Of Polar Bears, Subtle Blades, and Bared Souls


His Dark Materials (His Dark Materials, #1-3)His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I read this series (or novel in 3 parts) for the first time when I was 30. Six years later, it is just as atom-splittingly astounding. I don’t know how anyone under the age of 25 can read this series and not become incapacitated with wonder. I’m just barely holding on. The warning CS Lewis rebuffs in his essay ‘On Fairy Stories,’ that children who read fantasy stories may come to resent the real world for not being magical, could possibly be true in the case of reading his Dark Materials. If you don’t finish it longing to know the shape, name and voice of your daemon, then you may have read the wrong book. What’s more likely is that by the last page, you DO know the shape of your daemon, and a great deal more.

“His Dark Materials” is both ethically disruptive and profoundly moral, fanciful and incisive. For a novel that has accurately been called atheistic, no book may be as concerned with or attuned to the human soul: what it means to have one and what it would mean to lose it. The same can be said for what it means to have a body. It affirms body AND soul, matter AND spirit, doing so with deep reverence, awe and again, wonder.

Take for given that the story holds all the adventure, imagination, and color you would expect to find in the best-told children’s stories, and still, the story goes deeper and farther into the complexity of human ambition, bravery, and desire than any book you’d typically find for readers under 18. It is, unequivolocally, an adult book. And because it respects its characters’ frailities, longings and fears, whether they are 12 years old or 76, the book bestows that same respect on its readers, whatever their age. Which is why I know I’ll be reading it many more times throughout the years to see if it will shatter me again with its hopeful envisionsings of connection, the valor of vulnerability, and our endless capactity to love more than we think we can- ourselves, our fellow persons, and our universe.

Seriously. How do adolescents survive the blinding glory of this book?

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Posted on Sun, Feb 14th, 2016 at 10:12 am
Filed under Books, Psychology/Being Human, The Universe.

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