The always thoughtful Laura Miller (who knows her Pullman, having done a New Yorker profile on him a couple of years ago,) has a sensible article today in the LA Times. In it she addresses the current religious furor (as the title of the article terms it) about the forthcoming movie. She points out that Pullman’s views are not new and the idea that he is mounting a stealth campaign to indoctrinate young readers (as certain folks are proclaiming) is preposterous. She reminds us that he has been invited time and again by religious leaders in the U.K. to participate in conversations on faith and belief. In fact I was fortunate enough to see one of these conversations at the National Theater a few years ago. This was with Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, and can be heard here.
Miller also addresses the complaints (I’m getting a lot of them these days) about Pullman’s provocative comments. As those from far past interviews and essays are pulled off and tossed about I get people coming to me and sometimes have a hard time explaining that this is not someone who is trying to impose anything on anyone (other than, perhaps, an appreciation for the importance of storytelling and an insistence that reading is a private affair that we cannot impose upon — his “democracy of reading” idea). “His practice of tossing out provocative statements,” writes Miller, “struck me as a habit acquired during his years as a middle-school teacher, intended not to shut out opposing ideas but to flush them from the underbrush of adolescent inertia.” Exactly.
Those of us who admire this storyteller and his books are not going to change the minds of those who are deadset against them, but at least we can perhaps help those willing to think deeper about them to do so with pieces like this one. Thanks, Laura.