Tired of all the hysteria surrounding the release of “The Golden Compass”? Take a few minutes out and read Alan Jacobs’ outstanding, incisive, deeply literate critique of “His Dark Materials”, the original series by Philip Pullman that the film is based on.
I originally ran across this essay as part of a collection of Jacobs’ writings, Shaming the Devil, under the title “The Republic of Heaven”. I was thrilled to (finally) find it reprinted online at FirstThings.com under the title “The Devil’s Party”. It is, probably, the only review from a Christian perspective worth reading about the books and film.
It is a deeply critical look at Pullman’s work, but critical in the best possible way: he takes Pullman to task for squandering his formidable literary ability by delivering a disingenuous editorial pamphlet instead of the substantial work of fiction that his readers deserved. I think Jacobs would find resonance with our own beloved Chad’s critique of The Da Vinci Code: he [Brown, and Pullman] delights in goring the church, and “his delight is his undoing.” (what a great line, Chad). What he really wants to write is a bitter political invective against the church, but people don’t pay $20 to read those. Instead, he couches it in thinly veiled narrative, where the characters are either mimeographed caricatures or leitmotifs, and all suffer under the weight of the agenda.
You can hear Jacobs talking more about Pullman’s book at the Mars Hill Podcast archives.
If you haven’t read anything by Jacobs, this is a good introduction. His has a few collections of essays published, including Shaming the Devil and A Visit to Vanity Fair: Moral Essays on the Present Age. Both make good scotch + bathtub reading.