Tag Archives: His Dark Materials

Waiting for (More)Lyra: American and the Rest of the World

Cultural insights from the box office – Opinion – smh.com.au
■ There’s a case for making part two of The Golden Compass. Its budget was $230 million. In America it made $90 million (most of its accents are British and it was labelled anti-religious). In the rest of the world it was a hit, making $330 million. It’s the world’s 75th biggest moneymaker of all time, well ahead of Passion Of The Christ (90). The Golden Compass ended on a cliffhanger. The plot can’t be resolved without American money.

Can Hollywood rise above xenophobia and lift the world off the edge?


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“Mostly, however, readers – and especially younger readers – wanted to know about the minutiae of how the fiction was stitched together. The children who asked questions or made comments almost all homed in on exact points of detail.” (From John Mullan’s “Material Worlds.”)

Educational philosopher Kieran Egan notes that collecting is particularly pronounced from ages 8 to 15. We think often of collections in terms of things — stuffed animals, plastic dinosaurs, every single Warrior book; but kids also collect information. Whether it is everything about the Yankees or Harry Potter, if it is something they adore they want to know it all. This helps explain, I think, why some are so attentive to details in beloved books. In the case of Harry Potter or His Dark Materials, those that are besotted with the worlds of those books want to know everything about them and so they collect every bit of information they can find about those worlds. John Mullan’s report on readers’ questions at a recent Guardian book club event with Philip Pullman is a great example of this.

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A Dust-Up Over Dust

Actually, it is a fascinating glimpse into academic politics, this one being a battle royal between two philosophers.

Intellectually, they hold very different views on one of the hottest, and most intractable of philosophical problems, consciousness. Honderich calls himself a radical externalist on consciousness, meaning, he writes in his book, that “my perceptual consciousness now consists in the existence of a world”.

I’m the daughter of an academic and all too familiar with academic feuds, disputes, and other very nasty stuff. The Guardian article suggests that something personal not intellectual is at the heart of this particular fight which makes me quite uncomfortable. No doubt it will make all involved even angrier than they already are. But it was the consciousness stuff that caught my eye — Pullman’s Dust. Interesting, that.

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Avatars and Servants, Daemons and Souls

Even those avatars racing around the internet apparently need the services of something called an “identity manager” to keep them up to date and on track. They don’t – just as daemons don’t – have a useful, productive existence independent of the person who created them. Until that moment comes, they remain yet another smart accessory that is more trouble than it is actually worth.

Huh? Kathryn Hughes is seriously stretching things by presenting avatars as something similar to Philip Pullman’s daemons. Avatars are things you make yourself (as in Second Life). But daemons? They are a part of you, your soul, not avatars or servants. You don’t select them or make them. They are a part of you — visible and active in Lyra’s world, but not ours. Utilitarian seems a pretty prosaic word to use about them. While not as peculiar a juxtaposition as Philip Pullman and V.C. Andrews, it is nonetheless pretty lame.

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His Dark Materials Tops NYTimes Best Seller List

Critical acclaim is nice and all, but when it comes to selling books in America, a few things are evidently nicer: Nicole Kidman’s face, a Hollywood marketing budget and a healthy dollop of religious controversy. This week, “His Dark Materials” jumps to No. 1 on the series list.

TBR: Inside the List – Books – Review – New York Times

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His Dark Materials: A Quiz

I’ve a post below on the Guardian Book Club’s focus this month on His Dark Materials. (Updated to include two columns by John Mulland). But I just came across the quiz they set for the audience at the interview the other night and thought it was entertaining enough to get a post of its own:

His quiz materials

(Darn — I got two wrong!)

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John Mulland Talks with Philip Pullman About His Dark Materials

Philip Pullman talks with John Mullan of the Guardian Book Club about writing, reading, narrators, Milton, daemons, Mrs. Coulter, angels’ taste in food, among many other things (and gives a very intriguing little hint about on extra bit in his forthcoming book Once Upon a Time in the North).

Guardian Unlimited: Arts blog – books: Guardian book club podcast: Philip Pullman

See also:

John Mullan on “Borrowing from Paradise Lost” and “Other Worlds.”

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Waiting for Lyra: And Still Another Thoughtful Exchange on Religion

His [Jesus’s] omission from HDM was deliberate; I’m going to get around to Jesus in the next book. I have plenty to say about him.”

From a very interesting email interview with Philip Pullman by Peter Chattaway, a reviewer for Christianity Today. The interview was for an article, “The Chronicles of Atheism” that I think is also very worthwhile reading. And here is his review of the movie.

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Waiting for Lyra: His Dark Materials Stage Production

With the movie just about out some may be interested in seeing some of what went into the National Theater’s stage version. In that case here is a marvelous website all about it. In particular there are many videos of the rehearsals, Philip Pullman reading sections from the books, and some videos of the finished production too. This is from the original production which I saw. It starred Anna Maxwell Martin as Lyra (and whenever I see her as someone else now, say Esther in Bleak House, I still think “Lyra”), Dominic Cooper as Will (yep, he was indeed Dakin in The History Boys), and Timothy Dalton as Asriel among others.

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The Golden Compass Movie: Random First Impressions

It is gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Go see it in the biggest theater you can. I loved the settings, every single one of them. The time, thought, care, and money spend on them was worth it. They are spectacular and also perfect for the book. My favorites were the flight to town in the zeppelin and the Far North scenes. Fantastic! I look forward to seeing it again (as I will this Friday with two former students) just to have more time to examine them all. The care taken with creating this world is clear and it was worth it.

The actors are terrific. Dakota Blue Richards is Lyra (although not as grubby as she is in the book). Her accent which some reviewers have complained about worked for me. I liked that it was just a bit gutter-snip, but not too much. After all, Lyra is being raised among scholars. So while she plays with the servants she also is studying with scholars. So it stands to reason that her accent would be a mixture of the two. She comes across just as you want her to — smart, energetic, concerned, and fun. She’s great.

Then what can I say that others haven’t already said about Nicole Kidman? She is all Philip Pullman (who long ago nailed her for the role) could want for one of the most complicated characters in children’s literature — Mrs. Coulter. Gorgeous, chilling, smart, and frightening all at once.

I adored Sam Eliot as Lee Scoresby and Kathy Bates as his daemon Hester (who got the only laugh of the night from the Times Square audience I was with). And Ian McKellen was terrific as Iorek Byrnison. Freddie Highmore also was excellent in the challenging role of Pantalaimon (as it was all voice). Can’t think of a single character who felt miscast. They all looked and sounded right to me.

And that takes me to the special effects. These make the movie. Cheaply done and the movie would be dreadful. But no expense seems to have been spared and it shows. The daemons are great (that golden monkey is scarier than in the book!), the bears beyond wonderful, and I think those involved deserve awards for what they’ve done.

As for the script and directing — I applaud Chris Weitz’s effort. It took a long time to make and I can only imagine how much he had to fight to get it made the way it now is. That said, having to present concisely a lot of information about Lyra’s world, the many characters, and plot points did make the first part of the movie feel a bit disjointed and I could see it being a bit confusing to those unfamiliar with the books. Not that I know how else they could have done it, mind you! But once Lyra leaves Oxford the film picks up and when she gets to the far North — all hell and action breaks out. There are so many wonderful scenes: Lyra and Iorek dashing across the snow, Iorek fighting Iofur Raknison (and Lyra tricking him at Svalbard), Lee in his balloon, the Gyptian craft, and the horrific actions at Bovangar just to name a few. These are all so true to the book and truly wonderful to see and hear.

Can’t say I was wild about the mystical stuff that happened when Lyra consulted the alethiometer, but again I’m no filmmaker. (I also have to note that I hated the tinkly music used for those same moments in the stage version — both were too, too something for my taste. Not that I know what to do instead.) On the other hand I loved the daemons melding with Dust when they died in the battles. That was so cool!

So , all in all, I’m happy. I sure hope Chris gets a chance to make The Subtle Knife. With the basic information in place he would be freed up to really get going with this amazing and wonderful story!


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