Wednesday, 16 June 2010

My Dark Materials: Lecture with Philip Pullman

So my fellow Masters students and I were treated to an audience with visiting fellow of the college Philip Pullman. Below is a rather fetching image of him and some fish that appears on buses around Oxford (he's on a freakin' bus! The man's a literary rock-star)



Pullman read from his new work, 'The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ', discussed his inspiration and intention with the book, and fielded questions ("ask me anything," he teased), from comic books ("I devoured them") to the gargoyles of Oxford ("they come alive at night and fight like cats"). His intelligence and wit is fierce, but he is humble and inspiring, throwing stories and anecdotes carelessly like only confident storytellers with a vault of ideas can.
Being preoccupied with the first draft of my children's book I plucked up the courage to ask a question. It was this...

Q: It feels to me like many classic children's fiction like 'Peter Pan' and 'Alice's Adventures through the Looking Glass', more specifically stories concerned with burdening adolescence, arrive fully-formed; as if they are effortless. The concept of intercision is so primal. (N.B. intercision is a fictional operation in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy that separates an individual from their dæmon)
How did you condense such grand ideas into a story that did not patronize or intimidate children?

Pullman: Do not think about your audience. Not one bit. When you are writing, you are the sole authority. (Laughs and growls) You are the tyrant! You are the despot! Writing is a dictatorship, and while it is in your hands, it must remain your vision. Once it is published people will analyse it, and criticize it, and burn it or worship it, depending on their feeling. But you must write it for yourself and trust that if the book has coherence, truth, wit and power, it will find it's own audience.

Simple but true. It was a great lecture and a fun day.

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