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Re: [mythsoc] Amy Bloom's Pullman Review

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  • Ted Sherman
    You know, I find that reviews that begin by comparing one author with another usually aren t very good reviews. Comparing Philip Pullman s writing to J. K.
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 22, 2000
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      You know, I find that reviews that begin by comparing one author with another
      usually aren't very good reviews. Comparing Philip Pullman's writing to J. K.
      Rowling's is akin to comparing C. S. Lewis's to J. R. R. Tolkien's. They cannot
      be compared. Each writer has her own style and voice and tone and, dare I say
      it, message. Tolkien and Lewis do not at all write in the same fashion, and the
      content of their stories is also worlds apart (literally); similarly, Pullman
      and Rowling have very different styles, and they are each telling very different
      tales, both of which, in my opinion, are good stories. Moreover, each author (as
      with Lewis and Tolkien) have differing reasons for writing and differing
      intentions for their works.

      By the way, I have several links to reviews of *The Amber Spyglass* if anyone is


      Donovan & Lillian Mattole wrote:

      > I thought I'd pass this on. It is another Pullman reviewm, this one by Amy
      > Bloom.
      > -Donovan
      > Here is another review, this one by Amy Bloom (whose stories I like well
      > enough--her first collection especially). As far as the comparison to the
      > Harry Potter books, I think that "the Golden Compass" is far better than any
      > of the Potter books; but the last few Potter's have more than a "hint" of
      > darkness--people finally have started to die, etc. Rowlands is just nowhere
      > near the writer that Pullman is.
      > Love, Death, and Ursine Kings
      > by Amy Bloom
      > A diehard fan of James Marshall's George and Martha series, Amy Bloom is
      > clearly not immune to the allure of children's literature. But in the essay
      > below, she takes pains to distinguish between the sunnier charms of Harry
      > Potter and the darker, deeper power of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials
      > trilogy.
      > ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
      > ----
      > Harry Potter is an ice cream sundae--a bright confection, with enough wacky
      > display, charming surprises, and hints of darker flavors to make bright
      > children happy and warm-hearted adults happy with them.
      > Philip Pullman's trilogy is not that.
      > Paradise Lost, heroic, moody angels (of whom the most moving and
      > heartbreaking are a pair of men, whose love for each other and the loss they
      > suffer is one of Pullman's many, and unexpected, subtle knives); the King of
      > Bears, Iorek Byrnison, powerful, wise, sad, and devoted--the father we all
      > long for; Lyra Silvertongue, the brave brat who emerges from each book
      > closer to the woman she will be, to the person we hope she will live to
      > become; Will Parry (fiction's most beloved and unstoppable murderer, and if
      > I were a girl, his face and Iorek's would be in my dreams every night);
      > their ambiguous, brilliant, terrifying, and irresistible parents; some weird
      > thing called Dust; the mulefa, whose own culture seems as real and complex
      > as ours but undeniably cuter; witches with heartache and sticks of
      > cloud-pine; scientists who believe in magic; villains like cliff-ghasts
      > (don't ask, they're disgusting) and Specters (I won't tell--they're worse);
      > the river Styx, bounty-hunting priests, hot-air balloons, and a knife that
      > cuts from one world to others; wounds that won't heal; shamans and snakes;
      > the battle of God and the Authority; and dæmons for everyone, which change
      > shape as you grow and eventually settle into the form you deserve.
      > We can see and feel all of this through Pullman, and it is less chaotic than
      > I have made it sound but no less full. He gives us a whole, detailed
      > universe and, as with any other, some of us prefer Paris to Montana, or
      > beaches to museums. In Pullman's world, I could pass on some of what others
      > adore; I could live without some of the Dust, the yakkety-yak of Church
      > councils, and the warring Church factions; and I preferred Lord Asriel when
      > I knew what he was doing and, generally, what the hell was going on (books 1
      > and 3). But Dust brought me Mary Malone, my favorite scientist and busybody,
      > and the alethiometer--which is exactly the sort of device a smart, lonely
      > imaginative kid would dream up, and which its creator has revised and
      > burnished with such convincing concrete detail that I wonder if I haven't
      > seen one, once, somewhere.
      > Pullman doesn't really strike me as a children's author. He's not much
      > interested in coming of age, or in sports, or in treats; he lacks Tolkien's
      > Gloccamora tweeness and C.S. Lewis's exhausting Christianity (if there's a
      > risk he runs, this would be it). These books are not for normal boys and
      > girls; they are for old souls in young bodies, for the twisted little
      > weirdoes who worry about things other people can't even imagine, and they
      > are for the adults we have become. Pullman is a chronicler of love,
      > enlivened by minor obsessions with death, tyranny, and 19th-century
      > expeditions. Love's failure and betrayal occur most painfully within the
      > family. Lyra's father, a demigod, barely acknowledges her and prefers her at
      > a distance, as an abstraction. Mrs. Coulter, her mother, loves her not at
      > all for the first two books, and is the sort of hissing, seductive maternal
      > snake that runs through Freud's studies. Young Will has a father he will
      > know only after the man's death and a mother whom no magic, let alone filial
      > devotion, can ever fix or even improve. Parental surrogates abound, as in
      > every fairy tale, and they are great improvements over the original, but not
      > quite as powerful (just as in real life).
      > Every kind of loss intrigues Pullman and, in the face of life's parade of
      > lovers and families, there are murderous villains, misguided pawns, gifts
      > that maim, knowledge that destroys, and grief that won't end. All of this in
      > a voice that is fundamentally optimistic, seraphically knowing,
      > compassionate, and unexpectedly lyrical.
      > Cry for the angels, cheer for Lyra and Will, battle with Iorek Byrnison,
      > plot to kill Mrs. Coulter, ride with the witches, linger with the mulefa,
      > and ponder wickedness and virtue in every form. Pullman, we are yours.
      > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org

      Dr. Theodore James Sherman, Editor
      Mythlore: A Journal of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams and
      Mythopoeic Literature
      Box X041, Department of English
      Middle Tennessee State University
      Murfreesboro, TN 37132
      615 898-5836; FAX 615 898-5098
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