QUIBBLES & Bits
The Halton, Ontario, Catholic school board has pulled Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass from its library shelves and is now "reviewing it." Why did they do that? Because "someone asked them to." Students who want to read the book still can, but they have to ask the librarian to give it to them from behind the counter.
I'm praying that the students will ASK for the book in droves, and I use the word "praying" on purpose.
If you've never read The Golden Compass, you may be forgiven for thinking its a piece of atheist propaganda.
You'd be wrong.
The Golden Compass is a literary fantasy book that had been classified as a children's book.
And it is.
In my opinion, the only reason it's been classified as a children's book is because its protagonist is a child.
The Golden Compass takes place in an alternate universe full of talking bears and animal familiars, and there are a few references to a shadowy church with a different past and present --- unlike the traditional churches we know.
The Halton school board is adamant that it's just following the policy on book complaints and that pulling The Golden Compass from the shelves and "reviewing it" has nothing to do with the fact that the author is an outspoken atheist.
I say bullshit.
The Golden Compass is NOT propaganda, but sadly the same cannot be said of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, which is often (and justifiably) portrayed as the antithesis of The Golden Compass. Pullman is a critic of Lewis's Narnia series and there are even a few allusions to LWW in The Golden Compass (a plucky girl hides in a wardrobe early on in the book).
BUT the Pullman book succeeds where the Lewis book doesn't. Not because one was written by a "believer" and one by an atheist, but because one was written by an essayist, the other by a novelist. Lewis asks: "What plot will illustrate the truth of my belief system?" Pullman asks himself, "What happens next?" Unlike Pullman, Lewis isn't trying to delight the reader...
Lewis is trying to convert the reader.
Great novels ask questions. They don't provide answers.
The Golden Compass nudges readers to question ideas like authority, perception and tradition.
Most good books do.
Over and Out,
PS- The makers of the film version of The Golden Compass have admitted to softening the portrayal of the Catholic Church, but - as I said earlier - the book doesn't even portray the Catholic Church. And, for the record, I liked the film version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I thought it (gently) got its message across and succeeded where the book didn't.