The Dark Materials Debate
March 20, 2004 4:00 AM   Subscribe

Following the Archbishop of Canterbury's recent description of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy as 'a near-miraculous triumph', it's hardly surprising that a conversation between the two at the National Theatre was more of a love-in rather than a debate. The transcript is still a great read though, and contains gems like:

PP: Which leads us to Mel Gibson. Have you seen that film?
RW: I haven't seen it.
PP: Nor have I, so we can talk about it! That's all right.
RW: We're allowed opinions without the constraints of reality!
posted by adrianhon (26 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This is lovely. I found the books to be absolute page-turners. Not only did I want to see what happens next, but I wanted to see how his universe, his theology (or theogony) unfolded.

Also, I had no idea that His Dark Materials had been adapted for the stage. Amazing - though I'm not sure it will make to the states.

Thanks for the links!
posted by Verdant at 4:58 AM on March 20, 2004

Dark materials is being filmed. Narnia is being filmed. Pullman hates C. S. Lewis. Lewis doesn't hate anyone due to being dead, but this will still be in interesting head-to-head.
posted by jfuller at 5:50 AM on March 20, 2004

Oh yeah, speaking as an Anglican, my current uber-Archbishop is an idiot straight out of Looney Tunes (though still a nose or two behind the Great Sun of Anglican Idiocy, Bishop Spong, in the weekly idiocy standings.)
posted by jfuller at 6:06 AM on March 20, 2004

Speaking as an athiest, the teachings of Spong are the most reasonable ideas to come out this mainstream religion in recent times, IMHO.
posted by asok at 6:43 AM on March 20, 2004

There are spoilers in that links for anyone who hasn't read the trilogy -- and you should, even if it is "young adult fiction".

In any case, the books *are* blasphemy, if not pro-atheism, at least pro-paganism.
posted by malphigian at 7:49 AM on March 20, 2004

> Speaking as an athiest

Last week I coldnt even spell athiest, and now I are one.
posted by jfuller at 8:04 AM on March 20, 2004

Wow, jfuller, great comeback.
posted by adrianhon at 9:43 AM on March 20, 2004

> great comeback.

Them high AH SAY them high fast 'uns go raht over thet boy's haid.

The discursive version, for our slower friends: "athiest" is on all fours with "nucular" in being such a common misspelling, each so indelibly marked "ignorant," that unless one is afflicted with some form of dyslexia one will be most scrupulously careful to not to be guilty of it. The dyslexic run spellcheckers before posting.

The merely ignorant are those who have not gone into the subject of atheism even far enough to encounter a-theos, not-god, the meaning of the word--since anyone who has gone into the subject even that far simply will never again be able to type "-thi-" when intending "-the-."

From this one concludes, safely, that "athiest" and "nucular" are written only by persons who don't know what they're talking about.

posted by jfuller at 10:19 AM on March 20, 2004

Topic drift'r'us.
posted by jfuller at 10:20 AM on March 20, 2004

I gotta read these books
posted by Slagman at 11:19 AM on March 20, 2004

The tagline to end all taglines:
MetaFilter: We're allowed opinions without the constraints of reality!
posted by wendell at 11:45 AM on March 20, 2004

Spong's not as bad as all that, though his supporters seem to think he's the next messiah. Once one agrees that the Bible isn't intended to be taken literally, and contains mythic elements, his position is defanged. Since this is the position of most non-fundamentalist-Protestant churches (including Catholicism and Anglicanism last I checked) it's not really much of an attack on them.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 11:48 AM on March 20, 2004

more of a love-in rather than a debate

It's not a "debate" in the sense the word is used on TV ("Dark Materials is sacriligious!" "No it's not! Christianity is stupid!") but I thought their differences were very interesting.

For instance, the Archbishop seems seems to prefer drama as the art form for grappling with religion whereas Pullman leans toward poetry. For Williams, it's about communal acts of forgiveness and reconcilliation (requiring narrative--plot!), whereas Pullman is more interested in the private internal grapplings of the individual.
posted by straight at 12:49 PM on March 20, 2004

jfuller, an entertaining thesis, but isn't the "nucular" contempt aimed at people who say it that way, rather than write it that way? I don't recall ever seeing it written that way except to deride people who say it that way. (My favorite counterexample, BTW, is Jimmy Carter, who said "nucular" and could hardly be called ignorant of the subject given that he did graduate work in nuclear physics.)

To veer back from the derail, I will say I have to admire a church leader who can sit down and have such a respectful conversation with an author ideas are so (at least superficially) heretical from his point of view I have difficulty imagining the same thing happening in many other churches. (The word "fatwa" springs to mind somehow.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:27 PM on March 20, 2004

Nobody writes nuclear as nucular, when they say "nucular" they are giving a phonetic spelling of the common misspelling "nuke-u-lar", rather then the correct pronunciation of "nu-clear".

Remember folks, I before E except after C... and in the word 'Atheist'

also, jfuller you are teh wank0r
posted by delmoi at 1:40 PM on March 20, 2004

If a certain kind of misspelling can get psychoanalyzed as equal to a base stupidity of "nucular" proportions then the need to call it out must be an indelible mark of arrogance. If all assumptions are just and fully informed by careful dissection of possible causes, I assume jfuller deliberately ignored apathy to a rigorous review of spelling or the existence of time constraints that prevented spell checking in order to assume the worst. The exclusion of reasons that I assume to be just as likely allows me to make this conclusion.
posted by john at 1:53 PM on March 20, 2004

this thread has gone horribly spong.
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:27 PM on March 20, 2004

Can I just register my pissed-off-ness that -- as is usually the case -- the Narnia adaptations will start with The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe as opposed to the chronologically correct The Magician's Nephew? Thank you.
posted by i_cola at 2:39 PM on March 20, 2004

I'd defend the published sequence in that Lion is a better introduction to Narnia than Magician, even if the latter does include Narnia's creation myth (a key element of which was boosted from Tolkien, by the way). But OTOH I'd rather see The Magician's Nephew than yet another remake of Lion. The wood between the worlds has always been a powerful image to me. When adapting Narnia, they never seem to get as far as that one; the Beeb got no further than the Silver Chair in their (in many ways quite admirable) adaptation. So given that these efforts always seem to fizzle out without getting through more than a few of the books, as long as they stick to the published sequence, Magician may never get done at all. Nor The Last Battle, but that would be no loss, IMO; I simply loathed that one.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:58 PM on March 20, 2004

john: If a certain kind of misspelling can get psychoanalyzed as equal to a base stupidity of "nucular" proportions then the need to call it out must be an indelible mark of arrogance.

The spelling flame should go up along side Goodwin's law as an internet technical foul, perhaps one disserving of plonking or twitting.

But back to the topic, I'm wondering how Pullman fits in with some of the more gnostic tendencies of speculative fiction floating around out there. Reading Dark Materials I was struck by the links to comics such as Hellblazer, Sandman and Preacher in which both God and Satan are not interested in the best welfare of Humanity.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:07 PM on March 20, 2004

HDM is one awesome trilogy. I'm enchanted by its world, and I hope New Line will do as good a job on it as they did on Lord of the Rings.

I must admit that to me, quite a bit of HDM's appeal came from its all-out attack on Christianity, including of course the resolution. And I guess I should go read Narnia now.

Straight raises a very important point of religion as something viewed in the frame of the individual vs. that of community. I'd say Pullman's points have a lot to do with that. Oh, and hats off to jfuller.
posted by azazello at 7:23 PM on March 20, 2004

the chronologically correct The Magician's Nephew?

i_cola, I have to hope you're being satiric with that phrase, which is otherwise self-parody. Chronological "correctness" can take a flying leap off the Dawn Treader, as far as I'm concerned. The impulse to put Magician's Nephew first is logical in its own way, but misguided.

Basically, I agree with every single word of George_Spiggott's, including and especially the Last Battle part. Anybody else see Mel Gibson stepping up to the plate on that one?
posted by soyjoy at 10:28 PM on March 20, 2004

Oh, hey, yeah, the His Dark Materials books are a damn fine read. I posted about the entertainment industry goings-on surrounding them on my blog just a little while ago.
posted by NortonDC at 3:22 PM on March 21, 2004

I stand by my point. As George_Spiggot says, '...OTOH I'd rather see The Magician's Nephew than yet another remake of Lion'.

In fact I've met a lot of people who've never even heard of TMN. Won't somebody think of the children?

Oh & adrianhon: OxfordFilter ;-)
posted by i_cola at 6:05 PM on March 21, 2004

George_Spiggot's point was not your point. I agree with him that I'd much rather see someone tackle TMN than another version of the oft-tried LWW. Yes, that's a good reason for that one to be done first. Revisionist chronology, OTOH, ain't.
posted by soyjoy at 7:10 PM on March 21, 2004

I didn't say it was. I stand by my original point & am agreeing with part of G_S's. Chill.

I still think that it's worth doing the series in time (UK/Narnia) order rather than published order. Sorry 'bout that.
posted by i_cola at 10:23 PM on March 24, 2004

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