I was 11 the year Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone came out; the boy-wizard and I started the series together at the same age. When it ended, I had gained at least three years on Potter as well as a fairly average complement of college-era vices that he and his compatriots seemed to lack.
Now, six years later, Rowling (another late bloomer) has taken up the stuff of maturity with full force in The Casual Vacancy, her first novel since Harry Potter and her first book for adults. And adult it is! Aggressively so—if anything, Rowling seems to be making up for lost time. It’s akin to hearing your grandmother (or, for that matter, Dumbledore) talk dirty: it’s not that you didn’t know J.K. Rowling was capable of writing about sex, it just existed in a space beyond your imagination. The reviews I’ve read so far have relished these prurient elements, and, for your convenience, I’ve cobbled together a list of the ten most memorable “adult” moments in The Casual Vacancy. (Warning: what is read cannot be unread. Be prepared for language of an explicitly sexual nature.)
- Lost in a fug of erotic images, pulling on the joint, Andrew lay with his erection on the patch of earth his body was warming and listened to the soft rush of water a few feet from his head.
There are a lot of erections in this book and I’ve chosen this one, which is almost pastoral, to stand in (up?) for the rest. In many ways this moment is a distillation of the whole novel, which is a strange mixture of idyllic village life and random penises.
- After ringing the doorbell, Kay noticed a used condom glistening in the grass beside her feet, like the gossamer cocoon of some huge grub.
This is clearly not Hagrid’s Care of Magical Creatures class.
- Andrew returned to his contemplation of the dirty window with an ache in his heart and in his balls.
What is worse? Heart ache or ball ache? This question is one for the poets.
- He retained a vivid memory of her bare pink vulva; it was a though Father Christmas had popped up in their midst.
I won’t say that Christmas is ruined, but…Christmas has been altered.
- He was an extravagantly obese man of sixty-four. A great apron of stomach fell so far down in front of his thighs that most people thought instantly of his penis when they first clapped eyes on him, wondering when he had last seen it, how he washed it, how it managed to perform any of the acts for which a penis is designed.
- “I came in about ten seconds. It feels fucking great once you’re in.”
Ah, young love. (At least Rowling is realistic about a teenage boy’s prowess.)
- He had not thought of Krystal herself (as opposed to her splendid breasts and that miraculously unguarded vagina).
Just to reiterate: “that miraculously unguarded vagina.”
- “Humongous bouncing jubblies,” Fats said loudly, into the scowling, crumpled face. “Great big juicy double-F mams.”
Jubblies sounds like a kind of wizard candy. Mams does not.
- He climbed on top of her; this, he knew, was real life.
Just to clarify, not wizard life.
- So she let him embrace and then kiss her. She closed her eyes, climbed on top of him, and imagined herself riding Jake on a deserted white beach, nineteen years old to his twenty-one. She came while imagining Miles watching them, furiously, through binoculars, from a distant pedalo.
Okay, this is my favorite quotation, more than even the spectacularly strange #4. Miles is this woman’s husband, the man she is actually having sex with in this passage. Jake is a handsome and much younger member of an unnamed boy band. I had to look up a pedalo and it is a paddle boat. A paddle boat.