Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Podcast Thursday (On Wednesday evening): Philip Pullman

On Philip Pullman’s website he says that he’s not in the message business, he’s in the “‘Once upon a time’ business.” Lucky for us that he is. Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is often preceded by adjectives like best-selling and award-winning, and the books are frequently touted as modern-day classics—deservedly so.

I loved them. I loved Lyra and Pantalaimon; the Gyptians and Serafina Pekkala. When I settled into them, again came that feeling of familiarity, of coming home to the essential story that lies in the heart (not at the heart) of the great myths, folk tales, fairy tales, classics. 

A very Lyra-esque hair style.

Noble Iorek Byrnison?
So this week’s podcast is BBC’s World Book Club’s interview of Pullman.

When I listen to the podcasts I’ve been blogging about, it’s with the ears of an aspiring writer, eager for my favourite authors’ words on craft. I think I’m looking for reassurance, too—I was relieved to hear that even for Pullman, “some names come to you and some names you need to find.” Character naming is going to DRIVE ME CRAZY.

My daemon helping me at work.
Pullman also discusses being a fan of the omniscient narrator and laments that this 19th-century style of storytelling has gone out of fashion.
“I feel the narrator is a sort of sprite, actually, a sort of disembodied spirit that can go from place to place, and this has the advantage of not limiting the storytelling consciousness, the narrating consciousness, to one sex, one age, one anything. The narrator can be simultaneously the old and young, male and female, wise and foolish, innocent and experienced, all these things at once, credulous and skeptical, and so on. I love this freedom, this looseness, this untied-down quality that embodying this narrative voice allows me to have. It gives you such an extraordinary freedom that I’m astonished that more writers don’t do it, but now we have writers limiting themselves to one character and sometimes even to one tense, as if they knew nothing of what was happening beyond right now. This seems to me like building a prison around yourself.”
I’m not sure I know how, as a narrator, one switches between male and female—I have to think about that. If anyone out there can add insight to this idea I’d love to hear it. I do have the three books on the “must-read-again” list, which, I guess, is another adjective for them, and I’ll read with Pullman’s quote in mind.

Have a listen to the podcast. It’s a short interview, but good fun if you’re a Pullman fan.
Completely unrelated to post, but very pretty tulips at dusk.


  1. I am very fond of children's literature. But I have to admit that, unfortunately, I have not read Pullman's books. I only saw the movie The Golden Compass, which is great. This could be a good occasion to look for some of his books in the library. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. I found the first 100 or so pages of The Golden Compass didn't capture me first time around. Then I came back to it a year later and devoured the three books. Hope you enjoy them if you do hunt them down.