Sunday, January 6, 2008

His Dark Materials

I have been learning a bit about story telling - I just finished the Phil Pullman trilogy. I think it has some profoundly beautiful writing but I wondered if it weren't a bit spotty in places. Now and then he told me what to think instead of letting me figure it out - but what a fabulous descriptive technique he has and how gripping is the first reading!

I think his description of the place of the dead is as good as Tolkein (the paths of the dead) or Lewis (the Great Divorce). Perhaps when I read these inklings, I was not so critical. The conceit of the daemons is among the best extended metaphors. Only occasionally did I feel he let me down: once with what I think were unnecessary intimations of modesty in the terms of this world when his own created world had sufficient scope for it, and more importantly, the extensive quotation of Genesis in the first volume assuming a definition for original sin that the story will not hold - at least not how I read it. The worst I would accuse him of is a momentary lapse of voice.

He uses very well many allusions to Scripture and creates his own male and female composite Christ for the harrowing of Hell. There is next to no mention of Jesus or Glory, but his tale is about that same Gospel - though I expect the unimaginative and the hyper-protective will not read it so.

My wife and I also saw the first film, The Golden Compass, this weekend. It is slight compared to the first book (1996) and the second and third books (2001) improve considerably. All our local acquaintances appear to be reading these books this year - is it popular among any of you?

1 comment:

Beyond Words said...

Bob, my daughter has read the first book--and seen the movie. They're popular among teen-agers where I live.

Thank you for the literary review. Sometimes when I'm caught up in a story, I can't critique it unless the lapse is so distracting it breaks my trance.

I would love to see your synoptic story published so I could hold it in my hands and read it in continuity.

I wish I could have a long afternoon over coffee with you and Doug and Suzanne and Peter and a few other blogging theologians. I have so many questions that no one in my immediate vicinity can (or would want) to answer.