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Author Topic: His Dark Materials (Philip Pullman trilogy cont.)
unionist
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posted 07 December 2007 06:49 PM      Profile for unionist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Continued from here.

quote:
Atheism for children is how some people describe the new children's fantasy film and the books from which it derives. "The anti-Narnia" is how some supporters of the film--not just critics--see it. [...]

Readers looking for a fair, firm, and non-sensational critique of The Golden Compass and the other books of His Dark Materials will find it in Pied Piper of Atheism.


Now there's a book that we need on Ontario Catholic school shelves!

Source: http://atheismforchildren.com

[ 07 December 2007: Message edited by: unionist ]


From: Vote QS! | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
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posted 10 December 2007 03:28 AM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Interesting.

Does anyone know what age group this is for? I think it would be an interesting series to get for my son, but just want to know if it would be age-appropriate for 9 years old.


From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
unionist
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posted 10 December 2007 03:36 AM      Profile for unionist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Well, they say 9-12, but I think 9 is really bare minimum for a child who is already a pretty developed book reader.*

*Disclaimer: I haven't got a clue. Depends on the child. Page through the book and see what you think.


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DonnyBGood
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posted 10 December 2007 08:22 AM      Profile for DonnyBGood     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I am reading Simon Scharma's book titled "An Embarrassment of Riches". It is the story Renaissance in Holland. It is a description of the life and art of the Dutch. The chapter I am reading now pertains to this issue because it is dealing with the appearance of children in art forms. Scharma discusses their use as metaphors for unenlightened adults. So you have these graphics with children on stilts symbolizing vanity or images of children playing games like cards or dice symbolizing the folly of gambling etc.

I wonder how much of this is at play in many of these modern tales?

If there is some intent here to proselytize then why do we need to worry about the age group? ( Unless of course, it is too advanced for the child.)

[ 10 December 2007: Message edited by: DonnyBGood ]


From: Toronto | Registered: Jan 2004  |  IP: Logged
arborman
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posted 14 December 2007 10:44 PM      Profile for arborman     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Michelle:
Interesting.

Does anyone know what age group this is for? I think it would be an interesting series to get for my son, but just want to know if it would be age-appropriate for 9 years old.


I read it when I was 32...

It is easier to read than Lord of the Rings - probably fairly comparable to The Chronicles of Narnia, but cooler and more interesting.


From: I'm a solipsist - isn't everyone? | Registered: Aug 2003  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
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posted 18 December 2007 03:26 AM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Well, as it turns out, my kid has no interest in seeing The Golden Compass, so maybe he wouldn't be interested in the books either. Surprising, considering that he's always dying to see Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and the Narnia stuff.
From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
DonnyBGood
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posted 18 December 2007 05:21 AM      Profile for DonnyBGood     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
There is a good review of this material here:

The Golden Compass

What is interesting is the literary/historical heritage of this work

Crawford Kilian writes,

quote:
All fantasy is political, and here is where Pullman upsets his adversaries. Most of the fantasy epics we know and love are safely reactionary. The plots are always about restoring some dynasty to its lost throne in a picturesque country that's never experienced an election, much less a U.S.-style primary campaign. The fantasy kingdom may have evil aristocrats, wizards and priests, but the good guys will eventually win.

His Dark Materials isn't about the restoration of the old order but the creation of a new one -- the overthrow of God's Kingdom and the establishment of the Republic of Heaven. This may seem like wicked Bolshevism, but it really reflects Pullman's literary influences: a couple of radicals named John Milton and William Blake.



Perks my interest in reading up on these authors...

But I wonder if this reactionary bent is the appeal of fantasy novels and films. If this movie is popular then the answer would be no. But oddly my kids also have not expressed any interest. Now I am wondering if this is because they know I would like it or agree with the message...

Edited to add that the stats are comparable or better than Lord of the Rings opening weekend and fairly respectable so far after the first week
at $97 million...(worldwide).

[ 18 December 2007: Message edited by: DonnyBGood ]


From: Toronto | Registered: Jan 2004  |  IP: Logged
arborman
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posted 18 December 2007 08:06 AM      Profile for arborman     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by DonnyBGood:

But I wonder if this reactionary bent is the appeal of fantasy novels and films. If this movie is popular then the answer would be no. But oddly my kids also have not expressed any interest. Now I am wondering if this is because they know I would like it or agree with the message...


It's a good question. Certainly there were no elections in Gondor...

I think that idea might merit a thread of its own. I have greatly enjoyed fantasy novels and films over the years, and it's true - the characters are almost always nobles, kings and the like. (Even Frodo Baggins, from the relatively egalitarian Shire, had a faithful companion of the servant class who cooked for him, called him Mister and looked to him for guidance after saving his life a bazillion times).


From: I'm a solipsist - isn't everyone? | Registered: Aug 2003  |  IP: Logged
melovesproles
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posted 20 December 2007 02:50 AM      Profile for melovesproles     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
I suppose I respond so antipathetically to Lewis and Tolkien because I find this sort of consolatory orthodoxy as distasteful as any other self-serving misanthropic doctrine. One should perhaps feel some sympathy for the nervousness occasionally revealed beneath their thick layers of stuffy self-satisfaction, typical of the second-rate schoolmaster so cheerfully mocked by Peake and Rowling, but sympathy is hard to sustain in the teeth of their hidden aggression which is so often accompanied by a deep-rooted hypocrisy. Their theories dignify the mood of a disenchanted and thoroughly discredited section of the repressed English middle-class too afraid, even as it falls, to make any sort of direct complaint ("They kicked us out of Rhodesia, you know"), least of all to the Higher Authority, their Tory God who has evidently failed them.

It was best-selling novelists, like Warwick Deeping (Sorrell and Son), who, after the First World War, adapted the sentimental myths (particularly the myth of Sacrifice) which had made war bearable (and helped ensure that we should be able to bear further wars), providing us with the wretched ethic of passive "decency" and self-sacrifice, by means of which we British were able to console ourselves in our moral apathy (even Buchan paused in his anti-Semitic diatribes to provide a few of these). Moderation was the rule and it is moderation which ruins Tolkien's fantasy and causes it to fail as a genuine romance, let alone an epic. The little hills and woods of that Surrey of the mind, the Shire, are "safe", but the wild landscapes everywhere beyond the Shire are "dangerous". Experience of life itself is dangerous. The Lord of the Rings is a pernicious confirmation of the values of a declining nation with a morally bankrupt class whose cowardly self-protection is primarily responsible for the problems England answered with the ruthless logic of Thatcherism. Humanity was derided and marginalised. Sentimentality became the acceptable subsitute. So few people seem to be able to tell the difference.

The Lord of the Rings is much more deep-rooted in its infantilism than a good many of the more obviously juvenile books it influenced. It is Winnie-the-Pooh posing as an epic. If the Shire is a suburban garden, Sauron and his henchmen are that old bourgeois bugaboo, the Mob - mindless football supporters throwing their beer-bottles over the fence the worst aspects of modern urban society represented as the whole by a fearful, backward-yearning class for whom "good taste" is synonymous with "restraint" (pastel colours, murmured protest) and "civilized" behaviour means "conventional behaviour in all circumstances". This is not to deny that courageous characters are found in The Lord of the Rings, or a willingness to fight Evil (never really defined), but somehow those courageous characters take on the aspect of retired colonels at last driven to write a letter to The Times and we are not sure - because Tolkien cannot really bring himself to get close to his proles and their satanic leaders - if Sauron and Co. are quite as evil as we're told. After all, anyone who hates hobbits can't be all bad.


Epic Pooh

I remember reading Moorcock's criticism of LOTR when I was a teenager and being underwhelmed but years later after watching Peter Jackson's 'Us against the dark hordes' cinematic interpretation, it felt more accurate. I was a Fantasy junkie when I was a teenager but I haven't been able to go back, the way I still sometimes like reading quality Sci Fi, altho Pullman's books do sound kind of intriguing.

[ 20 December 2007: Message edited by: melovesproles ]


From: BC | Registered: Apr 2005  |  IP: Logged
arborman
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posted 20 December 2007 01:50 PM      Profile for arborman     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:

I remember reading Moorcock's criticism of LOTR when I was a teenager and being underwhelmed but years later after watching Peter Jackson's 'Us against the dark hordes' cinematic interpretation, it felt more accurate. I was a Fantasy junkie when I was a teenager but I haven't been able to go back, the way I still sometimes like reading quality Sci Fi, altho Pullman's books do sound kind of intriguing.
[/QB]


I loved LOTR as a teen, and will likely read it a few more times in my life. That said, there is some fairly trenchant (if pissy) criticism in there. That said I've found Moorcock's own books to be, well, boring more than any other adjective, something of which Tolkein cannot be accused.

I don't have a lot of interest in fantasy, though there remain some excellent writers - including Canada's own Guy Gavriel Kay, whose latest book had me up till 4 am reading in the living room on a night I really couldn't do that.

But my heart certainly lies with good sf writing.

[ 20 December 2007: Message edited by: arborman ]


From: I'm a solipsist - isn't everyone? | Registered: Aug 2003  |  IP: Logged
DonnyBGood
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posted 20 December 2007 04:56 PM      Profile for DonnyBGood     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I did not read Lord of the Rings until I was out of school working for a living. It resonated with the idea that all those things we thought were going to last were not but it also was a great pot-boiler of a narrative. Narratives usually have a resolution and an end and certainly LoR did have that. But I agree that it was not just symbolically a statement about saving civilization but also very much a justification of the British class system.

On another level however it was much more radical. The entire political structure was unimportant. It was the idea that there was a world crisis, that the divine powers were corrupted by evil and susceptible to it. Otherwise there would have been no story.

In the book the ORCs and villains were not really "enemies" they were fabrications of THE enemy - Sauron. Sauron was the embodiment of the rationalist notion that power over nature, over other beings could justify itself. Sauron's power was manufactured.

The world in the book was marvellous, suddenly you were not reading a fairy tale, you were in it! The movies captured some of this.

To this day I can still remember the sense that there was something unfinished about LoR, a moral subtle and haunting, told delicately.

War damages civilization. It is the thing that is killing the planet. War is the manifestation of the the blind lust for power over others as an end in itself.

It is difficult to dismiss LoR as entirely a lament for the lost British Empire. I think it is more fairly an accommodation and poetic balm for a mass of people caught up with bloody mindedness, duty and self-sacrifice. (In Angola today the abducted children who were raised to fight in the Lord's Resistance Army are the best soldiers when they defect to the government side. They obey orders and fight more fiercely than the lazy government troops who are susceptible to bribes and conflict avoidance.) The British working class had just fought two generations of utterly horrendous wars for no apparent purpose. The idea that war could not solve problems but at the same time was a noble calling was the greatest of irreconcilable contradictions.

With the arrival of the nuclear age war became impossible on a world wide stage. These books (LoR) were published in the 1950s not the 1930s. They reflect a very strong anti-war sentiment in my opinion.

I know of no military buffs who comment on the favourably on the military tactics in these books. In fact Sauron is not defeated by force but by magic - by the inversion of his own magic. Is this not the nuclear parable well disguised?

His Dark Materials is something else, I think.

...more when I have seen the movie and read the books.



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KenS
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posted 23 December 2007 10:20 AM      Profile for KenS     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
My daughter is 13 and likes Golden Compass, but that's now.

About 2 years ago we tried reading it out loud, and she didn't like it. I don't remember it well, but thought it was pretty dark and creepy. Adults using children for nasty stuff, etc.

I can't imagine where it would get a 9-12 years old recommendation.


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Tommy_Paine
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posted 24 December 2007 06:39 AM      Profile for Tommy_Paine     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
A few days ago, I caught about 45 minutes of a one hour feature on magic, hosted by perhaps my favorite magician, Lance Burton.

I confess that as a child I hated magicians, mostly because I didn't understand their intent. I enjoy them heartily now though. And I particularly liked how Burton pointed out that the more intelligent the audience, the easier it is to fool them. Kids, he said, are perhaps the hardest to fool.

And, for those who have been made aware of the various techniques for, say, the levitation illusion, I bet the solution was a kabillion time simpler than what you had imagined the solution to be.

Similarly, in literature I think we imagine much more complicated things that the writer intended.

Reading "The Lord of the Rings" as a teen (several times) despite my very anti-monarchy leanings, and knowledge that the pastoral ideals in the book ignored the fact that life for my ilk in pastoral England was nasty, brutish and short didn't detract from the wonderful tale.

Works of fantasy-- and really, all non fiction are works of fantasy-- are not Bills of Rights or Declarations of Independence, or Charters of Rights or Magna Carta's.

They are stories. Stories that no doubt contain allegories, but I tend to think they are much simpler than English Professors would have it.

I finished "The Golden Compass" this morning. Rather enjoyed it.


From: The Alley, Behind Montgomery's Tavern | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
KenS
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posted 24 December 2007 09:25 AM      Profile for KenS     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
That said I've found Moorcock's own books to be, well, boring more than any other adjective, something of which Tolkein cannot be accused.

I was enthralled when reading LoR as a teen. And I enjoyed reading them again when my daughter read them. But I can certainly see why a lot of people cannot get through them: tedious.

You have to like story detail. And/or journeys. And Tolkein was not a good writer.

Having not finished Golden Compass, and forgotten what I did read- I thought I'd see the movie first this time.

Unlike the rest of my family- I watch a movie as a movie... not as a version of our favourite books. But I still thought seeing the movie first would be interesting.

But my curiousity is growing, and have nothing else I want to read at the moment...


From: Minasville, NS | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged
DonnyBGood
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posted 24 December 2007 09:55 AM      Profile for DonnyBGood     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
The Lord of the Rings is much more deep-rooted in its infantilism than a good many of the more obviously juvenile books it influenced. It is Winnie-the-Pooh posing as an epic. If the Shire is a suburban garden, Sauron and his henchmen are that old bourgeois bugaboo, the Mob - mindless football supporters throwing their beer-bottles over the fence the worst aspects of modern urban society represented as the whole by a fearful, backward-yearning class for whom "good taste" is synonymous with "restraint" (pastel colours, murmured protest) and "civilized" behaviour means "conventional behaviour in all circumstances".

This may be what the writer knows about the English literary crowd but I think the reader doesn't need to know it to appreciate the book.

The spin-offs are at least as far as I can judge by the sales far more "readable" to the young audience of today. Are Agatha Christie novels "infantile" simply because the have traditional plot lines?

One of the interesting aspects of LoR is the split of the story into the various quests.

For the modernist sensibility this entire epic is seen as reactionary but I think it is very "modernist" in sensibility.

It has a scope and grandeur beyond your typical Philip Grove or Margaret Attwood literary drudgery which has to manufacture its own Icons and then manipulate them...

That is fun some times but other times it is a big bore.

Moreover simply viewing the moral in the book one-dimensionally as many modernist critics do completely overlooks the underlying moral tales being told.

It is operatic in form.


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KenS
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posted 24 December 2007 10:36 AM      Profile for KenS     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
To be fair to Moorcock, in that essay he commends Baum, E. Nesbit, and Susan Cooper- none of whom are into drudgery, all of whom have scopes of wonder.

Mind you did also moan about people loving LoR while panning Ulysses... talk about self indulgent writers.


From: Minasville, NS | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged
DonnyBGood
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posted 29 December 2007 06:08 AM      Profile for DonnyBGood     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Well I saw the movie and I can't see what is anti-Catholic about it. It is reminiscent of the anti-science clique found in Planet of the Apes.

The dust concept and the multi-verse science seems a bit fantastic and the entire setting seems oddly insubstantial. According to my kids who read the book in grade school there was much more in the way of character development in the books although the lead and the supporting cast are quite good. The James Bond guy is not well cast in my opinion. Nicole Kidman's character is problematical but she does an adequate job but doesn't seem to really nail it down.

The warbear is way cool and everyone in the theatre enjoyed the big dust up and battle scenes.

As a sidenote the top grossing comic book movie series are Spiderman, Batman & Superman. All earned over a billion world wide.

Now as a Marxist art critic I ask how do these movies deal with the issues of class consciousness and do they contribute to viable means to resolve capitalist mode of production value contradictions?

It would be nice if just swatting off the lower mandible of the evil dictator or being rescued by 400 year-old, flying, magical, harlot archers would do the trick.


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Tommy_Paine
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posted 29 December 2007 07:58 AM      Profile for Tommy_Paine     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
My eldest has read the book and seen the movie, and she said the movie was watered down on that subject.

I think the thing the Halton Catholic Indoctrination Board objected to in the book was the reference to the church at one time castrating young boys to make their choirs sound better.

I can understand how they'd like to hide that from the kids.


From: The Alley, Behind Montgomery's Tavern | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged

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