December 6, 2018
Arron Banks criticises J.K. Rowling for having a writing room; professional writers criticise him right back
by Tom Clayton
This week, Leave.eu co-founder and UKIP donor Arron Banks accused Harry Potter author J.K Rowling of being ‘pretentious’ after she made reference to her writing room on Twitter. Yes, really.
In a tweet from November 28th Rowling stated, in reference to Brexit, that ‘every time I come out of my writing room and look at the news some more dumbassery has been committed.’ She’s not wrong!
But Banks – whose bankrolling of the Leave campaign in the run-up to 2016’s EU referendum is currently the subject of a criminal investigation – was quick to criticise Rowling. ‘Writing room ! Could you be any more pretentious ..’ he wrote, his own punctuation threatening to overwhelm him at any point.
We’ll overlook the fact that he’s misused the word ‘pretentious’ here. What really grates about this – as it did other high-profile writers including Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and David Baddiel – is that J.K. Rowling is far from the only writer to have a writing room. In fact, quite a lot of them do. And dozens of them posted pictures of their writing spaces in the wake of #pretentious-gate.
At the heart of this story is the ongoing and pernicious assumption that writing isn’t really a job; it’s a hobby. Imagine criticising an electrician for owning a van, or a gardener for owning a spade: they’re not absolutely essential, sure – but they make the process a hell of a lot easier for a professional.
Let’s face it, Rowling probably has enough cash now that she doesn’t need to write at the kitchen table any more (recent critical reaction to The Crimes of Grindelwald notwithstanding). But even for those writers who aren’t gazillionaires, a room of one’s own shouldn’t be an object of ridicule – it’s a tool of the trade. Banks, who funded a party claiming to represent working people, should know better – however, one rather suspects he doesn’t.
Tom Clayton is publishing executive at Melville House UK.