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

Click to follow
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."

Comments