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Phillip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy

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No, Ridley Scott is not currently attached to direct The Golden Compass. They are still in the script stage of pre-production. Supposedly they have a few big name directors in mind, but no one has been approached yet.

Scott.

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Here's the newest on the film and stage adaptations of "His Dark Materials".

A movie director will be hired in the next month or so and filming should start in about a year. With a skittish eye, perhaps, on the power of religious groups in the United States, New Line's executives say they will probably insist that the books' repudiation of religion be softened into more of a meditation on the corruption of power in general. Mark Ordesky, executive vice president and chief operating officer of New Line Productions, said in an interview that "the real issue is not religion; it's authority

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The New York Times wrote:

: He recently published "Lyra's Oxford," a small teaser of a book

: containing a short story about the trilogy's heroine, and is at work on

: "The Book of Dust," a prequel.

My sister gave my girlfriend Lyra's Oxford for Christmas, so I hope to read that soon. I wasn't aware he was also working on this other one, though.

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Bizarre news here. Say, is anybody ever going to fix this thread's title?

- - -

RE should include Pullman, says Archbishop

Archbishop Rowan Williams has said the tales of Lyra and Will could help address the "inadequacies" of some religious education courses.

Daily Telegraph, March 9

Archbishop wants atheist Pullman on syllabus

In his speech Dr Williams compares Pullman's novels with Dostoevsky's Inquisitor parable and Camus's The Plague, both of which are severely critical of organised religion. These novels, along with Iris Murdoch's The Time of the Angels, could play a part in teaching older pupils about faith, he said.

London Times, March 9

Archbishop wants Pullman in class

Dr Rowan Williams said there was a place for critics of Christianity in lessons on religion. . . . He said debate about such stories was useful because it allowed students to clarify what objections were being made to religion.

BBC, March 10

Author Pullman made CBE at palace

The writer, who has been accused of being anti-Christian, paid tribute to the Archbishop of Canterbury who said his books should be part of RE classes. "The Archbishop is a brave man. I'm happy to agree with him. My quarrel is with the fundamentalists who want to shut down debate," he said.

BBC, March 10

Archbishop praises author accused of blasphemy

Philip Pullman, the best-selling author with a widely advertised contempt for organised religion, has found an unlikely champion in the Archbishop of Canterbury who has risked the wrath of fundamentalists by praising the National Theatre's adaptation of the author's His Dark Materials as a "near miraculous triumph".

Guardian, March 10

His dark classroom materials

The leader of the Church of England has called for one of the most powerful atheist tracts in modern literature to be used as part of pupils' religious education.

Western Mail, March 10

Archbishop and atheist

The teaching of Christianity is so diluted that many -- perhaps most -- children attach little or no meaning to notions such as the Incarnation, the Crucifixion or the Resurrection. A theologian of Dr Williams's calibre may well analyse Pullman's "thought experiment" and relish debate with such an adversary. Children, however, need to be taught facts before they can engage in disputations.

Editorial, Daily Telegraph, March 11

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But wait, there's more!

- - -

Bless the archbishop for his bookish tendencies

Dr Williams is a rarity -- a leader who reads

Observer, March 14

Pullman may give Jesus a novel role

Mr Pullman's revelation came during a much anticipated debate with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and caused a ripple of surprise in the audience at the National Theatre in London.

Daily Telegraph, March 16

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Here's an interesting, and very eloquent, review of His Dark Materials, writen by Pulitzer winner Michael Chabon. While it's mostly positive, this bit of critisism stood out.

Or something like that. I confess to taking as little interest in the question of organized Christianity's demerits as in that of its undoubted good points, in particular when such a debate gets into the works of a perfectly decent story and starts gumming things up. My heart sank as it began to dawn on me, around the time that the first angels begin to show up in The Subtle Knife, that there was some devil in Pullman, pitchfork-prodding him into adjusting his story to suit both the shape of his anti-Church argument (with which I largely sympathize) and the mounting sense of self-importance evident in the swollen (yet withal sketchy) bulk of the third volume and in the decreasing roundedness of its characters. By the end of the third volume, Lyra has lost nearly all the tragic, savage grace that makes her so engaging in The Golden Compass; she has succumbed to the fate of Paul Atreides, the bildungsroman-hero-turned-messiah of Frank Herbert's science fiction novel Dune, existing only, finally, to fulfill the prophecy about her. She has harrowed Hell (a gloomy prison yard, according to Pullman, less Milton than Virgil, home of whispering ghosts cringing under the taunts and talons of the screws, a flock of unconvincing harpies), losing and then regaining her daemon-soul; she has become, like all prophesied ones and messiahs, at once more and less than human.  

This is a problem for Pullman, since His Dark Materials is explicitly

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Interesting comments from Chabon. I have his Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay on my TBR (to be read) pile right now. Many people have recommended it to me. His sensible reading of Pullman is encouraging!

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Yes it is! I'm kind of hoping the film project goes away, but I keep hearing reports that it's moving forward. It's one of those books that will have to be sorely abrdiged and altered to become a film.

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I skimmed it, and it is interesting. Both Williams and Pullman being very polite.

I couldn't help noticing this appalling blooper, though, which Pullman, supposedly so influenced by Milton, was perhaps too polite to call the Archbishop on:

[RW:]

Coincidentally I was reading just a few days ago, a letter by David Jones, the Anglo-Welsh poet and painter, and he's writing about the Fall and about Milton's perception of it. He notes that in Milton as soon as Adam and Eve are thrown out of Eden, the first thing they do is to have sex, and David Jones says \"that is the bloody limit\" because he's writing as a Catholic with a rather strong investment in the idea of saved material life.

Evidently it's been a while since either David Jones or the Archbishop have read Paradise Lost. One of the notable things about it is that Milton's Adam and Eve have sex in Eden before the fall, and it's all very innocent and beautiful:

...into their inmost bower

Handed they went...

...nor turned, I ween

Adam from his fair Spouse, nor Eve the Rites

Mysterious of connubial Love refused:

Whatever Hypocrites austerely talk

Of purity and place and innocence,

Defaming as impure what God declares

Pure, and commands to some, leaves free to all,

Our Maker bids increase, who bids abstain

But our Destroyer, foe to God and Man?

Hail wedded Love, mysterious Law, true source

Of human offspring, sole propriety

In Paradise of all things common else.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Far be it, that I should write thee sin or blame,

Or think thee unbefitting holiest place...\" (PL IV.738-59

Actually, the first thing Adam and Eve do after the fall (in book nine) is have an argument and blame each other; then they turn to to each other in lust, but before the expulsion from Eden in book 12, and their "amorous play" is described in much different terms that imply their lost innocence.

This is the kind of shoddy reading that give Milton--and Christianity--a bad name. :roll:

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BethR wrote:

: Actually, the first thing Adam and Eve do after the fall (in book nine) is

: have an argument and blame each other; then they turn to to each other

: in lust, but before the expulsion from Eden in book 12, and their

: "amorous play" is described in much different terms that imply their lost

: innocence.

Wow, thanks, BethR! I don't know if I'll get a chance to look more closely at that before I finish my essay on sexuality in The Last Temptation of Christ (which gets us into the whole question of whether sexuality was part of God's intention for unfallen humanity -- the saints are not of one mind, apparently), but it definitely sounds like something I'll need to keep in mind!

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Yippee.

So there's a fourth book coming out?  How's he going to continue it after the third one fell apart the way it did?

Many moons ago when The Book of Dust was first talked about it was meant to be unrelated to Lyra and Will. A different story in the His Dark Materials universe because Pullman was adiment the story was finished. Which I respected him a great deal for. And then Lyra's Oxford appeared and suddenly we're led to believe it all wasn't... I guess I can't blame an author for missing their favourite characters but one of the reasons I've been very positive about Pullman's work is that I feel his understanding of the art of writing is above and beyond most other writers in the world today. And that includes knowing, however hard it is, when you've gotten to the end.

Phil.

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More backpedaling?

It is precisely the absence of this virtue that triggers his quarrel with CS Lewis, whose Narnia books are the clear precursor of His Dark Materials. "What I object to," Pullman explains, "is not the presence of Christian doctrine, it's the absence of Christian virtue. If you were an otherwise intelligent person and you knew nothing of Christianity, and you heard that the Narnia books were great examples of Christian fiction, you would never know that the greatest virtue was supposed to be love."

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Hmmm, that's a very interesting comment -- I've been meaning to re-read the Narnia books for quite some time now, and if and when I do, I shall do so with this comment in mind.

Incidentally, it seems the older, longer thread (which had a few dozen posts) was merged into the much newer and much shorter thread (which only had, like, two or three posts) -- I think, in future, the merging should go the other way, otherwise all the other posts which link to the older thread will suddenly have dead links.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

: That Aslan, boy, what a self-centered hero.

There is definitely an element of MERCY in the Narnia books, but is it articulated in the terms of LOVE?

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Well, not *that* much of a backpedal. Pullman's a fan of Jesus, he's a fan of Jesus' teachings he's just not much of a fan of the Church or, indeed, Christians.

Pullman's issues with Narnia, specifically with The Last Battle (the implication that the Penseives, Diggory and Polly have to die to find happiness, that Susan is rejected because she becomes a 'typical' girl etc.) stem from his immense dislike of religiosity and a Church which, apparently, celebrates pain and represses pleasure. Which is the point he's making in "His Dark Materials."

First time, though, I've seen him mention Narnia without using the word 'propganda.'

Phil.

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Hmmm. Time for me to reread the Dark Materials Trilogy and the Chronicles of Narnia methinks...

At first reading, though, I have to say I found Pullman's trilogy a captivating and thoughtful exposition. Shall have another go, bearing in mind people's comments. It will be interesting to read them all together and not 3 years apart, too (which is why I refrain from further commentary as I can not recall the first two books in enough detail).

As for Narnia, haven't read them since childhood. Definitely didn't pick up any of the religious undertones (maybe overtones) of the books then. I was 8, although I did attend a Catholic school, but it just goes to show that sometimes kids are just kids no matter how we try and teach them.

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Well, not *that* much of a backpedal. Pullman's a fan of Jesus, he's a fan of Jesus' teachings he's just not much of a fan of the Church or, indeed, Christians.

My impression has always been that Pullman is basically anti-God, not just anti-religion. How much of a "fan of Jesus" can you be if you're anti-God?

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Well, not *that* much of a backpedal. Pullman's a fan of Jesus, he's a fan of Jesus' teachings he's just not much of a fan of the Church or, indeed, Christians.

My impression has always been that Pullman is basically anti-God, not just anti-religion. How much of a "fan of Jesus" can you be if you're anti-God?

Plenty, as long as what you do is take Jesus' teaching out of context and see him as a visionary and a radical and not God. And, yes, Pullman is fully aware of the Lewis style reasoning that Jesus' claims make him either mad, evil or God himself. But that has no dice with him. As you can see from the interview (from Damaris) it highlights some more of Pullman's anti-Lewis feelings.

The god of the Dark Materials is called 'the Authority' and I think that's significant for examining which aspects of God Pullman has time for, and which aspects of Christian religiosity he doesn't.

Phil.

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My impression has always been that Pullman is basically anti-God, not just anti-religion. How much of a "fan of Jesus" can you be if you're anti-God?

The god of the Dark Materials is called 'the Authority' and I think that's significant for examining which aspects of God Pullman has time for, and which aspects of Christian religiosity he doesn't.

I would agree with this summary. I remember the death of the authority scene from when I read it a while back, and I was quite shocked that he actually went that far. However, it also made perfect sense in the context of his book. I also found myself quite relieved that someone had. I would argue that it isn't a literal representation of God dying, more a freeing of God from the restraints we impose on him - so it's not actually God dying in that scene but our created "God". Ironically, I think this is a very Christian approach to God.

You might want to look at the link I posted on reading and democracy in the literature field. It gives a good insight into what Pullman's stance is and it is something I can wholly sympathise with.

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The god of the Dark Materials is called 'the Authority' and I think that's significant for examining which aspects of God Pullman has time for, and which aspects of Christian religiosity he doesn't.

I would agree with this summary. I remember the death of the authority scene from when I read it a while back, and I was quite shocked that he actually went that far. However, it also made perfect sense in the context of his book. I also found myself quite relieved that someone had. I would argue that it isn't a literal representation of God dying, more a freeing of God from the restraints we impose on him - so it's not actually God dying in that scene but our created "God". Ironically, I think this is a very Christian approach to God.

[...]

I think William Blake, who seems also to have influenced Pullman greatly, though interviews & articles rarely discuss this--probably because Blake is more obscure & (in some ways) more difficult than Milton--would probably agree with this interpretation. Blake often claimed to be a follower of Jesus and a believer in God, but really disliked the structures and hypocrisy of the organized church of his time (maybe any time?)

So it's probably perfectly possible to read the novels this way, metaphorically. On the other hand, Pullman himself certainly comes through quite clearly as believing something different and probably intending that as well. But the reader finds what he or she finds in the book.

Beth

North Carolina

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