Thursday, December 06, 2007

Fear No Book

OK, so that's not really the correct admonition here, because as we all know there are a lot of really bad books out there. It seems publishers will publish, well, anything.

Here it is: with all the controversy surrounding the release of the movie The Golden Compass this weekend - the claims that it is atheist or anti-Catholic Church - I knew I had to post. (And the guilt from not jumping on Allison's Reading Bandwagon at Soccer Mom was crushing me.)

The Golden Compass, the first part of the Philip Pullman trilogy His Dark Materials, is a stunningly beautiful book. Marketed originally as Young Adult fiction, this was never intended for an audience of 7 or 8 year olds. The themes are increasingly mature through the progression of the books - and yes, it's a thrilling fantasy whose central character is a 10 year old girl - but every not-yet-adult whom I've talked to who'd read the book(s) was thrilled by the story. AND they knew it was FICTION!! And none of them suddenly "became atheists".


How many of these "protests" do we have to suffer, theses dire warnings to The Unwashed Masses about movies or books that are destroying The Fabric Of Society? Did the Catholic Church really fall after the release of The Da Vinci Code? (I will say, the book and movie both worked wonders on curing my insomnia.)

Were millions of little boys shaped into chauvinist pigs after bedtime readings of The Giving Tree? (Remember that one? The Great State of California banned this sweet, touching Shel Silverstein book as sexist and demeaning to women - the Tree is feminine and Gives and Gives and Gives and the Boy Takes and Takes and Takes and NEVER Gives. I still don't know any Little Misogynists who can trace their origins to this book.) Double Errrrggggghhhh...

BUT, the creepy book Love You Forever is OK? I know I will likely catch Hell from some/many moms on that one, but She climbs in her adult son's bedroom window to rock him in his sleep. Does no one else have a problem with this??

OK, refocus: The Golden Compass.

People, lighten up. It's a book. It's a movie. Kids of this millennium actually get the difference between what they read or see on the screen and Real Life - at least the ones I know do - especially the ones whose parents actually converse with their kids about said difference. Despite the authors "intent".

What is odd about these books is that despite Pullman's publicly declaimed atheism and his "greatest difficulty in understanding what is meant by the words 'spiritual' or 'spirituality'", you come away with this wonderful, heartbreaking sense of deep spirituality - that there is good and there is grace and there is love and beauty and trust and honor and life and joy.

I had the great fortune of reading and falling in love with The Golden Compass when I was managing a wonderful children's book store on Magazine Street in Uptown New Orleans. Later, a galley proof of the second book, The Subtle Knife arrived - and I got to review it for several national trade publications before it was released. (Random House actually blurbed my review when the book went to paperback!!) All three books are beautiful - and thought-provoking - and heartbreaking - and sad and lovely and earnest and joyful and brave -

And should not be feared.

If I see one more comment or email from someone who's only skimmed a synopsis of the movie, I think I'll scream.

Jump in - Read. Enjoy.

Read in Joy.

I bet you get hooked on them too.

(And then let me know what you think of the movie!! Can't wait to see it - I bet I won't skip church on Sunday after seeing it, despite all its subversiveness...)

11 comment(s):

soccer mom in denial

I would like to put it on record that I did not guilt you about this. Not once. You've got too much going on to guilt about blogging for goodness sakes. I've got some sense darling!

But, this is a stunning piece and, yes, I think I will lead with it for next week's Day to Read promotion. Do you mind?


Thanks for writing about this - the hype and craziness that surrounds movies and books often makes me steer clear of them.

However, it does make for entertainment and great fun for picking on all the idiots who make such a big deal about every little damn thing but no big deal about the actual important things.


SMID - I didn't mean to say that YOU guilted me into's just that you've been talking so much and so well about one of my passions that the associative guilt was weighing me down!!

The Snopes article on this book/movie is absolutely ludicrous...I would've laughed except for the bile that was rising! Thanks for stopping in! Ken

Jenn in Holland

If I get yet another fwd: fwd: fwd: email about this movie release I think I am going to vomit! Like you I just get angry at the obvious lack of research and thought that any "reviewer" has put into the mindless crap which is now circling the net.
I have not yet read the books and must say for all the negative hype about them, it only inspired me to immediately order them at Amazon. So there.
And can I just applaud your review of Love You Forever? That one really creeps me out too. I never got why it is one of the beloved children's books. Not at all.
And can I also just say that it's so nice to hear from you, and as always to read your stunningly wonderful writing. I am so pleased that the guilt or anger or passion or whatever it was which caused you to sit down and pound something out struck now. I've missed you. I hope you are well.
Thanks for a great, exciting, inspiring post.
Blessings on wing.

painted maypole

oh... ha ha ha. I can't read Love You Forever without getting choked up, even thought i have always thought that her climbing through the window is really bizarre. ;)

glad to see you back! I've missed you!

Aimee Greeblemonkey

We were *just* talking about this book and it's controversy at dinner tonight! You summed up all our points! :)

Flower Child

I never read these books and thankfully have not received any emails urging me not to see the movie - though you know they would only motivate me to go. I never pick up on these so-called themes in books. I read them for what they are and it never even occurs to me that they have an anti-catholic theme. Geez, I thought Da Vinci code would have people filling the pews. Shows you what I know.



I said very many of the same things at a different blog.

My daughter is reading the Golden Compass now, and I am certain that she will not renounce her faith after that.

It's friggin' movie!


JinH- Thanks! It's good to be back. It's always been that way - you want to ensure something gets read? Ban it!

PM - I saw many moms get choked up when the read Love You Forever in the bookstore...It's a mom thing, and I get that. (Still Oogey!)

Aimee - Have you read the books?

FC - Sometimes a book is just a good story, and I still fail to see a lot of the symbolism my AP English Teacher said was there in the books we read.

GF - Good to hear from you - I hope you get a chance to read the books too - would love to hear your take on them. Ken

Jen of A2eatwrite

I love, love, love the series! And this was an amazing post. And I couldn't agree more about both the Giving Tree nonsense and I Love You Forever, but I think the deal with I Love You Forever is hormones - when my DS was a baby it used to make me cry. Now I see it and am weirded out. (And maybe want to cry a little bit, too... still hormones).

Check out 42 (Cable Girl's blog) - she had a great rant about the Golden Compass nonsense, too.

I'm glad you're back blogging!


Fantastic post. I love these books and the "controversy" about them drives me batty. Are people really so simple and easily led?

I too felt the need to post about the brouhaha surrounding the movie release, but I'll admit, I have yet to see it. However, that has more to to with fearing a bad book-to-movie translation than anything else.

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