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.
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.
“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.”
Authors who have spoken out against Amazon
Authors who have spoken out against Amazon
1/6 JK Rowling
Rowling stepped into the stand-off between her US publisher Hachette and Amazon with a subtle comment in a tweet under her pen name Robert Galbraith. @rgalbraith posted that there are 'lots of ways to order' her new novel The Silkworm in the US as 'Amazon kindly suggets'.
2/6 John Green
John Green, author of 'The Fault In Our Stars' told the Associated Press that he is worried Amazon will 'bully publishers into eventual nonexistence'.
3/6 Malcolm Gladwell
'It's sort of heartbreaking when your partner turns on you,' said Gladwell of the stand-off. 'This seems an odd way to treat someone who has made you millions of dollars.' Gladwell added that Amazon's actions were 'puzzling and surprising'.
4/6 Stephen Colbert
TV chat show host and Hachette writer Colbert ‘gave the finger’ twice to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on his show. He’s that livid. ‘This has pushed me past my tipping point so watch out, Bezos, because this means war.’
5/6 James Patterson
Detective writer Patterson (also with Hachette) has claimed that Amazon is waging 'war' and ensuring that 'the quality of American literature will suffer'. 'Amazon wants to control book buying, book selling and even book publishing,' he said, adding that it 'sounds like the beginning of a monopoly.
6/6 Scott Turew
Turew, bestselling author and former president of the Authors Guild, has described Amazon as 'the Darth Vader of the literary world' in support of Hachette.
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."Reuse content