What Everyone's Saying About 'The Casual Vacancy'

  • Umno lawyer calls Karpal ‘one of the most ethical criminal lawyers’
    Umno lawyer calls Karpal ‘one of the most ethical criminal lawyers’

    Umno lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah had plenty of encounters in the courts with the late Karpal Singh but today, he paid tribute to the veteran lawyer who died in an accident yesterday. Shafee said Karpal was “one of the most ethical criminal lawyers” he used to appear with while acting as deputy public prosecutor or counsel for the... …

  • Gerakan calls Karpal elder statesman, Samy Vellu cries over news of death
    Gerakan calls Karpal elder statesman, Samy Vellu cries over news of death

    In an ultimate accolade, Gerakan, DAP’s political rival in Penang, today praised Karpal Singh as an elder statesman and a true Malaysian. State Gerakan deputy president Datuk Dr Cheah Soon Hai said Karpal was one of the few people in the country who had left a legacy. He said the former DAP chairman was a legend in both the political and... …

  • Abdullah pays tribute to Karpal’s life of service – Bernama
    Abdullah pays tribute to Karpal’s life of service – Bernama

    Former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Karpal Singh, who died in a road accident yesterday, led a life of tireless commitment and service to the people.  “We are poorer for the loss of a great legal mind and a crusader for justice and human rights," he said as he extended condolences to the family of the former DAP chairman and... …

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    Underwater drone used in MH370 search diving to its extreme limits

    An underwater drone scouring the Indian Ocean floor for missing Malaysian flight MH370 has dived to its deepest ever level, putting its equipment at unprecedented risk, as hopes dwindled that it might soon turn up some sign of wreckage. The United States navy's Bluefin-21 and its "side scan" sonar has become the focal point of the search some... …

  • PAS to discuss Muslims’ use of ‘RIP’
    PAS to discuss Muslims’ use of ‘RIP’

    PAS will discuss whether it is appropriate for Muslims to use the phrase “Rest in Peace” (RIP), following the National Fatwa Council's reminder yesterday to Muslims not to use the expression on non-Muslims because the term had Christian connotations. PAS Research Centre director Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said the party’s political bureau would... …

  • 100 protest against Obama visit in front of US embassy
    100 protest against Obama visit in front of US embassy

    About 100 activists today protested outside the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur against the coming visit by President Barack Obama, denouncing him as an enemy of Islam. The demonstration underscored the delicate nature of Obama's trip to Malaysia, which will make him the first sitting US president to visit in nearly half a century, a period marked... …

Everybody's got an opinion about J.K. Rowling's first novel for adults. With the embargo on reviews now lifted, the book is drawing wildly polarized responses. Some outlets leaked early reviews, but most adhered to the embargo, waiting until this morning to publish their take. Now that the floodgates are open, here's what everyone's saying: 

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The New York Times' Michiko Kakutani was bored by it. With a pen in one hand and a hatchet in the other, she writes, "The real-life world she has limned in these pages is so willfully banal, so depressingly clichéd that The Casual Vacancy is not only disappointing—it’s dull." It's refreshing to see "limn" reappear in a Kakutani review. For a while there it seemed like she'd forsaken her favorite verb. [The New York Times]

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The Los Angeles Times' David Ulin wishes Rowling had played to her strengths by focussing on the young characters, which he finds far more compelling than the dreary adults: "When The Casual Vacancy focuses on these teenagers and their interactions (with one another, with their parents, with the petty hypocrisies of adult society), it takes on if not an urgency then a momentum of a kind. The problem is that they are too infrequently at the center of this novel." [Los Angeles Times]

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But one has to wonder if The Casual Vacancy's distinctly British purview is what's putting American critics off. Scottish crime novelist Christopher Brookmyre found Rowling's observations of small-town England full of clever political satire. He writes in The Telegraph, "J.K. Rowling’s first novel 'for adults' disguises its own ambitions by posing as a storm-in-a-teacup tale of small-town rural folk, but instead of gently carving out a slice of life, it reveals in unflinching detail the fractures beneath the surface of modern Britain." [The Telegraph]

RELATED: Why J.K. Rowling's New E-Book Costs So Much

The Guardian's Theo Tait writes that even with all its sex, drug-taking and swearing, the novel is ultimately a bit bland: "The Casual Vacancy is a solid, traditional and determinedly unadventurous English novel ... The plot is often predictable; it requires a large helping of artificial contrivance; and it lurches into melodrama in the final act. The rules probably require this, and it all rattles along nicely enough, but it leaves a slight sense of disappointment." [The Guardian]

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The negative reviews will likely get all the attention, but some critics loved it. Time's Lev Grossman says the book transported him past all the chatter surrounding it: "It was not what I was expecting. It’s a big, ambitious, brilliant, profane, funny, deeply upsetting and magnificently eloquent novel of contemporary England, rich with literary intelligence and entirely bereft of bullshit, and if it weren’t for Rowling’s stringent security measures it would or at least should have contended for the Booker Prize." [Time]

For those of you who want a play-by-play of how critics review a book (and can stomach spoilers), The Wall Street Journal's C.J. Farley is live-blogging his reading of the book. In the first few pages, the reader learns the meaning of that strange title. Farley writes, "It seems that 'a casual vacancy' is some sort of procedural term used in local government when a 'local councillor' fails to accept his office, resigns, or dies." He's about 150 pages in so far. [The Wall Street Journal]

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  • Langkawi BN MP pokes fun at Karpal Singh’s remains The Malaysian Insider
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  • Told to ‘shut up’ on Twitter, Zul Noordin lashes back at Khairy The Malay Mail Online
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  • Karpal makes last journey home to Penang The Malaysian Insider
    Karpal makes last journey home to Penang

    Amid tears of sorrow, a coffin bearing Karpal Singh's body was loaded onto a van for his final journey back to Penang today. The 73-year-old, popularly known as the "Tiger of Jelutong", died early this morning after the Toyota Alphard he was in collided with a five-tonne Mitsubishi Canter. Karpal's body had been brought to Raja Permaisuri... …