Category Archives: The Golden Compass

Waiting for Lyra: Philip Pullman at the Times Center

Last night I was at an intellectually stimulating evening where Chip McGrath, former editor of the New York Times Book Review, and Philip Pullman conversed. I loved Philip’s strong insistence that reading is a private act between the reader and the book. How he inhabits his books completely until they go out into the world and become the readers’ — “a democracy of reading.” Among many other subjects, he spoke of his own background, the writing of The Golden Compass, his involvement with the movie, Milton, Elizabeth Bishop, and first kisses.

Questions from the audience were asked (several from young people) and politely and thoughtfully answered. At one point I was delighted when Philip mentioned Erich Kastner’s The 35th of May, a fondly remembered book of my childhood. We also were shown what looked like a souped-up movie trailer. That is, there were a few scenes (notably those with Lyra and Iorek Byrnison) that I don’t recall seeing in any of the trailers. Certainly it was thrilling to see them on a larger screen with an audience for the first time.

I was seated with GraceAnne A. DeCandido who took terrific notes, posted the following on child_lit, and graciously allowed me to post it here as well:

The New York Times Center is a fine space: and you can see some
of how fine here

Chip McGrath, writer at large (what a lovely title) for the NYTimes
interviewed Philip Pullman for about an hour and then Philip took
questions from the audience. I cannot guess numbers of those
present, but the range of ages was great: children from Lyra´s and
Will´s age to Philip´s age (which is also mine, that is, early 60s). It
was easy and funny and wise.

“The story begins” said Philip, “when you realize you have been
born into the wrong family.” And he went on to talk about story,
the one long story that is His Dark Materials. Chip said he thought
daemons were the best idea, but Philip noted he thought how
daemons settle was “the best idea I ever had.” He promised us not
only a book about the backstory of Iorek and Lee Scoresby(Once
Upon a Time in the North,
coming in Spring 2008) but a book
about a somewhat older Lyra, The Book of Dust.

“The most private space” is between the reader and the book, Philip
said, and railed, rather gently, against those with no understanding
of metaphor who think a story can only be read one way. He talked
about that wondrous first scene in the first book, and how we get
“from this world where we are to the other world where the story

He talked a little bit about his years of teaching, and how in writing
he got from here to there, and how some characters just came to
him, like Lyra, walking into his mind. He credited the city of
Oxford and the Ashomolean Museum and the Bodleian Library,
Milton, Blake, Whitman and Wallace Stevens, and The Magnificent
Seven among his many sources of inspiration.

We got to see a perfectly splendid trailer for The Golden Compass
movie, which if you have not seen online I urge you to go right
now and search for. It´s breathtaking.

Philip was asked by members of the audience what his daemon is,
and he said a sort of bird that is attracted by shiny, sparkly things –
and steals them. He was asked his favorite piece of his own writing,
and he mentioned the delicious and very subversive trial scene in
The Scarecrow and His Servant. He called true education the
marriage of delight and responsibility – what could be better than



Filed under His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass

Waiting for Lyra: Der Goldene Kompass Kino

I know German pretty well so enjoyed this dubbed trailer:

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Filed under Fantasy Worlds, The Golden Compass

Waiting for Lyra: Philip Pullman in the Big Apple

Tuesday, October 30th, 6:30.

“The Golden Compass: A Conversation with Philip Pullman” at the Times Center, 242 West 41st Street. The event is sold out, but according to the website: “Tickets may be available at the door the night of the event.”

Thursday, November 1st, 7 PM.

Appearance at the Union Square Barnes & Noble. (I’d get there early if I were you!) For those who can’t come it looks like you can watch it online here.

Friday, November 2nd.

Appearance on “Al’s Book Club” on the Today Show as their current book is The Golden Compass.

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Waiting for Lyra: Stoking Up Controversies

Sadly, two separate controversies have erupted this week about the forthcoming The Golden Compass movie.

First and less worrisome was the news that the movie ending will not be the same as the book’s. Fans seem to be in high dudgeon or maybe it is just those commenting here that are so bent out of shape. I mean, what is the big deal? If Pullman is agreeable and the final chapters become part of the next movie, so what? If it makes for a better movie, all power to them, I say.

Of much greater concern is the seemingly never-ending religion issue. Evidently no one at either end of the spectrum is going to be satisfied by the movie. There are those dismayed that it is being minimized in the movie. (See Religion row hits Pullman epic in today’s Guardian.) Then there is the Catholic League in the US, certain that the movie will (horrors!) encourage parents to buy the books for their children. At first I scoffed when I heard about this, but then I remembered the absolutely out-of-control media frenzy about a dog’s scrotum. Now I’m holding my breath.


Filed under His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass

Waiting for Lyra: New Ending for First Movie

Here are director Chris Weitz and author Philip Pullman on the new ending.

His Dark Materials | The Golden Compass Ending: Altered | BridgeToTheStars.Net

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Waiting for Lyra: Philip Pullman in NYC

Tuesday | October 30, 2007
6:30 PM – 8:00 PM
“The Golden Compass”: A Conversation with Philip Pullman
The prize-winning, highly opinionated British author talks about his hugely popular books, the necessity of growing up and losing one’s innocence, and the upcoming Hollywood films based on his best-selling trilogy, “His Dark Materials,” honored by the Carnegie Medal, the Guardian Children’s Book Award and the Whitbread Book of the Year Award (the first ever given to a children’s book). Interviewed by Charles McGrath, New York Times Magazine contributing writer and former Book Review editor.

Tickets: $25 TimesTalks (Scroll way down for this talk and for the link to buy tickets .)

Address: The TimesCenter, 242 West 41st Street, New York City

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And then there is the behemoth movie of the year…

The Golden Compass, of course. At the Random House booth last week at BEA I picked up a sumptuous booklet full of gorgeous images from the film. As fairrosa said when she saw it, “Sure hope the movie is as good.” And now for those who can’t get enough, the production notes are available here.

I’ve got a date to see the movie with a couple of former students, but hope that isn’t the first time I get to see it. (Broad hint to those doing early screenings here in NYC:)

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Get your Golden Compass Toys Here!

Well actually not here and not right now, but they are on their way. A whole bunch of prototypes were on display by manufacturer Corgi, with dollar signs in their eyes, at the recent Toy Fair here in New York.

At this site (when it is not down as it suddenly seems to be) you can see photos of the armoured bears’ palace, gyrocopters, action figures Lyra, Pan, Mrs. Coulter, the golden monkey, and someone else (maybe Roger?), what appears to be a cuddly Iorek, (from a collection of “plush 18″ electronic talking bears”), a rather cheap looking alethiometer, some aww-aren’t-they-cute plush daemons (including the golden monkey), some that even transform, and a not-cuddly-at-all spy-fly (at least that is what I think it is).

Thanks to bridgetothestars for the heads-up. (And if the site is still down, here is an article where the toys are mentioned to read while you wait for it to be available again.)


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Action Figure Lyra

… There also seems to be a lot of Polar Bears in the movie, and we got to see these. I said they reminded me, in terms of playability, very much of the Star Wars Episode 2 Reek, with roaring and running functions.

There’s also a playset. It’s of an ice setting ….Forme, probably because I haven’t read the books, I personally prefer the Harry Potter figures …

For the whole article (from, I think, an action figure collector), go here. (Thanks to bridgetothestars for the link.)

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Filed under Reading, The Golden Compass

Lyra, Ofelia, and Alice

Yesterday I saw Guillermo del Toro’s film PAN’S LABYRINTH. In front of me in the ticket buying line were a group of older women, one of whom began talking about beginning to read and then quitting HIS DARK MATERIALS in preparation for a religious lecture/discussion on the series versus Lewis’s. “It starts with a girl falling asleep in a wardrobe and she is still asleep in the third book.” she said with a little smile. Then she held forth on the religious themes of HDM, at least those she had heard of it — the fall, the daemons, angels — pretty much all completely wrong, but she had her companions totally interested.

As for PAN’S LABYRINTH, it is quite something. Young Ofelia travels to an isolated area with her pregnant mother to join her stepfather, a captain fighting the rebels in 1944 fascist Spain. Ofelia like Lyra is on the cusp of adolescence, a child who seems to try to lose herself in fairy tale books — at the very start her mother tells her she is getting too old for them, that they are not real life.

Her mother is right; they aren’t real life. But they might be something else. Right away Ofelia encounters a fairy and soon is deeply involved in a fairy realm where she is evidently a lost princess. At one point a housekeeper in the real world of her stepfather’s military outpost gives her a dress and pinafore for a special party. When Ofelia heads off to the fairy realm, down, down, down — she looks exactly (consciously I’m guessing) like Alice.

As scary as that fairy realm is, the real world of fascist Spain is much, much worse. The film’s most graphic scenes of violence are of torture, maiming, killing and more in that real world. The stepfather is a complete sadist, the mother dies (of course), there is a baby brother for Ofelia to save (she does at great expense), a helper in the guise of a housekeeper who is there as a spy for the partisans, and so on. Ofelia goes off on a classic fairy tale quest — first to save her mother and then her brother.

I left the theater thinking it was too hard a film for me to watch — too violent. However, the more I think about it the more I’m glad I saw it. This is not really a Bettelheim view of fairy tales, but something more complex and original. And so I do recommend it with a warning that if you are not good with graphic violence prepare yourself — it is telegraphed ahead of time so you can turn your head away (or, as I did, cover your eyes so you can just read the subtitles without seeing what is happening above them).

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Filed under Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Golden Compass