Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Golden Compass - Phillip Pullman

I’m sure this is a great story.  I’m sure that I would really enjoy it if I gave it enough time and got into it.  The four chapters I read just were not doing it for me.  I know four chapters is hardly anything and I am basically judging a book by its cover.  Maybe I am intimidated because I have the edition with the entire trilogy bound in one giant paperback volume.  Who knows?
The first thing I thought while reading it was: Why does the young hero always come from some horrible past.  They are always orphans with extraordinary character and spunk.  What about a protagonist for the everyday child?  We need John Mellencamp or Bruce Springsteen to write a children’s fantasy novel.  There is a fantastical world with magical events about to unfold and these stories always start with some kid from the bottom.  It could be the whole fascination with the underdog, but if you got a prepubescent kid slaying dragons and restoring the world’s faith, isn’t that extreme enough?  Do they really have to have murdered parents and a horrible childhood on their resume to qualify for the job of protagonist?  Where does that leave all the regular kids who are tucked in their safe little beds reading these stories past their bedtime?  Their parents are not even divorced or dead.  They have no hope at living a life anybody will want to read.  A dull desk job is all that awaits them.  No grand call to destiny.  Just wither away their existence all because their parents took good care of them. 
I was also considering the narration in this story.  I see why an author would choose to use third person to capture all the details of an environment, character’s feelings, and their interactions.  It seems like a better way to cover the vast array of details a writer would want to shove in their imagined world.  I think I like Tolkien’s third person narration style more, with his meandering thoughts and side notes.  It seems to have more personal voice than straightforward reporting.  Pullman offers some descriptive material that is biased or opinionated but it is just not doing it for me.  I would love see it exaggerated much more.  If you are going to write a children’s novel make every descriptive metaphor a fart joke or slap stick humor.  I guess I just want to feel like my narrator is a character in itself.  I would prefer a narrator who seems emotionally invested, overly cynical, and a little more than half drunk.
Now that this is on the Internet, hopefully somebody will write a story with this type of narration.  That would be top notch.

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