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JKR's essay wins Russell prize

(117 Posts)
TheChampagneGalop Mon 21-Dec-20 15:21:25
"JK Rowling is almost certainly the greatest writer of English children's fiction of her generation, and a remarkable humanitarian. It turns out she writes exhilaratingly powerful prose too.

In a blog about the transgender debate, she offended many people. Offence is the price of free speech. Those offended felt she was questioning their identity and even attacking their human rights, which they argue is a form of discrimination or hate speech.

I take absolutely no view whatsoever on the issues that she raises.

I do take an issue on abuse and trolling, and Rowling has achieved the inglorious honour of topping many a league table for those. The deluge of hatred that she faced before writing this blog made it brave, and it was nothing compared to what came after. Talking about bravery, so too, by the way, was Suzanne Moore's engrossing, long, personal essay for Unherd on why she left the Guardian.

We should all applaud bravery in writers - even those with whom we disagree. And Rowling's essay contained moments of both real beauty and piercing honesty, as when she revealed that she is a survivor of domestic abuse and sexual assault.

What the judges - that is, the voices in my head - most admired about the writing was the plain English. It is an interesting fact about rhetoric that if you want people to understand something, plain, mono-syllabic words are usually your best bet: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country".

Or think of the final line from Enoch Powell's most notorious speech: "All I know is that to see, and not to speak, would be the great betrayal."

I'm not endorsing the argument; but the rhetorical power of that line comes from the fact that there are 16 words, the first 15 of which have one syllable, and the last of which has three.

Compare it with this line in Rowling's essay: "So I want trans women to be safe. At the same time, I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe."

The rhetorical power from those two sentences derives partly from the plainness of the English. Only "women" (twice) and "natal" contain more than one syllable.

If you're ever editing copy that seems verbose, go through it and think about cutting syllables while conveying the same meaning. Plain English has power. JK Rowling gets that.
In his essay for Rolling Stone, Wade Davis captures what he believes is the end of American pre-eminence"

OP’s posts: |
MRC20 Mon 21-Dec-20 15:33:13

Well done JK excellent news. Just going to mosey on over to Twitter to watch the meltdown 🤣🤣🤣

nauticant Mon 21-Dec-20 15:34:16

JKR was a runner up. The winner was Decca Aitkenhead: How a Jamaican Psychedelic Mushroom Retreat Helped Me Process My Grief.

The Russell Prize isn't an official thing but is rather a pet project of Amol Rajan. However, it's amazing to see JKR's contribution recognised by a public face of the BBC.

nauticant Mon 21-Dec-20 15:37:43

Speaking of twitter, if you look at the responses to Rajan's announcement tweet:

they're demonstrating the particular reasons for him choosing JKR. How ironic.

TheChampagneGalop Mon 21-Dec-20 15:38:16

I know it isn't an official thing but I'm so glad that her essay is getting positive attention - hopefully more people will read it!

OP’s posts: |
ARoombaOfOnesOwn Mon 21-Dec-20 15:40:32

In a blog about the transgender debate, she offended many people.

I don’t think the people offended actually read the essay - that was part of the problem. But I agree it’s great to see her referenced and Suzanne Moore too.

yourhairiswinterfire Mon 21-Dec-20 15:45:45

Lol, they're already linking to a complaints page to 'complain about impartiality'. Sigh. They'll never catch on, will they?

thinkingaboutLangCleg Mon 21-Dec-20 15:46:43

Thanks, OP — and a big thank-you to the BBC media editor Amol Rajan. It takes courage for a journalist to speak in favour of a dissident these days, knowing how much hate this will being down on him too.

PenguindreamsofDraco Mon 21-Dec-20 15:46:51

Interesting how the article has to include virtually every line that the author is not endorsing what she said. Dont think that was the case with any of the other topics. How strange.

SpaceOp Mon 21-Dec-20 15:59:22

I follow a lot of different people on Twitter and some of them are people who, outside of the trans debate, seem to be similar t me in attitude and approach to feminism etc. So it's always a surprise when they come out with some crap about how bad TERFs and Transphobes are and are jumping up and down with excitement because a man has announced he's actually a woman.

Today, I had to unfollow someone because first the sheer vitriol with which she greeted this announcement actually took me back. And then 10 minutes later she tweeted gloatingly about how in her professional life she'd managed to ensure that a "transphobe" had a paid speaking gig cancelled.

So yay for JKR's essay being credited for being a sane, rational argument that you may or may not agree with but that nonetheless does not involve abusing people who disagree with you.

Passmeabottlemrjones Mon 21-Dec-20 16:00:25

Oh..... That's going to go down well on Twitter I'm sure 😂

TheChampagneGalop Mon 21-Dec-20 16:01:36

Those twitter people are really really angry...because if more people read Rowling's ACTUAL words, they will realise that she isn't being hateful.

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allmywhat Mon 21-Dec-20 16:17:28

I laughed at "may the three trans ghosts visit you this year" from one of the twittertwerps.

Only imagine how insufferable they'd be. Someone needs to make this. It would be the only version of A Christmas Carol where the audience is rooting for Scrooge from the beginning to end, and it would be hilarious.

RoyalCorgi Mon 21-Dec-20 16:32:16

I really want to read the Decca Aitkenhead piece now. Anyone got a share token? I have already used up my week's allocation of two free pieces.

Igneococcus Mon 21-Dec-20 16:48:40

Give me a moment corgi

Igneococcus Mon 21-Dec-20 16:50:18

Here is the DA piece:

littlbrowndog Mon 21-Dec-20 16:54:55

Heck some hate on that Twitter feed 🤷‍♀️


I like the below from Amal

As always, the selection process was watertight, in that nominations were submitted by me, to a rigorous and impartial panel of one, also me, wherein I have self-identified as convenor, founder, chair, president, and - in a new designation for 2020, approved by me - CEO.

WinterIsGone Mon 21-Dec-20 16:58:35

I note from Google that his wife is an academic, and they have very young children, so perhaps he is very aware of the issues! Despite all his
emphasis on not endorsing JKR's views, I think he was brave in including the piece, and I loved his self-identification comment. smile

RoyalCorgi Mon 21-Dec-20 17:09:19

Thanks, Igneococcus - what an amazing article. Do read it, everyone.

Delphinium20 Mon 21-Dec-20 17:34:18

Well written! I love how the rhythm of language has a psychological impact on our understanding, and you've eloquently explained it.

MummBraTheEverLeaking Mon 21-Dec-20 17:49:15

Haven't had much chance to go on social media today but just checked Twitter and saw JK trending and I knew what it would be about. Squeaming stamping erasing most opressed suicide threatening tantrums galore 😅

Biscuitsanddoombar Mon 21-Dec-20 17:54:17

I just hope he holds firm and doesn’t do the grovelling dance of retraction & appeasement

HecatesCatsInXmasHats Mon 21-Dec-20 18:01:08

Nice one Amol. Always liked the man.

yourhairiswinterfire Mon 21-Dec-20 18:07:05

Amol Rajan's name is trending too. God, they're so boringly predictable.

Do these activists ever actually do any activism for genuine issues, or do they just spend all day on Twitter making them up and dictating what people are allowed to think and talk about?


yourhairiswinterfire Mon 21-Dec-20 18:11:55

Oh, and a tweet saying she's being praised for her 'misinformed and inaccurate essay.'

They must have missed that Judicial Review where three high court judges agreed with JKR's stance on the ''treatment'' of gender dysphoric children...

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