POETIC LICENCE: Spending J K Rowling’s money
Writers can spend a lifetime starving in the garret, not knowing where their next meal is coming from. In Rowland’s case, however, she only has to worry about where her next 450 million dollars is coming from. We should all have such worries
According to this week’s Time magazine, author J K Rowling has amassed 450 million dollars from sales of her Harry Potter books, merchandise and movies, making her Britain’s one-hundred-and-twenty-second richest person. And there will doubtless be many more millions to come in the months ahead from the sales and movie rights of her fifth Harry Potter book, which is due to hit the stands of the English-speaking world in June, though a Dutch-language version of the book came out a couple of months ago. One publisher has gone to the extent of getting the Dutch version translated back into English for under-the-counter sales to British fans who couldn’t bear the thought of waiting until June to read the new adventures of the world’s most famous boy wizard.
The phenomenal success of Rowling’s books has made her probably the richest author in history. That’s not bad going for an author who’s only been in the business a few years. Agatha Christie, the “Queen of Crime Fiction,” has sold more books (over a billion copies), but a big chunk of these sales came after her death in 1976. So she didn’t get to receive the royalties from those posthumous sales, otherwise she might have ended up even richer than Rowling.
Writers can spend a lifetime starving in the garret, not knowing where their next meal is coming from. In Rowland’s case, however, she only has to worry about where her next 450 million dollars is coming from. We should all have such worries. As the Duchess of Windsor once famously remarked, “My dear, one can never be too rich or too thin.”
The question is, what does Rowling plan to do with all the money? She’s already given up her small unheated flat in a midlands city and bought a huge manor house in the country, where she is living in baronial splendour, surrounded by Louis XIV furniture, Serves china, Waterford crystal and other trinkets. She’s also acquired the services of a battalion of English nannies to look after her small daughter, who is now likely to grow up believing that if people don’t have bread to eat, they should eat Beluga caviar.
With all this and more under her belt, what else can she do with the hundreds of millions of dollars that continue to pile up in her bank account? If her bank is on one of the Cayman Islands, the island could well be in danger of sinking under the weight of all that money. So what’s the answer? What should Rowland do with all her millions? In this connection, I have a suggestion: why doesn’t she give 50 million dollars to me?
But what would I do with 50 million dollars? Well, I can think of lots of things — like living the life of Riley, with not a care in the world. Yes, that would be nice. As the great American nightclub entertainer Sophie Tucker once remarked, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. And believe me, sonny, rich is better.” When you have money everyone calls you brother. A few years ago a New Yorker was quoted as saying that he didn’t realise how many relatives he had until he won the lottery.
In one of the verses in his Rubaiyat, Omar Khayyam says: “Ah, take the Cash, and let the Credit go, / Nor heed the rumble of a distant Drum!” Old Khayyam knew what he was talking about. So like him, I too am prepared to take the cash and let the credit go, especially if it’s a nice round sum like 50 million dollars. A hundred million would be too much for me, because then I’d always be worrying about getting hold of another hundred million from somewhere to make it two hundred million, then four hundred million, and so on.
Plus, if there were more than 50 million dollars in my kitty, I’d have to hire a firm of accountants to keep track of all the money to make sure that nobody swiped it. And if the accounting firm turned out to be some crooked outfit like Arthur Andersen (the scandal-ridden American accounting firm of Enron fame), I’d be worried that the accountants themselves might be tempted to run off with the money, leaving me rummaging around in that starving writers-garret for stray pennies. No, all said and done, 50 million dollars will do me very nicely, thank you very much.
Fifty million would be neither too much nor too little. Money may not buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to bear. It’s useful to keep the dogs at bay and the water out. The rich man may never get into heaven, but the pauper is already serving his term in hell. People who don’t have money tend to talk about things like gentility. The truth of the matter, however, is that gentility is what is left over from rich ancestors after the money is gone.
Which is another way of saying that a dollar in the bank is worth two in the bush any day of the week. We’re all familiar with the expression “laughing all the way to the bank.” But have you ever heard of anybody laughing all the way to the poorhouse?
The important thing in life is not to have money, but that others have it. When Jackie Kennedy was married to the Greek billionaire Aristotle Onassis, owner, amongst other things, of Olympic Airways, she once memorably remarked, “I have exactly $ 5,200 in the bank. I just charge everything to Olympic Airways.”
Film tycoon Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli, producer of many hugely successful James Bond movies, said, “I don’t commit any capital, I just make it.” Even more fun than making money, though, is helping to spend money someone else has made. Let others toil and sweat for nickels and dimes, or even write books about boy wizards that earn millions, I, for one, would just like to come in on the spending-end piece of the deal.
So how about it, Ms Rowling? All that’s needed from you is one phone call to me saying, “The cheque’s in the mail.” Now where has one heard that one before?