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Watching for Pleasure Wednesday, Philip Pullman

December 31, 2008
Look, it is New Year’s Eve (day) already. Where has the time gone? I am still reveling in Christmas spirit; I have not the time to reflect on the last year. My stocking is still full (I am going to risk extending myself and post a picture with a list of what Santa left me in my stocking).

Clockwise, starting from the Moose Munch

Harry & David Moose Munch – Dark Chocolate
See’s Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds
Ferrero Rocher Fine Hazelnut Chocolates
A Scrubby Bath Cloth
Starbucks Gift Card
Various Loose Pieces of Chocolate Candy
Le Petit Ecolier Dark Chocolate
Hot Tamales
Dark Chocolate Covered Milanos
A Flash Light

Does my list seem like flaunting to you? You know the saying, “If you have to ask…….”

In order to reacclimatise, I would say depressurised in an attempt for others to understand the exact time/feeling I am speaking of, —post-Christmas, but it would not be accurate for me personally because I was never pressurised (unlike others that I will acknowledge have been and I am sorry for it, for their sake), I have been engrossed in movies, —library borrowed movies.

First, I have watched The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North. Both belong to a series that the author Philip Pullman on his website calls The Sally Lockhart quartet. In which he says:

They are historical thrillers, that’s what these books are. Old-fashioned Victorian blood-and-thunder. Actually, I wrote each one with a genuine cliché of melodrama right at the heart of it, on purpose: the priceless jewel with a curse on it – the madman with a weapon that could destroy the world – the situation of being trapped in a cellar with the water rising – the little illiterate servant girl from the slums of London who becomes a princess … And I set the stories up so that each of those stock situations, when they arose, would do so naturally and with the most convincing realism I could manage.

Now, I have not read any of these books and only seen the first two movies. Supposedly, all four will eventually be made into movies. I stumbled onto this set quite by accident; I think I was using the library search queue searching for a particular actor/actress, not that I remember which one now. Pullman achieved exactly his intent. Because I did in fact immediately think of Wilkie Collin’s Moonstone as soon as the images of British men fascinated by India and a large hypnotising ruby appeared on the screen. I like the twist that Pullman adds when we learn that Mrs. Holland (Julie Walters, —that’s Mrs. Weasley for any Harry Potter fans) was promised the ruby if she would give her virginity to the maharaja, but did not like it so much that she is portrayed as the stereotypical bitter old hag who becomes a conniving murderess. It’s almost as if the maharaja is excused for reneging on his promise of a sex payment (the ruby), and instead blaming her for not knowing better, or at the very least, blaming her for daring to want something in exchange for sex. But she does do callousness and murder very well, and that whole false teeth device is gross, but amusing. How Mrs. Holland treats her little servant girl is very poverty-stricken Victorian novel. However, Pullman’s “madman with a weapon that could destroy the world” does not invoke Victorian thought for me as much it rings of something in The Avengers. Perhaps it has to something to do with the Victorian literature that I haven’t read yet. And of course all the scary Gothic and ghostly like encounters are weaved in and out. For example, a Bram Stoker makes an appearance in The Shadow in the North.

There are a few recurring characters and they are very appealing, although, I understand Sally Lockhart does not appear in the fourth installment, or if so, only shortly. Sally is played by Billie Piper, someone I am surprised to find endearing because she did not quite grow on me in the few Doctor Who episodes that I have seen with her as the sidekick. Another recurring character is Jim Taylor (played by Matt Smith, the new Doctor Who), sort of a Cockney Jimmy Olsen, but not exactly, or maybe a less ambitious take on Dickens’s Mr. Guppy. Nevertheless he is likable enough, if not down right charming. Then there is a photographer and his sister. A photographer that Sally falls in love with and does the unmarried nasty with in the second book/film. Shocking!

Both movies are fun to watch, I would even say, camp. There, I admitted it. I am not ashamed to admit that I enjoyed both The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North, very much, campy or not. A pleasant surprise for me because I recall how I ran out of my young adult literature class like my hair was on fire when we were assigned Pullman’s The Golden Compass. Moreover, as much as I know I will sound like an ungrateful brat, it was torture, pure torture sitting through His Dark Materials at the National Theatre. Not as much torture as it was sitting through Jekyll & Hyde, the musical, but definitely in the ballpark of sitting on wet grass while watching a sport that you are so not in to, nor appreciate.

The thing is Pullman’s Golden Compass and Dark Materials are science fiction-fantasy. This is where I risk my feminist credentials. I just cannot do science fiction and fantasy and it seems that many feminists not only dig it, but also insatiably soak it up. Well, I am guilty of loving Harry Potter, but Harry Potter is not really a fantasy in the truest sense of fantastical fiction. I don’t think so. Harry Potter, in my opinion has more elements of realism, mixed in with wishful type elements of fantasy (like who wouldn’t want to do magic in a groovy old Scottish castle? Come on!). On the other hand, maybe I am just incapable of suspending reality enough to place myself in science fiction and fantasy. That is certainly a deal breaker for me when I am exploring Fiction, I must be able to feel like I am right there, right there, not watching as a reading observer, but watching as a person in the room. I have yet to accomplish that with science fiction and fantasy, and I have not been motivated to try and I do not think I will be volunteering for the job any time soon. Luckily, for me anyway, Pullman has written more than fantasy, thus has provided me with some campy joy to help transitioned away from the pinnacle of yearly joy, —-Christmastime back into the ho-hum movements of the daily grind.

5 Comments
  1. CountryDew permalink
    January 1, 2009 1:26 pm

    Happy New Year!

    Love your collection of dark chocolate. Yum.

    Pullman’s Golden Compass series is interesting but I don’t count it as one of my favorites. The first book has a strong heroine but she quickly loses ground in the next installments. The religious elements of the book are interesting, too. Those were lost in the movie.

    Thanks for telling me about these other Pullman books. I will have to check them out.

  2. CountryDew permalink
    January 1, 2009 1:26 pm

    Happy New Year!

    Love your collection of dark chocolate. Yum.

    Pullman’s Golden Compass series is interesting but I don’t count it as one of my favorites. The first book has a strong heroine but she quickly loses ground in the next installments. The religious elements of the book are interesting, too. Those were lost in the movie.

    Thanks for telling me about these other Pullman books. I will have to check them out.

  3. MargaretJamison permalink
    January 2, 2009 9:52 am

    I began my radical-feminist-endorsed love of science fiction with A Wrinkle in Time. I gave that book to my younger cousin recently. I hope she likes it.

    I just don’t even know what to say about all of this “I don’t DO science fiction” stuff. I mean really 😛

  4. The Fabulous Kitty Glendower permalink
    January 2, 2009 9:59 am

    I would rather have my teeth cleaned. And coming from someone who has 4mm pockets in my upper molars on both sides, that is saying something.

  5. naginata1 permalink
    April 4, 2009 10:24 pm

    Sci fi– I agree yuck, boring, don’t get the appeal at all. Maybe it’s too male a genre… don’t know why feminists are always so batty over sci fi.

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