The Silkworm: Part Eleven – I quit.

18 Feb

This is the last post you’re going to see about any of the Cormoran Strike books. This part finally pushed me over the limit. You’ll understand why in a moment – it only took half a chapter.

Content notes: physical assault, victim blaming, transphobia, rape jokes, ableist slurs, misogynistic slurs, racism, fat hatred and anything else disgusting Rowling felt like throwing into the mix. Also my excessive language, I’ve been trying to tone down my swearing but… not this time.

As expected, chapter 37 opens with Strike whining about his knee and about being poor and how he’s spent too much money on eating in a restaurant. He almost has a plot-relevant thought, about how strange it is that everyone familiar with the book is looking to blame anyone except Owen and maybe someone else did write at least some of it, but is distracted by once again encountering the woman who’s been stalking him and fulfilled happy fantasies of most of the readers by trying to stab him.

We’re treated to a nauseating paragraph about how utterly amazing Strike is, which you all have to suffer through too. I know I’m meant to be speed-running through this now, but just look at this crap.

“Strike’s pace did not falter, nor did he turn to look at her. He was not playing games this time; there would be no stopping to test her amateurish stalking style, no letting her know that he had spotted her. On he walked without looking over his shoulder, and only a man or woman similarly expert in counter-surveillance would have noticed his casual glances into helpfully positioned windows and reflective brass door plates; only they could have spotted the hyper-alertness disguised as inattentiveness.”

Excuse me while I throw up.

And it keeps going. There are two full pages of Strike walking along telling us how awesome he is and how stupid people messing with him are – interspersed with comments about his knee, and how even though it just hurts soooo badly it’s not enough to stop him being awesome. Then finally he turns into an alleyway, hears running footsteps behind him, spins around and assaults the person.

Fortunately for him it actually is the woman who was following him and not some random person running for the bus, but I don’t think that justifies a full page of him hitting her with his walking stick, getting ‘a ferocious grip that made her scream‘, putting her in a headlock or forcibly dragging her up the stairs to his office while she screams bloody murder. Of course, there are no witnesses until he actually gets to the office, when someone looks out of the room next door. Oh how I hope they call the police.

Robin lets him into the office and is understandably horrified, especially since the book informs us this woman is very young – maybe 20 – and has scratch marks on her neck where Strike grabbed her. (The book feels the need to specify her ‘white‘ neck several times. I don’t know why.)

Strike tells Robin she tried to knife him again, and orders her to call the police; as Robin picks the phone up, the woman starts crying and begging and pointing out that Strike’s just hurt her quite badly. Robin ignores this in favour of slut-shaming her.

I’m not kidding.

” ‘Why have you been following me?’ Strike said, panting as he stood over her, his tone threatening.
She cowered into the squeaking cushions yet Robin, whose fingers had not left the phone, detected a note of relish in the woman’s fear, a whisper of voluptuousness in the way she twisted away from him. “

Fuck. This. Book. (This was the start of the meltdown.)

And it gets SO MUCH WORSE.

After a lot of yelling, some more assault and battery on Strike’s part and a fucking stupid attempt at good-cop-bad-cop, it turns out this woman is the mysterious Pippa.

Although at the moment she’s actually Philip, and won’t be legally Pippa for a little while yet.

Hence Epicoene the hermaphrodite in Owen’s book, which has just become a hundred times more awful and insensitive.

Strike’s reaction to this is to stare at her Adam’s apple, which under the scratches and bruises he’s left is ‘still prominent‘.

Robin’s reaction is to try not to laugh.

My reaction was to start yelling at Mitchell.

Pippa starts crying, understandably, and these two terrible people continue their ghastly good-cop-bad-cop interrogation routine to try to work out what the fuck is going on and why she wants to kill Strike (apart from the fact that he exists, which would honestly be good enough for any jury). The single bright point is that the book is still using female pronouns.

And then somehow the book manages to become even worse, thanks to Strike.

” ‘If you go for that door one more fucking time I’m calling the police and I’ll testify and be glad to watch you go down for attempted murder. And it won’t be fun for you inside, Pippa,’ he added. ‘Not pre-op.’ “

Fucking hell, Rowling. Even for you, this is low. The yelling got worse.

Skipping past the rest of the scene, which is just filled with insults and stereotypical hysteria and a lot of bullshit I don’t want to deal with. It boils down to Pippa thinking Leonora hired Strike to frame her and Kathryn, and she’s been following Strike because she wanted him to lead her to Owen so she could kill him for the terrible way he wrote about her in his book. Owen apparently lied to the two of them and said he was writing something much different that was really lovely about them both, and then wrote Bombyx and sent it to them.

I was initially extremely sympathetic, but later in the scene Pippa calls Orlando a retard.

I quit.

I’m not kidding. I’m done. That was the straw that broke the camel’s fucking back.

I’m going to very quickly skim through the remaining chapters, and give you a brief summary of whodunit and so on. And then I am going to give this book to my father and tell him to throw it on the bonfire next time he burns some garden waste.

There is nothing this book can say or do now that would justify my continuing to read it. Rowling has literally checked every possible box of awfulness and I’m not willing to deal with it any more.

Pippa eventually escapes, and afterwards Strike calls her a ‘self-dramatising twat‘. Full fucking house, Rowling.

Highlights of the rest of the book, speed-read in about twenty minutes while ranting.

In a later chapter we learn one of Strike’s oldest friends has yet another nickname for him, this one derived from a Cornish slur for travellers/Romanies. Because it’s fine to be racist if it’s an obscure regional slur that other people won’t recognise. Their conversation involves endless misogynistic sex jokes and calling Charlotte crazy.

Brief glimpse of plot – Leonora is arrested. Kathryn had a credit card receipt, given to her by Orlando, showing that someone bought overalls, ropes, tarpaulins and a burqa shortly before Owen’s disappearance, and after Strike attacked Pippa the two of them handed it to the police. Leonora insists it was Owen’s card and she never had access to it.

Charlotte texts Strike out of the blue. ‘It was yours.‘ Don’t care, book. Later  there’s a lot more bullshit attempting to once again vilify a character who has never appeared onscreen, and I still. Don’t. Care.

Turns out Strike’s daddy knows Fancourt and is in talks with Chard about publishing his biography. Look at all the fucks I don’t give. This never turns out to be relevant and I wouldn’t give a shit if it did.

Emotional blackmail of Orlando in the hope that she happened to steal some evidence.

We finally meet Fancourt. He is true fat-shaming MRA scum who says things about Liz Tassel that make me want to do something very painful to Rowling’s nervous system. If I hadn’t already quit earlier I would have done here. And we’re still not done.

The actual plot resolution would be unbelievably annoying if I still cared. Several chapters of Strike mysteriously telling people to do things that we’re not told about, telling people his theories that we’re not told about, and generally abusing the already long-dead flogged horse.

Turns out all the shit with the Cutter was because Jerry’s daughter might not actually be his, but might be Fancourt’s. This absolutely does not justify all the shit with Charlotte.

Nina finally tells Strike to fuck off. Best bit of the book.

Lots of crap about how clever Strike is.

The final solution to the plot: there were two versions of Bombyx Mori. The version Owen wrote, and the version everyone saw, which Liz Tassel wrote. In a better book this would actually have been a decent twist.

It turns out that it was actually Liz who wrote the parody that caused Fancourt’s wife to kill herself and started this whole feud. And Owen knew and had been blackmailing her ever since.

It was Liz’s idea that Owen should stage his disappearance, and then she met him at Talgarth Road, talked him into posing for a ‘publicity photograph’ and killed him.

The whole thing is summarised in unbelievably poisonous terms. Liz’s entire motivation for all of this is because, being fat and ugly, she wasn’t laid enough. I’m not even kidding – she apparently orchestrated this whole thing out of sexual frustration and depression and a decades-long crush on Fancourt that ended badly. That is the only motivation the narrative gives her and all the depth her character gets – a sick stereotype straight from the depths of dudebro culture and modern fat hatred.

As if that wasn’t enough, over the space of two pages she breaks down and turns into a frothing lunatic talking to herself in weirdly Bellatrix terms (though not the baby-talk) and ends up a stereotypical TV ‘crazy person’.

The book ends with Liz, having been set up, getting into a ‘taxi’ driven by Robin. There’s a big dramatic car chase, and they crash. Sadly they’re both fine. Robin gets a media concussion, i.e. there are no consequences whatsoever.

Liz is on suicide watch pending trial.

She kept the original Bombyx Mori manuscript. In the freezer with Owen’s guts. It’s going to be published.

For reasons surpassing all understanding, Robin and Matthew are still together, though the very last page of the book is her and Strike flirting.

Now if you’ll excuse me I need a very stiff drink and preferably brain surgery to remove any memory of this book.

Do not read it under any circumstances.

I’m not touching anything else Rowling ever produces – unless it’s Harry Potter related, because in children’s books she can’t show her true colours and I don’t have to think about what a terrible person wrote the books that are still a big part of my life and how much she despises me and other people who look like me.

That said, there won’t be a HP post for a week or two. I need time to forget this before I can look at anything else she’s written without screaming. She has forfeited all right to ever be given the benefit of the doubt ever again and it’s going to take a conscious effort to stop my current anger with her bleeding through into our coverage of HP.

I have no idea why she decided to do this.



Posted by on February 18, 2016 in loten


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

8 responses to “The Silkworm: Part Eleven – I quit.

  1. Ymfon

    February 19, 2016 at 9:05 pm

    I commend you on your excellent decision.

  2. Derived Absurdity

    February 20, 2016 at 5:42 am

    So, i gather you’re not a fan?

    • mcbender

      February 21, 2016 at 6:37 pm

      Only in the sense of sharp spinning blades, I think.

  3. All-I-need

    February 20, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    To be honest, I’m amazed you kept going for so long. I have the first book on my shelf but after reading your reviews, I’m considering trying to sell it to some unsuspecting soul. At least I got it out of a bargain bin.

  4. sellmaeth

    February 24, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    I am beginning to think that this is Rowling’s way of telling us that she didn’t actually write the first two parts of that horrid series and is blackmailed to stay silent about it.

    No, really, I don’t get it. Apparently, when talked to in real life, Rowling is a rather nice person who approves of a black woman playing Hermione and is worried about girls dieting too much. It is evident in Harry Potter that she has some issues, but in Harry Potter, that’s all rather subtle. (As in, I didn’t notice immediately when reading the books as teenager)
    And now she writes this shit? A book about an author who is hated for writing a bad book, and then it turns out he didn’t actually write it … that’s food for conspiracy theories.

    This Pippa person makes no sense. Granted, trying to murder a man with a knife makes much more sense for a biological male (most women are not tall or muscular enough for this to be the method of choice) but the motivation is still nonsensical. People don’t kill people for writing nasty things about them as individual. Misogynists shoot feminists, Islamists shoot people who draw Mohammed caricatures, but I know of no case where someone killed an author for a nasty portrayal of themselves in a book. Not to mention that those people almost always use guns.

    And Strike’s rape joke … is that supposed to be a joke? Seems more like a threat. Anyway, how is a gender-non-conforming man more at risk for prison rape than a person who passes as female? Men in prison are not known for their chivalry.

    And Liz … oh my god, Liz.

    In real life, female murderers are very rare. Women don’t kill men for not dating them. It just doesn’t happen. (Seriously, I don’t even know of one single case. The most recent gruesome murder committed by a woman was to get rid of a man, quite the opposite.) Good authors like Agatha Christie manage to make female killers plausible – I didn’t count, but Christie has a lot of female murderers, the percentage being probably much higher than in real life – but if you aren’t a skilled crime writer, you better stay away from too complex psychological motivations.

    Greed for money I would believe. Revenge for some crime that never got investigated, works every time. But sexual frustration? Nope. Just doesn’t ring true.

    If I were Rowling, I’d deny having anything to do with that book. (Has she ever acknowledged that it is hers? Or is that just something everyone knows by now?)


    November 26, 2019 at 3:33 am

    It sounds like many of you don’t understand the type of story you were reading. Or perhaps many are unfamiliar with the hard boiled private dick genre.

    Strike is not some social worker or activist. He’s an average guy with an average understanding of social issues, who has a fraught profession and is therefore a bit on edge.

    It’s fine if you don’t like the character or the plot or the story, but confusing consistent characterization with Author Tract shows a lack of understanding of how writing works.

    BTW this post is being used as “proof” Rowling is a TERF, when actually all it is is proof Rowling understands men like Strike are often regressive in their attitudes about Trans people and she is writing him realistically.

    • Loten

      November 26, 2019 at 9:01 am

      I understand just fine. That doesn’t change the fact that it is unpleasant to read and a bad writing choice. Nor does it change the fact that while Strike himself may be ‘realistic’, the narrative is not condemning him for it, nor are any of the other characters, and there is nothing in the book to suggest that his attitude is wrong or that the author disagrees. That is why people are using it as proof of Rowling’s views (along with all the evidence Rowling herself keeps providing by following/quoting TERFs on Twitter constantly). The point of flawed protagonists is that they have to be shown to be flawed and the readers need to be shown that they’re not expected to sympathise or agree.

      This post is years old and you’re clearly looking to start a fight rather than a discussion. Don’t.


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