My Favourite Humans, Part 1: JK Rowling

(This blog is the first part of a series I’m working on in honouring the people who not only had a great impact on my life, but through their thoughts, words, and deeds, raised their esteem in my mind.  Consider this part of the answer of that eternal “who would you have dinner with” conversation.)

JK Rowling
Mary McCartney/Hachette Book Group

I’ll come straight out and say it: Joanne Rowling, CH OBE FRSL, AKA Robert Galbraith, is one of my favourite humans.  And I know I’ll get a lot of flak for this, but every now and then one needs to take a stand for what they believe in, and JK Rowling is in the news for every reason except her literary greatness, and maybe it is time I clarify why I put her up as one of my favourite people on the planet.  (in upcoming series of my favourite humans I’ll cover Mike Rowe, James Blunt, Thomas Sowell, Evanna Lynch, and of course, the honourable Nick Cave)

But let’s get something out of the way first.  I’m a free-speech absolutist.  Often attributed to Voltaire but actually from Voltaire biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall, the quote, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”, is one of my guiding principles.  Freedom of speech cannot, and should never, be curtailed.   And not “even” for the speech I do not like, but especially for speech I do not like.   I can go into several reasons, but my number one reason for wanting to see things I don’t like is to know who the village idiots are and where they live.  Also, only listening to people you agree with will put you in an echo chamber where zero growth is possible, and you will never change your mind about anything.  It’s thanks to listening to people I do not agree with that I’ve changed my mind on several topics.  (Sowell changed my mind on Marx, for instance)

But I digress; this is about JK Rowling.  Start with the obvious:  I always liked her writing.  Harry Potter is coming in for a load of retroactive flak from a certain demographic because of reasons, but a few years ago, JK Rowling was walking on water.  And with good reason, the Harry Potter franchise is fantastic, and only the most cynical of people will disagree.  I guess any ‘thing’ will have somebody being a grouch – as a mate of mine said: “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches”.  No, that was not a mate of mine; that was Dita von Teese, and I just wish she was a mate of mine…

The point is that Harry Potter is fantastic, and more than a bit of influence is drawn from the Harry Potter series in my upcoming Felicity Street books.  My four kids all fall into the houses of Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Slytherin, and Ravenclaw.  (I’m a Ravenclaw all the, by the way.  Even have the scarf to prove it.)  The hallowed halls of Hogwarts created by JK Rowling turned into the dingy classes of Buxton Park High as created by me.  My characters are all muggles with no supernatural capacities, but I still believe every one of my kids have a ton of magic.  JK Rowling was responsible for a lot of that magic.  I could not have written Felicity Street without the influence of Harry Potter.

But that’s just her as a writer, and one of many writers I admire, but they do not make my ‘favourite humans’ list.  No, Joanne Rowling got elevated from “mere” writer to one of my favourite people in how she handles her numerous outspoken critics.  Grace, poise, reason, and the occasional burst of scathing sarcasm and ridicule reserved for the most irrational of her detractors.  However, should one listen to The Witch Trials of JK Rowling on Spotify, one gets to stand with Joanne’s basic humanity.  Her support for gay rights, women’s rights — and yes, even trans rights — shines through.  In her conversations with Megan Phelps-Roper, one gets to hear how distressed the controversy around her made her feel.  But despite the distress it has caused her, she stands by her principles.  Joanne did not ‘change her mind’ for the sake of political expediency, and that I can appreciate.  She is no worthless politician who flip-flops on issues to curry favour; she sticks with her principles, even if that means she gets doxed, cancelled, ridiculed, and retroactively branded as a “talentless hack”.  Somebody who has that amount of integrity deserves to be admired.

But wait, there’s more!  My mother died of Covid in 2020.  For those who do not know, 2020 was quite a crap year for me, and if you want to know more, read my critically acclaimed memoir ‘Chronicles of a Reluctant Widower’.  But my mother was sick for a long, long time.  And yes, I know ‘long, long’ is horrible writing.  My mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when she was about ten years younger than I am now but was way too fucking bull-headed to die from it!  It took Covid to take down the 74-year-old Ria Pelser – MS never stood a chance!  Joanne Rowling’s mother was not that lucky.  JK Rowling’s mother, Anne, died of MS at 45.  There is no way that cannot influence anyone.  My wife died at 44As did my best friend, Lucy.  The death of somebody so close to you at such a young age has a profound impact on anyone.  There is no way that the death of a maternal figure (in the form of a mother or a spouse) cannot have an impact on one, and that goes double as a writer.  I have lots in common with JK Rowling: we both breathe air, we both write books, and we both had mothers who had multiple sclerosis.  And we both piss people off!  Now, if I can amass her fortune and fan base…

The Felicity Street Annals- Book 4: MotherBut speaking of mothers: JK Rowling is a mother, and her relationship with her children is evident in the Witch Trials mentioned earlier.  I had a very troubled relationship with my mother, and it left a lot of trauma (a big word kicked around way too often for my liking, but here we are) for me to work through.  What surprised me in my Felicity Street series was how prominent one mother became in the story.  The books were intended to be told only from the children’s points of view, but somehow, Beverly Bradshaw became a character in her own right.  So much so that the fourth and final book in the series is called “Mother”.  My fictional Beverly Bradshaw is a sophisticated lady with blonde hair, blue eyes, a great love for her children, and an unhealthy fondness for cigarettes… Sounds almost like one of the most successful writers the world has ever known.

Joanne Rowling, I salute you!  Thank you for your imagination, your characters, your magic, and for showing me what it is like to be a writer, a mother, a human, and how to be principled and deal with your detractors with grace and poise – and the occasional barb of unbridled wit. I know you will never get to read this and it will piss many people of, but you are hereby the first recipient of Gerry’s Favourite Humans Award.

Cheers!

PS: and if anyone wants to call me transphobic, I’m not going to say, “Some of my best friends are” – my genuine best friend is part of the community.  I played board games at his house last Saturday night.  A street in Buxton Park is named after him.  He is a great guy, and is dating one of my other best friends.  He often looks after my dogs when I go on trips.  His taste in beer is suspect, though.

The Felicity Street Annals- Book 1: Frist Day is now available on preorder on Amaozn.com