic and it is heartbreaking, and other people's stories. Some of them are interesting, some of them are not. But in terms of the story, in terms of the actual plot - I mean, I still have 80 pages to go, but it's - I'm not expecting anything to...

Micah: Shock you?

Selina: Yeah. And I wouldn't. I would feel, in a way, that - [laughs] to use a phrase from the book, that would be inauthentic to [laughs] the characters if something - blah - if something huge suddenly happened to "fix everything" or make some kind of happy ending, because that's not the story she's writing. But I'm just left with a, "Life sucks. Where's Hogwarts?" [laughs]

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