steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

His Dark Materials - a plea for grisaille

I got to see the rest of Worlds of Fantasy sooner than I expected, thanks to altariel's reminder about the BBC iplayer (thanks, altariel!).

I've nothing to add about the programme, except that the discussion of His Dark Materials reminded me of one of the big problems I have with that trilogy - which not coincidentally is the thing Pullman unquestioningly takes over from the people he thinks he's trying to subvert, such as Barrie, Lewis, et al - namely, the idea that there is a huge, life-defining difference between childhood and adulthood, with puberty acting as a kind of life-fulcrum.

In Pullman's work this change, bewailed or celebrated by others before him as it may have been, is made structurally central to human existence. Before adolescence, as Tracy Chevalier reminds us, "children's personalities aren't set" (tell that to my 9-year-old daughter!), hence the variability of their daemons. At puberty, the demons are fixed into the constant form that adults invariably wear from their mid-teens through to old age (should they happen to be dolts of the first water).

Am I alone in crying "Bullshit!" to that binary account of human life, that two-act Jacques, that before-and-after photo of the human condition? Why is it taken for granted that masturbation and acne are the central events of human existence? (Okay, I exaggerate for effect, but you get the idea.) Personally I haven't found it so at all.

Just askin'.
Tags: books
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