Thursday, October 3, 2019

The Secret Commonwealth (Re-post: Sir Philip Pullman vs. Lyra Silvertongue)

As the day has finally come, and as I have nothing more to say on the matter, I will simply re-post my words (with a few adjustments) from March 19th:

The Book of Dust was like a myth, like a fabled mist-shrouded castle one endlessly walks towards yet never reaches nor even sees clearly. For over a decade nearly all we heard was that Sir Philip Pullman was "working on it," this message updated/rephrased every few years or so. We heard that he hoped for it to come out in 2016, yet the year passed without a word. Then, in 2017 after over a decade of agonized waiting, we learned that The Book of Dust would be not one book but three that that the first volume, La Belle Sauvage, would be coming out that year.
We all exploded with joy. Both when we heard the news and doubly so when we finally got our hands on the book that had been the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. (And did we ever find rain.)

Now The Secret Commonwealth, volume two of The Book of Dust series has come.

Why all the solemnity as opposed to excitement? Because...
I NEVER thought I would EVER even THINK about saying this, but I am not sure that I will be able to read this. Not sure that I will be able to continue with The Book of Dust ๐Ÿ˜ญ


Frankly, I cannot picture Lyra as ANY kind of cynic. Remember, that we did NOT, actually, leave her at the end of The Amber Spyglass but rather in the mini-sequel Lyra's Oxford – which took place two years later. How could five years have changed her so much? Yes, I know and recall full well how His Dark Materials ended and have visited the wooden bench at the back of the Oxford Botanic Garden. But I also recall Lyra's Oxford and how it ended. How we saw that Lyra had grown into a mature young woman who was still the Lyra Silvertongue we love. Older yes, matured as I said, clearly grown-up from the wild girl we knew and tempered by the heartbreak she endured, yet she was nobody who Pan of all entities would call a pessimist. Hence my belief that it is Pullman, rather than Lyra, who changed ๐Ÿ™ That Pullman gradually lost touch with her because I do not see how five years could have so changed the young woman we left at the end of the appropriately named Lyra's Oxford.
Recall how when La Belle Sauvage came out Sir Philip Pullman said that the collective Book of Dust series could be called "His Darker Materials" and that, as an author, "I’ve got older and perhaps more cynical, closer to despair...It is a darker book, I don’t deny that, but that’s the story that came to me and wanted to be told.” Recall how I thought that La Belle Sauvage made little contextual sense seeing as the political/general situation was nowhere near that bad in The Golden Compass. If it was then Lyra would have been kidnapped or killed years ago while running wild around Oxford. 
Indeed, the impression was not that the world was falling apart, nor was Lord Asriel a wanted man to the same degree. Recall that he was able to walk into and out of Oxford in The Golden Compass without the same life-threatening hassle as in La Belle Sauvage.
Recall how I previously posted about an article which revealed that, tragically, the great Philip Pullman is descending into a very dark, cynical, place and I, for one, have always viewed cynicism as merely a more sophisticated form of surrender; for cynics still fight for what they believe in – but they no longer truly believe. And how that selfsame article noted that "Pullman is famously an atheist, although he explores myth, legend and magic in all his writing and will do so particularly in the next book [of Dust], which sees Lyra losing her sense of magic as an adult and will be called The Secret Commonwealth."

"I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone,"
says Philip Pullman. "I’m just trying to stop
myself going mad."
Hence I believe that, grievously, Sir Philip Pullman is dragging Lyra Silvertongue down with him ๐Ÿ˜” As a writer of an as-yet unpublished yet complete Fantasy series – while I am not fool enough to compare myself or work with Pullman – I do know what it means to truly create a living world with heartfelt characters. I learned during my writing that the mind of an author is linked with those of their characters and the world they live, but also that that link can be broken. Broken or warped if the mind of an author changes. As stated above, Pullman himself said "I’ve got older and perhaps more cynical, closer to despair...It is a darker book, I don’t deny that, but that’s the story that came to me and wanted to be told.” Now look that the link (here it is again) that I provided above and read the extract from The Secret Commonwealth. Add that with the also aforesaid plot-line inconsistencies of La Belle Sauvage with His Dark Materials, and I see an author whose mind is in a very different place from where it was when he wrote Lyra's Oxford. I see that, over the over ten years it has taken him to finally produce The Book of Dust, his mind has fundamentally changed from the man who wrote Lyra into existence. He, by his own words, is "perhaps more cynical, closer to despair" and hence The Book of Dust reflects that altered state of mind; reflects and projects it onto Lyra, thus resulting in a distorted reflection of her.

"Lyra just came to me entire and complete, I didn’t consciously make her up with a list of attributes. But I had been a teacher for about 12 years working with children of her age and there were lots of Lyras - in every classroom in the country there is a Lyra or two. Or three. She’s a very ordinary child and that’s the point about her. If she’s unusual it’s in her capacity to feel affection, which she does very readily and very warmly." – Philip Pullman  

THIS is the Philip Pullman who wrote His Dark Materials
and Lyra the Beloved. THIS is a man whom I think would look
upon his older self with concern.
I know all this may sound dramatic, but Lyra has a very special place my heart. She was the first and only book character whose sacrifice tormented my dreams for days literately. I could not even look at the books for years without feeling a deep stab of grief. And I say all this with confidence because, as any passionate reader knows, the bond, the link, between the minds of reader and book-character is no less great and heartfelt that that between character and author. Like the author, we laugh and cheer and cry with them, knowing then as friends so close that they may as well be extended family. (On that note, if by small chance that I am proved wrong by
The Secret Commonwealth then I will gladly and indeed with the greatest joy eat my words.)
Finally, for all those who read this and want to throw that tired retort "We all get more cynical as we get older" line at me, then permit me to quickly nip that dark and thorny rose in the bud:

"For myself, I find I become less cynical rather than more--remembering my own sins and follies; and realize that men's hearts are not often as bad as their acts, and very seldom as bad as their words." - J.R.R. Tolkien

"Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us." - Stephen Colbert

"A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past; he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future." - Sydney J. Harris

"Cynicism isn't smarter, it's only safer. There's nothing fluffy about optimism." - Jewel Kitcher

"The greater part of the truth is always hidden, in regions out of the reach of cynicism." - J. R. R. Tolkien

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