Thursday, May 26, 2005

Reading Report

I've been re-reading the Philip Pullman His Dark Materials trilogy this week. Mostly it's for a paper I'm writing, but I'm enjoying really spending some time with them as well. Pullman's a gorgeous writer, and he says things that surprise me all the time. For example, there's a little paragraph about how good liars aren't necessarily very imaginative. It's an interesting thought. I'm not entirely sure I buy it--or, if I do, I need to know the difference between being a good liar and being a good fiction-writer--but it's intriguing to think about nonetheless.

I'm struck this time by the way he thinks and writes about mothers. In the first book, The Golden Compass, we find out about a mother who is cold and rejecting, who puts her career before her child, and who is cruel and violent to children throughout. In the second book, The Subtle Knife we have a mother who is incompetent, and whose son cares for her. (We have some other failed parents, too, though it might not be their fault.) And in the third book, The Amber Spyglass, the mother from the first one comes back and it's not clear if she's suddenly discovered maternity or if she's faking. There are, I should add, some pretty absent fathers as well, and it's clear we're not meant (I think, anyway) to judge them as harshly as the failed mothers. (The one in book two is actually pretty sympathetic, but she's a failure as a mother nonetheless.) The third book also gives us a former nun, released from her vows but still unmarried and definitely not a mother, as one of the most maternal figures.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this, and it's not terribly relevant to my paper, so I'm just throwing it out there to ponder.

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