Author of the week
Philip Pullman is a hard man to pin down, said Bryan Appleyard in The Sunday Times (U.K.). Though he authored a fantasy trilogy that’s widely considered one of the great works of young adult literature, the 71-yearold English writer professes to be no fan of either genre. In many classic children’s books, he sees a “sickly nostalgia for childhood” that consistently repulses him. (Of Winnie the Pooh creator A.A. Milne, he says, “I can’t stand the man.”) And though Pullman made organized religion the bête noire of His Dark Materials, he believes, up to a point, in old-school magic. He keeps a collection of talismans on his writing desk for good luck, and while he was working on his new trilogy, The Book of Dust, superstition inspired him to grow his hair out into a ponytail. “It was a silly thing to do,” he admits.
The church is only one of Pullman’s targets in La Belle Sauvage, the first volume of the new trilogy. “In The Book of Dust, I am taking on all the practitioners of single visions, and that includes dogmatic atheists,” he says. Lyra, the heroine of the earlier books, appears in the current novel as an infant whose fate during a devastating flood is entrusted to an 11-year-old boy, said Dan Stewart in Time.com. Lyra will be a young woman in the second book—because Pullman would never force a child to remain a child. But, true to his nature, Pullman refuses to articulate the fable’s intended message. “The meaning of the book is never just what the author thinks it is,” he says. “The meaning is only what emerges when the book and the reader meet.” ■