John Schwenkler is compiling a list

of over-rated children’s books.

The Giving Tree tops the list, an assessment with which I heartily concur. It’s children’s literature for Generation Narcissus, in which we learn the valuable lesson that It’s All About You–Forever. Take as much as you want because it would be wrong, terribly wrong, for the ones you exploit to judge you. At the end of the day there will be no consequences because Love means letting you do whatever you like without regard for relationship–Forever.

My addition to the list: Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Ham-fisted agitprop from the Department of Atheist Goodthink that eventually overwhelms Pullman’s considerable skill with a pen in a deluge of shrillness and the need to Send a Message. Best takedown of Pullman ever: John C. Wright’s epic evisceration. Wright, himself a former atheist, has enough imagination to appreciate the charms of atheism: the icy cold tonic feeling of bravery in daring to blaspheme. Atheism has its aesthetic attractions, or else nobody would be one. It’s the thrill anybody would feel at pulling the nose of tyrant, because that is what atheism habitually imagines God to be. But Pullman totally screws up his own message. John writes:

The plot promised us that the republic of heaven would overthrow the heavenly kingdom. This magnificently blasphemous idea should have been something like Ancient Rome among the clouds, Senators draped in constellations and crowned with glory, with newly-immortal men voting on issues of heaven and hell, debating the destinies of stars and nations, weighing issues of fate and incarnation and reincarnation, meting out rewards and punishments for the quick and the dead, and ending with Jehovah hanged for a tyrant or sent to the Guillotine, while Cain and Ixion and Prometheus and Sisyphus, and all the dead drowned by the Deluge of Noah or the wars of Joshua, stand around hooting the throwing fruit. Instead the tyrant dies by falling out of bed. We were promised a Milton-level war resulting in a New Heaven and a New Earth, the deaths of gods, the overthrow of universes! That would have been cool.

Instead, we get a girl kissing her boyfriend (and maybe being love-harpooned by him–Mr. Pullman is understandably coy about displaying statutory rape) and then she is sadly parted (because why? You can kill God, but you cannot figure out how to build a Stargate? You overthrow the Cosmic Order, but you cannot get Corwin of Amber to redraw the Pattern for you and rewrite the laws of nature?)

And the end result is that she goes to school.

Stay in school, kids! Hate God! That is my message!

Thanks, Pullman.

Seriously. Read the whole thing. Way fun.


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