Dickensian Cryptonyms: Is Lockhart a Pullman Stick-Figure?

Probably not.

Over at the Barnes and Noble Book Club (please join the discussion!), a violist admitted not caring much for Mozart — and how this tick gave her some sympathy for the problem Professor Bloom and Ms. Byatt may have in ever appreciating Ms. Rowling’s books. I found her posts and the consequent exchange on that thread both edifying and challenging. Barnes and Noble.com is great.

In the spirit of “true confessions” on that thread, I have to admit here a blind-spot or taste problem with reading an author many of my friends admire. I have been unable to get past the first chapters of any of Philip Pullman’s books after reading several interviews with him in which he proclaimed his atheism as the true faith — and that C. S. Lewis was a writer children should not be allowed to read because of the transparancy of his evangelical message. (Pullman critics in the UK call him the “UnLewis” because of this opinion, after a character in Lewis’ *Perelandra* called the UnMan. Note the opening of the *His Dark Materials* books being a child in a wardrobe…) I have heard two men I admire, Philip Nel at KSU and Vincent Kling at LaSalle University, both Rowling admirers, sing Pullman’s praises. I just can’t get my head around the disdain Pullman feels for a writer I admire, disdain rooted in a belief that Lewis was a Puritanical, misogynist and allegorical writer. There are plenty of reasons not to like Lewis (Tolkien liked to share these reasons with Lewis and his friends) but Pullman’s seem just an atheist’s prejudices about a Christian artist.

But isn’t my inability to enjoy Pullman’s books, what Nel calls “the Gold Standard” for children’s literature and no doubt more to Professor Bloom’s liking in terms of prosaic aesthetic heights, just the mirrored image of his prejudice: a Christian’s disregard for an atheist’s artistry? I’d love to think it was just a matter of taste, as in not *liking* Mozart, but I’m almost convinced this is a failing more like religious believers who cannot read and enjoy Harry Potter because they still believe in their heart of hearts that the books are gateways to the occult. Maybe this is why I have a hard time getting upset with these folk, even when they call radio stations to tell me on-air that I’m hell spawn. [Read more…]