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From: Spectacled Bear <spectacled.bear@pobox.com>
Subject: Re: (urth) Re: Digest urth.v030.n119
Date: Fri, 25 May 2001 17:58:10 +0100

At 20:56 2001-05-24, algawrote:
> Virtually
>everyone--no, strike that, every grown-up person--feels the failure of
>the third book. We're trying to make it work, and I am specifically
>struggling with how to explain Dust (and the Specters) in terms of
>Manichaean Light and Dark and a logical world-view (pretty damned hard
>to do when there are infinite worlds).

[waves to Copperhead thread!]
It doesn't need to be Manichean, does it? The Authority doesn't
have the power of Creation that he claims, after all. The Spectres
are kind-of believable, as is Dust leaking into the abyss through
the windows. I'm not sure a strictly logical world-view is helpful,
because then you might wonder whether Dust could cross between worlds
(and if so, how) or if not, why the window from the land of the dead
couldn't open onto a world without intelligent inhabitants. It will
be interesting to see how the Book of Dust copes with all this!

>But let me tell you something really fascinating. Kids *love* the third

This is a considerable relief, as my son has just started reading
Northern Lights (the UK name for The Golden Compass). I've been very
worried, since it hit me so hard. And he isn't reading it at bedtime
(I'm reading him Mrs Pepperpot stories! How's that for a contrast?
Children are wonderfully versatile), so the night-ghasts will probably
be okay. I found the Spectres too abstract to be properly frightening.
I was much more worried by the Harpy (he has a very vivid imagination)
but the story takes care of her very nicely indeed. Dodgy plot or not,
it is still an exceedingly good book. I was pleasantly surprised, in
fact, after opinions voiced here - I liked the mulefa, for example.

>Bear, the Eve thing is very difficult to figure in a truthful, honorable
>way. I waver, but mostly I feel that it was a mistake on Pullman's part,
>both in a moral and in a religious sense.

Another loose end is the super-Dickensian-and-Wolfian-put-together
degree of coincidence required for the plot of The Subtle Knife.
Will just happens to find that window? Then happens to walk into
the one room in a deserted city in the particular world where Lyra
is hiding? Clearly not coincidence, but I don't recall anything being
said about it - apart from them remarking on the unlikelihood! It must
be something like the shaman summoning Lee, or Bilbo finding the Ring,
but it would be nice to be told.

>The kids seem to adore it in a
>tearjerker way. Is that because my daemon has settled and theirs have

I suspect it's because they don't have as much experience of loss
as adults, and don't feel the full force of it. It *is* enjoyable
in a tear-jerking way, and I would have loved it if it had come in
the middle of the book but they got together at the end. There's
that tantalising hint about imagining yourself into other worlds
- not the same thing as pretending, we are told explicitly, and
the angels employ it as a practical means of travel - but it isn't
followed up. Will is told he knows someone who can help him with it,
and he doesn't even ask who it is, though it could hardly be anybody
else but Mary. That's confirmed by Pullman himself at the readerville
site Adam posted, in the message that breaks off "She is the one who
will tell him how to imagine his way into o". It's quite an interesting
site. He says that Will and Lyra have to be parted, and some readers
agree that it brings closure to the story. It certainly avoids him
having to worry about the consequences of traffic between the worlds.
Leaving everything more or less as it was before, only better, is
characteristic of children's fantasy [one more reason to admire Alan
Garner's _The Moon of Gomrath_, which doesn't]. Here I think it serves
the didactic purpose of encouraging us to build the republic of heaven
where *we* are: it isn't Will and Lyra who would spend all their time
searching for a second window - they would have a private one, hidden
in the back of a wardrobe - it is us.

Hey, I convinced myself!
But I'm still cross.

Spectacled Bear.

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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