JK Rowling's new book Very Good Lives describes her 'failure'

The most successful children's author in the world has written about failure - read an extract, details below

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The Independent Culture

Dear Muggles, failure is the most important gift life can give you.

This sentiment, which sounds like something Professor Dumbledore might say, is the basis of a new book by Harry Potter author JK Rowling.

Very Good Lives, published on 14th April, is the closest thing to a self-help manual she has written and includes details of Rowling’s own experience as “the biggest failure I knew” and describes how “rock bottom became the foundation upon which [she] built [her] life.”

The 70-page book is drawn from Rowling’s commencement speech at Harvard University in 2008. In it she describes her well-publicised rise from single-mother-on-State-Benefits to become a multi-millionaire author whose books have sold 450 million worldwide and launched the most-successful film franchise in history.

Read extract from JK Rowling's Very Good Lives

She writes of the “implosion” of her “exceptionally short-live marriage”, finding herself jobless, a lone parent and “as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain without being homeless”.

“That period of my life is a dark one and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy-tale resolution,” she writes.

VeryGoodLives.jpg“So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because it is a stripping away of the inessential… I was set free because my greatest fear had been realised and I was still alive and I still had a daughter whom I adored. And I had an old typewriter and a big idea.”

Proceeds from the sale of Very Good Lives will benefit Lumos, a non-profit international children’s charity founded by Rowling with the aim of ending institutionalisation of children around the world.

“Lumos is a spell I created in Harry Potter that brings light into a desperately dark and frightening place,” Rowling said. “At Lumos this is just what we do: we reveal the hidden children locked away behind closed doors in institutions and forgotten by the world.”

A video of Rowling's Harvard talk has since become the most-viewed on the American university’s website and Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust called it “the most moving and memorable” speech she’s heard.

She said: “Years after her visit to Harvard people still talk about [her speech] – and still find inspiration in her singular evocation of the idea that living a meaningful life so often means daring to risk failure.”

In her speech Rowling joked that she didn’t want to “inadvertently influence [the Harvard graduates] to abandon promising careers in business, the law or politics for the giddy delights of becoming a gay wizard.”

Potter fans will recognise the joke as a reference to Hogwarts’ headmaster Albus Dumbledore whom Rowling revealed was gay about a decade ago.

The author this week defended her fictional character on Twitter after a Potter fan commented she “can’t see [Dumbledore] in that way”.

Rowling replied: “Maybe because gay people just look like…people?”

Rowling said when she revealed Dumbledore’s sexuality: “It has certainly never been news to me that a brave and brilliant man could love other men.

“He is my character. He is what he is and I have the right to say what I say about him."