Rowling-Galbraith: the pseudonym face

Rowling is on the verge of publishing a third book as Galbraith in the Detective Cormoran series. When a post was put up in a book group I am part of, there was a comment from a member as to why the pseudonym at all since the mystery behind the face behind Galbraith is known to the world of readers and publishers, then why stick to it. This post is an afterthought to that question.. I’m amused the lanes through which post ideas walk in.. this one from a comment, and it pushed me to put together an answer.

I was thrilled about the release of The Casual Vacancy. My journey with JK Rowling began with Harry Potter like most of ours did, and what mattered now was that she was writing again. I was so excited just like during the the release of a HP book that I started a count down to the release of this one too. When the guy from Flipkart called, I was surprised to find that there were three to four copies of the Vacancy in his big delivery bag to be distributed to the residents of the campus. I was not the only one brimming with excitement over a new book. It does not always matter this shared excitement, but at certain moments when I find a kindred soul, the comfort of that feeling is immeasurable.

The book arrived, and I did not waste a minute to start the reading. It was a hardbound copy, a little too big to fit into my hands. The physicality of the book neither dimmed my thrill nor created a tired howl! I started to read, turned page after page.. and found to my dismay that the story was nothing like Harry Potter! There! that was how I did a disservice to both Rowling and the Vacancy! I compared and started on the wrong foot!

It took me a while to understand the whys of why I did not enjoy the Vacancy at all or enjoyed it in parts. I was always thinking of it from a reference point of her previous seven books on Harry Potter. It was difficult to tear her away from the image of the one who weaved together the magical world of Potter, and cast her into the role of a writer of mundane muggle stories. I did read the novel at a later point, and quite enjoyed it after skipping the first 150 pages or so, when it started to edge towards the mystery! (It could be my bias for a good mystery novel that I did not care that much for the intricately woven character profiles in the first 100 pages).

Time passed by and Robert Galbraith appeared. I bought a copy and finished the story in one go, sitting up a whole night! I was partially aware that it was Rowling in disguise, but this book worked better for me than Vacancy. It could be the distance between the Potter series and this one in time.. it could also be the pseudonym. I guess, a pseudonym such as Galbraith shakes away that connection, the name Rowling has with Potter, at least partially and temporarily, although it does play in the back of our heads! Through Galbraith she may be expecting some kind of a magic trick (See I bring in magic again, this is the problem Rowling faces ;))”

Potter is just one of her writerly faces, but that one face has made a deep impression! The pseudonym therefore works to remove her from that face and cast her anew into a new one. At least that is what I think..the name, Galbraith, does not sound anything like Rowling, or a writer of Potter to me.. Galbraith makes me think of big books with mysterious cover pages.. with a shade of black in it.. and spells sleuth!


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pins & ashes

An Aquarius Woman

4 thoughts on “Rowling-Galbraith: the pseudonym face”

  1. In a way, the fact that it was let slip before Cuckoo’s Calling that JKR was RG too was indicative that she’s appealing to the fans she’s got from writing Harry Potter to read her. And it has kind of worked. But yeah, I agree with you that reading the sleuth fiction as RG definitely helps avoid comparison. On a retrospective note, do you think, if you read Casual Vacancy now without trying to compare, the book will read better?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very much. I do think The Casual Vacancy will read better now. Should try it out one of these days! The tricks we play with our minds 🙂 She is the same person, but she is associated with two different genres of publishing with two different names. And this seems to work for her and us than going by a single name. Compartmentalization!


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