Tag Archives: Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman: new brand of environmentalism

Philip Pullman in conversation with Andrew Simms, policy director of the New Economics Foundation, an edited extract from Do Good Lives Have to Cost the Earth? (Constable & Robinson), edited by Andrew Simms and Joe Smith, published on Thursday in England.

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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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The Sentagraph

Edward Champion’s “The Long and Short of Paragraphs” in today’s Guardian reminded me of one of my favorite one sentence paragraphs.

Lyra is happily relating a tale for the gyptian children…

“… It took him five whole minutes to die, and he was in torment the whole time.”

“Did you see it happen?”

“No, ’cause girls en’t allowed at High Table. But I seen his body afterwards when they laid him out. His skin was all withered like an old apple, and his eyes were starting from his head. In fact, they had to push ’em back in the sockets…”

And so on.

Meanwhile, around the edges of the fen country….

(Page 131 in Philip Pullman’s Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition of The Golden Compass).

I just love that “And so on.” I can just imagine the omniscient narrator rolling his eyes, abruptly turning, and striding off to the fen country. It is such an amazing construction of text. First there is the long story from Lyra interrupted by staccato questions from the gyptian kids. This is broken up with the one-sentence-paragraph sigh of the narrator. And then we are off with a long paragraph of story exposition about the fen country.

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The Golden Compass Movie: Philip Pullman on ‘Story’ versus ‘literature’

Philip Pullman speaks up for the narrator and argues that ‘literature’ is what a film director must leave out when translating a ‘story’ into a movie.

Story’ versus ‘literature’ | Book club | Guardian Unlimited Books

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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: 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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The Golden Compass Movie: Pullman on Storytelling

Whatever stories are made of, words aren’t fundamental to it. Something else is. And what I think is fundamental to the narrative process is events — stories are made of events….Whether we read it in a children’s book or hear it being told to us in a class, it doesn’t matter. It’s the story itself, the events themselves that have that power to affect us.

From a truly wonderful interview by James Mustich with Philip Pullman (and one he especially recommends).

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The Golden Compass Story

I started listening to the audio book of The Golden Compass last week
(for the umpteenth time) and it reminds me that whatever we think
about the movie, the story is alive and well in the words Philip Pullman put
down (and reads) so beautifully. The books are selling splendidly well
(sorry, Mr. Donohue) and the story will live on because it is great.
I am not given to hyperbole, but it is for me truly one of the great
works of British children’s literature. Every reading is a richer one.
I’m now at Bolvanger and (perhaps because I’ve been talking so much
about the book in school) particularly noticed how Philip Pullman used his
experiences as a teacher. He totally captures the children’s way of
grouping, of playing, of talking together. And then, that sprite of a
narrator, goes a little deeper by commenting on Lyra being such a good
liar because she is so lacking in imagination. Brilliant. The real
story is the thing. It transcends New Line, Chris Weitz, Bill
Donohue, and everything else.

“So Lyra and her daemon turned away from the world they were born in,
and looked toward the sun, and walked into the sky.”


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