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Michael Berry

I was completely captivated by "The Golden Compass" when I first read it, and "The Subtle Knife" is even better, in my opinion. Sadly, the final volume, "The Amber Spyglass," runs off the rails rather quickly. Still, I was delighted by the series' audaciousness.

What's even crazier about the Catholic League's protests is that, by most reports, the director has effectively neutered the books' anti-religious stance. Tom Stoppard's draft of the screenplay was discarded when the studio became nervous that it was too faithful to the original text. Now, God ISN'T the bad guy in the movie, only some of his misguided minions.

So the zealots won, and they're still bitching. Cripes.

MaryC

So the zealots won, and they're still bitching

Well, now the party line is that "Hollywood removed the anti-religious elements from the movie in an evil scheme to seduce parents into thinking that the books are OK so they'll buy them for their kids to read and their kids' faith will be destroyed. And we'll be out of a job."

MaryC

So the zealots won, and they're still bitching

Well, now the party line is that "Hollywood removed the anti-religious elements from the movie in an evil scheme to seduce parents into thinking that the books are OK so they'll buy them for their kids to read and their kids' faith will be destroyed. And we'll be out of a job."

MaryC

So the zealots won, and they're still bitching

Well, now the party line is that "Hollywood removed the anti-religious elements from the movie in an evil scheme to seduce parents into thinking that the books are OK so they'll buy them for their kids to read and their kids' faith will be destroyed. And we'll be out of a job."

joanr16

I've had to hold back some rants of my own, on overhearing my ignorant coworkers spreading Bill Donohue's lies in the company lunchroom. These nasty viral transmissions invariably begin with, "My sister forwarded me an email about how terrible those books are. They're meant to brainwash kids into becoming atheists." Donohue's probably getting a dollar every time someone else becomes infected.

In fact, I've read the entire Dark Materials trilogy several times, own it in hardcover, have given it as gifts... and I still believe in God. The books are not designed to "brainwash" anyone, at least not any more than any other book that has a point of view.

I'm astonished at the fragility of faith among the loud and dimwitted. They are constantly a-tremble with the fear of ideas.

Doug K

Actual Christians respond to the trilogy: a review
http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=2181

Interesting interview with the author:
http://www.thirdway.org.uk/past/showpage.asp?page=3949

I enjoyed the first two books immensely but thought the third collapsed. The review above seems to me quite acute, pointing out that it was essentially a failure of storytelling.

Our 9-year-old is reading the second book now. He wants to know if there was no God, who made the Big Bang ?
I did my best but I don't think I satisfied him..
He too is having no apparent difficulty distinguishing between the story and the world in which we live.

I wish we could see Tom Stoppard's version.

Ken Houghton

Uh, am I the only one who knows that the source for the triogy is John Milton? You know, Paradise Lost, as cited in TOS ("Tis better to reign in H*ll than to Serve in Heaven").

This is the same John Milton whose Areopagitica cited by Saint Ronald Reagan's Minions as one of the templates for Their Master's Voice. If that isn't enough of a pedigree for the Catholic League, it at least should be for any journalist with a brain. (Oh, I forgot--these are the ones covering film, so I just described the null set.)

Sabutai

The Atlantic Monthly has a six-page detailing of Hollywood's removal of the soul and spirit that animates these books -- that dealing with theology from a non-theist perspective. The movie version will be similar to telling the story of Narnia, if Aslan doesn't come back to life. It's trying to to do Citizen Kane without the sled. Though this movie would be a welcome to any of the roughly 15% of Americans who are agnostic or atheist, Hollywood ran scared from the Bullies with Bibles. Now nobody's happy.

These three books are the most theologically and lyrically beautiful I've ever read, a series I re-read every year that moves me deeply. Though the Amber Spyglass isn't the most smoothly written of the three, I find the resolution to the series well worth it, and the description of Hell more unnerving than the blood carnival Dante describes. Perhaps I just enjoy a story that looks at the world the way it is, not the way we've been trained to imagine it *should* be and asks the hard questions.

Of course the Catholic League is afraid of the books and films. It challenges people to think for themselves, and stop accepting what the priestly class tells us God is, and start thinking about what God seems to be from our own experience. It's moving from religious mumbo jumbo to our own experience. It's entrusting the individual to make their own judgment on religion.

Though by the time period of these books, God isn't really a villain. He's the tottering figurehead, providing a bare cover for the more ambitious would-be heir.

As for Narnia, Pullman's essay "The Dark Side of Narnia" makes clear his feelings on that. Any perceived similarities between the two series would not please either of the authors.

joanr16

Both Milton and William Blake inspired much of the books' ideas and imagery. Blake certainly had his own interesting image of God snf theology.

The haters have a problem with Pullman admitting he doesn't believe in God. Since his personal point of view disagrees with theirs (or at least the one they profess), in their twisted thinking, of course he has to be "brainwashing" and "recruiting" to enhance the ranks of unbelievers. You know, the way gay people do.

Jaquandor

I read the first one and thought it OK, but I've never bothered to follow up, and I'm one for whom made-up magical alternate universes are preferable to this real, cruddy universe we live in.

aaron

Wow, I cannot believe how sad I am about the demise of the Tom Stoppard script. I usually love everything he touches (but my mom inculcated me with that since she had a thing for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead).

In any case, this whole things reminds me of an article I read in the Partisan Review right before it became defunkt where the author claimed that the greatest threats to great art were the three horsemen of the religious right, commercial consideration, and political correctness. In this case, I guess two out of three ain't bad. Hollywood's commercial concerns killed anything thoughtful coming out of the film due to pressure from the religious right. I think political correctness might affect art in some ways, but I don't think I have seen it (unless not seeing Mohammed on a South Park counts, except that whole event looks increasingly like a publicity stunt). In any case, political correctness strikes me as less salient because anything viewed as politically incorrect now can make the case for "irony." Politically incorrect art is elevated more than not.

Also I had a question to kind of turn the Dark Materials situation back on me. When I worked at an after school program, I discovered I book (Dinosaurs by Design) that had become a favorite of student there. It took me a lot longer to realize than any cognizant person should have the pictures of dinosaurs and dudes walking around was not just creative whimsy but actual ahistorical bullshit. By asking my supervisor to throw it away, was I the same as Donahue on some level? If not, why not?

aaron

Wow, I cannot believe how sad I am about the demise of the Tom Stoppard script. I usually love everything he touches (but my mom inculcated me with that since she had a thing for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead).

In any case, this whole thing reminds me of an article I read in the Partisan Review right before it became defunkt where the author claimed that the greatest threats to great art were the three horsemen of the religious right, commercial consideration, and political correctness. In this case, I guess two out of three ain't bad. Hollywood's commercial concerns killed anything thoughtful coming out of the film due to pressure from the religious right. I think political correctness might affect art in some ways, but I don't think I have seen it (unless not seeing Mohammed on a South Park counts, except that whole event looks increasingly like a publicity stunt). In any case, political correctness strikes me as less salient because anything viewed as politically incorrect now can make the case for "irony." Politically incorrect art is elevated more than not.

Also I had a question to kind of turn the Dark Materials situation back on me. When I worked at an after school program, I discovered a book (Dinosaurs by Design) that had become a favorite of a student there. It took me a lot longer to realize than any cognizant person should have that the pictures of dinosaurs and dudes walking around was not just creative whimsy but actual ahistorical malarkey. By asking my supervisor to throw it away, was I the same as Donahue on some level? If not, why not?

(sorry, about seeming double post. I forgot about the younger Mannion audience thing, so I self-censored too late to "malarkey." Please delete first post.)

SV

I loved the premise of the first book and the world that it created (Witches and Daemons and Armored Bears - Cool!). I was a little disappointed by the way the second book started to get off-track, but kept hoping the third book would re-capture the promise of the first. Unfortunately, the third book continued the downward trend and was a complete mess.

These are not anti-religion books. They are anti-(Pullman's ignorant caricature of) religion books. "God" is an old guy who lives in the sky and who has been kept in a prison of senility by his followers. (What part of "Omnipotent" does Pullman not understand?) But then in the end everything is made right by an overwhelming mystical force generated by two kids who (apparently for the first time in the history of the universe) go through puberty.

This is beyond bad writing - it's infuriatingly stupid. I wasted my time on three long books for this? I'm not an atheist, but I respect a coherent story with atheism at its core (and have done so, often). These books are don't have a coherent story - they're don't even have coherent characters. The writings wanders all over the place, railing against magical thinking and replacing it with...stupid magical thinking.

The kindest thing you could say is that these books are not anti-religion, they are anti-monotheism and pro-eastern religion. Except I don't think Pullman cared to make the distinction. He was just interested in a 1,000 page rant against people behaving badly who happen to be religious, and blaming their bad behavior on their religion.

And don't even get me started on the wildly inconsistent motives, importance, and influence of the characters who are supposed to be her parents. They are nothing but devices for whatever Pullman needs for them to be at whatever point he pulls them in.

In summary: Don't waste your time.

Mike

But that's just me, except for Camelot, Middle Earth, and Discworld, I've never been interested in stories set in magical alternative universes.

So, was this meant to be humorous?

...except for [the Bible, the Talmud, the Koran, and the Mahabharata], I've never been interested in [religious books].

...except for [Sherlock Holmes, Nero Wolfe, and Hercule Poirot], I've never been interested in [mystery novels].

...except for [Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, and Kill Bill v1], I've never been interested in [Quentin Tarantino movies].


...except for [preeminent, perhaps even foundational, examples of the class], I've never been interested in [this class of objects].

It just seems like an odd form for expressing the sentiment.

JD

I read the trilogy to my elder son when he was nine. We both loved it.

julia

That would be not-theologian Bill Donohue of the Heritage Foundation, who somehow managed not to mention our beloved excommunicate mayor's marital difficulties and his support for abortion and gay marriage for six years while he was mining Kerry's underwear drawer for potential lapses in Catholic propriety?

tdraicer

Don't like epic fantasy? Try George RR Martin's ongoing A Song of Ice and Fire. But don't read it to the kids-unless they are ready for very explicit sex and violence.

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