Just ahead of the premiere for the Golden Compass, Philip Pullman has hit out against Bill Donohoe, President of the league of North American Catholics, commenting in an interview with Newsweek “Why don’t we trust readers? Why don’t we trust filmgoers? Oh, it causes me to shake my head with sorrow that such nitwits could be loose in the world.”
Perhaps slightly ingenuous as I gather that one of the impulses was the dogmatic perspective of Lewis’s Narnia but once again, there has to be a question raised about how we want to present the world to readers. I wonder whether some of the earlier remarks are coming back to bite him but Pullman has done something that needs to be done.
Religion, if you look at this history of fantastic children’s literature, has been one ofthe main drivers – Kingsley, MacDonald, Lewis, Tolkien, GP Taylor and so on – and there is a pervasive dogma attached to the writing. Pullman’s secular argument, which initially was made strongly, was a breath of fresh air. adn a necessary clarion call for rationalism. I do wonder if it has been subsumed in some now perhaps ill-advised remarks and the rampant push for scienceÂ (which I strongly support but not at the expense of reducing the human to nothing but cells and biological urges).
No doubt, this will all wash over us but the debate about what we want to do with children’s literature still goes on. Can we ever look at the world rationally and from an undogmatic view?