Me and Philip Pullman hanging at Barnes & Noble

I spent a lot of time with Phil today. Not with the man himself, of course, but with his Barnes and Noble kiosk.

I rather wish he’d been there, because I’d have liked to ask him, “Dude, is this totally jacked up or what? I mean, seriously, I know you’re making a bundle off of this, but c’mon.”
See, the kiosk — which was slathered with Golden Compass books, toys, doodads, Uno sets* and cuddly-wuddly stuffed polar bear — was topped with a charming snowy silent night scene complete with Christmas tree made of books. “Golden Compass” or some such was printed in big white letters on the sign. (May camera batteries had died, cursethe luck.)

Gift Card Image - Style: Booktree (It looked kind of like this gift card.)

 Once again proving that the American Commercialization Machine can sell ANYTHING at Christmas, including atheism. Kids’ brains must really swim when they sit through a church service about the birth of God, sneaking peeks at their new books about the death of God. (You guys read your gift books in Church didn’t you? I clearly remember reading Ziggy at a Christmas Eve service.)

The lesson we should learn from all this, of course, is …. Pullman’s Church isn’t half as scary as Mammon. (Is that how you spell mammon? It’s not exactly and everyday word around the Riddleburger house.)

Cover Image

*By the way, though I didn’t like His Dark Materials, I do think Pullman is a good writer. But he’s not half the writer as whoever wrote the copy for the back of the Golden Compass Uno Set. Check it out sometime. Here’s a sample:

Also comes with the exclusive “Alethiometer” card, which will help you discover the truth that lies within your opponent’s hand and arrive at your ultimate destiny before anyone else!

The truth that lies within your opponents hand?????? Could it be three greens and a Draw 4????? Now I finally understand the trepining!!!!!

It sounds like the greatest game in the universe, like some sort of role-playing spectacular “full of excitement, adventure and challenges.” (No mention of atheism. They must have forgotten.)

And whatever happens “don’t forget to yell ‘UNO!’ before you reach the North Pole and discover a brand new parallel universe.”

A parallel universe? As Charlton Heston might say, “My God, we’re in a world where Crazy Eights descended from Uno!”

7 Responses

  1. The GC trinkets make me cringe, but two points you make, as do legions of others, are misleading.

    1. All Pullman will profit from are the sale of HIS books — look at the Story of the GC Movie again: his name is nowhere on it. He sold the movie and associated merchandising rights to HDM after publication of Northern Lights. Scholastic Media gambled on the rest of the trilogy being a success, and they won. But selling the rights at that point means I would guess that Pullman made a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of what New Line/Scholastic will. But he needed the money THEN to buy the time to finish the trilogy.

    2. The God who dies (is not killed) in The Amber Spyglass is no more of an omnipresent, omniscient, & omnipotent being than I am. If he were, he wouldn’t a) have been trapped in a crystal litter on a battlefield by his right hand man, Metatron (NOT Jesus), b) been ignorant of Metatron’s plans in the first place, or c) died.

  2. Thanks for writing. I’m really glad to have a discussion about this and you make good points.

    I wouldn’t mind if Pullman was making a profit. It’s his invention, he deserves it. But if you want to talk about misleading, how about the selling of stuffed animals to accompany a movie about killing, cruelty and trepanning. (Actually, I’m not sure if trepanation will make it into the movie.)

    In the end, I think that there are only two options here:

    1) When some people see the third movie, they’re going to mad that they spent money on books about the killing of God. (Sorry I say it was Murder!)

    2) The moviemakers figure a way out of this mess by changing the ending.

  3. […] that Golden Compass UNO post, on the other hand, was some cracklin’ good literary […]

  4. To respond to your response:

    1. What is it about the Authority — the decrepit angel who dissipates in the last third of Amber Spyglass — that makes you convinced he is God?

    2. My summary of the scene in which the Authority dissipates is that Lyra and Will vanquish the cliff-ghasts that are attacking the crystal litter on the battlefield. They notice a being inside the conveyance who seems to want to get out of it but can’t. Will uses the subtle knife to break into the litter. The being seems grateful for his release and then dissipates.

    Would you agree with this summary? If so, when and by whom does the killing or murder occur?

    3. As far as killing and cruelty and stuffed animals, consider Bambi. True, he doesn’t kill, but in that movie the death of his mother, an entirely good and innocent being, must surely be characterized as an act of wanton cruelty, and who can think of Bambi without remembering that scene?
    And then there’s Snow White…Peter Pan…

  5. >>1. What is it about the Authority — the decrepit angel who dissipates in the last third of Amber Spyglass — that makes you convinced he is God?

    You make an excellent point here and, frankly, your interpretation of the book really appeals to me. It’s just not the reaction I had when I read the book.

    And, you’re right, there are a lot of uncuddly stuffed animals out there

    Thanks for writing!

  6. Good post. Very amusing, too. You are so right about the wanton commercialism — not just around Christmas time, but especially blatant then. We saw the same thing with The Lord of the Rings — and I personally own (to my lasting shame) LotR Risk, Trivial Pursuit, and Backgammon. Yes, Backgammon — the pieces are little copies of the One Ring! My precious, I could not resist!! 😉

    But as Lori says, I think Pullman probably isn’t making anything from this ridiculous merchandising juggernaut. It was the same with Tolkien. He sold the movie rights (with merchandising rights) and therefore had no more control over any of that. Same with Pullman, I believe. And he probably doesn’t care — it’s just the reality of a consumer-driven culture.

    As to the finer points on the books, again, I agree with Lori, though the details aren’t as fresh in my mind as they once were. I’m reading the trilogy again now and may have more to offer in the near future.

  7. […] there’s been discussion in the comments of another post about what exactly happens at the end of Dark […]

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