22 March 2009

His Dark Materials

Again, here is a duplicated facebook note from November the 3rd:

so i FINALLY finished reading the dark materials trilogy. i normally read fairly speedily but it was such a chore and a ball ache to read that it took me nine million years. however, despite that the fact i didn't have a good word to say about it whilst reading it, i was slightly won over by the end. in fact, a little tear may or may not have escaped my overly-decorated eye.

However, here are some of my issues with the book:

* i thought the story mary malone told about the marzipan towards the end was quite subtle and nice, and i thought that considering it turned out to just be a ridiculously clumsy love story- that part was quite well done EXCEPT it makes me very uncomfortable to read about two 12 year olds kissing each others' "hot faces". Also, i really hate that the moral of every children's book these days seems to be "love conquers all" we're supposed to believe that these characters are really strong and brave- yet they only seem to become complete people and to grow up when they fall in love, which is an idea i absolutely hate and probably the reason why young people are so desperate to get in relationships, because PHILIP PULLMAN told them that it would be the only way that they would be fulfilled as humans. whatever happened to being alone and self-sufficient?!

* i hate having author's own agendas shoved down my throat. the thing that made me want to read the trilogy was because i went to the philip pullman lecture for leeds read and found him really articulate, humble and charming. however, this translates in writing to arrogance, self-indulgence and preachy-ness. i like religion as a theme, except when it slips in without you quite noticing it. And as anti-catholicism as i may be- i don't want to be forced into agreeing with really biased views. Also, I think there were too many agendas (I have a feeling agendas is not the plural for agenda, but I can’t be arsed to look it up) such as the gay angels- what did it really achieve apart from saying that gays are actually quite nice, even though they had to “rebel” against the “authority”. Contrived. Contrived. Contrived.

* The fact that the “authority” or “God” was called Metatron- sounds too much like a transformer.

* The elephants on wheels.

* The fact that having read the three books, I still haven’t the faintest idea what “Dust” “sraf” or “shadows” are. Though I have established that they are all the same thing.

* The fact that so many of the characters had to potential to become quite rounded and strong characters, but none of them were built on enough to become any more than fairly vague and hollow nothings. Lee Scoresby, for example.

* It’s almost as if someone challenged Pullman to squeeze as many ridiculous fantasy characters in as possible. Tiny people, witches, armoured bears, talking animals, ghosts, angels, elephants on wheels, giant birds, harpys, horse-sized blue lizards. I felt like I was tripping for half of the last book.

* the shit names for everything: the intention craft, the adamant tower, the subtle knife...

* The really contrived scientific-theological slant. Whereas the Harry Potter books evolved fairly organically into books that appealed to adults as well as children, his dark materials were clearly written with the crossover appeal in mind, and it really shows. But I don’t think any adult will be seriously challenged or interested in all the shite science talk, that just muddies the story, but I think young children will think that it’s pretty cool that they’re reading such a “grown up” story- even though it will probably go straight over their heads.

On the plus side, I quite like the character of Will, I liked the less-than-happy ending, and I liked the fact that even until the very end, you were questioning whether Mrs Coulter was a “goody” or “evil”.Overall, I wouldn’t recommend it, my enjoyment literally only crept in at the last four chapters or so. And anyone who says they are better than Harry Potter should be shot.

a friend responded to this, saying why she preferred the Pullman trilogy to the Harry Potters:

"I think I liked it more because it challenged my thoughts and introduced me to the idea othat ideas and philosophy can co-exist within literature, which I don't think Harry Potter does. And you have to remember I was 10 when I first read it and wouldn't really have been able to analyse it to the degree you have or consider it pretentious or contrived. I didn't dismiss Harry Potter because it was a commercial success, I dismissed it because of all the things that made it a commercial success, like the fact it doesn't challenge any ideas. I can see why people like it, its a nice story, but I found it little more than that and that isn't why I personally read literature."

my, rather clumsy, response was:

As much as i like to be challenged by what i read, sometimes good characters and a good plot do it for me. i think the reason it was a commercial success was that it was highly accessible, and i think that it can only be a good thing, because i bet without the harry potter craze, many children would never have picked up a book out of choice before. yeah my friend said a similar thing about liking it when he read it when he was young, because he was oblivious to the more glaringly preachy elements. that's kind of what i mean though- harry potter was written for children. pullman seems to have consciously written with the dual audience, which, for me is why the mixture of deep theology and things like elephants on wheels doesn't really work together and just sits rather uncomfortably for my liking. it's kind of like reading about garden gnomes discussing euthanasia or something.

I think it's an interesting discussion, that definitely splits literature fans down the middle, whether they're especially into children's literature or not.

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