The Golden Compass


Kate Bush and her wonderful music brought me full circle back to one of my favourite books.  She did the music for the visually stunning film of Philip Pullman’s fantasy The Golden Compass. The visual image did not embed properly: just click on the arrow to start the music video.

Here are the lyrics for Lyra’s song, also called Out of the Storm.

Where are our lives? If there is no dream Where is our home? / We don’t know how There will be a way Out of the storm We will find home / And her soul walks beside her An army stands behind her  /And her face full of grace Two worlds collide around her The truth lies deep inside her  /And the stars look down upon her As darkness settles on her  /Who’s to know what’s in the future But we hope we will be with her We have all our love to give her /And her soul walks beside her An army stands behind her /And her face full of grace Two worlds collide around her The truth lies deep inside her

If you have not read the book or seen the film, the trailer for the movie may whet your interest.  The film received mixed reviews… if you had not read the book, there appeared to be many incongruities and ambiguities in the plot. That always happens when the film tries to condense a complex story into manageable length… The Harry Potter movies, the Twilight Series, and especially The Hunger Games all suffered from this. (I saw several of them with my husband, who had not read the books, and was totally unimpressed with the film adaptations.) But then every reader knows, no matter how great the movie, the book is always better! Even worse, an organized campaign by religious groups against the film affected attendance, and a sequel will not be made.

In The Golden Compass, readers meet 11-year-old Lyra Belacqua, a precocious orphan growing up within the precincts of Jordan College in Oxford, England. It quickly becomes clear that Lyra’s Oxford is not precisely like our own—nor is her world. In Lyra’s world, everyone has a personal dæmon, a lifelong animal familiar. This is a world in which science, theology and magic are closely intertwined.

Which, of course, is what makes it so interesting.

I have read a great deal of fantasy and YA (young adult) fiction. For sheer entertainment with interesting characters, fast-moving themes, and intellectually and/or emotionally challenging  thematic content, this is the genre to read.

Mind, you do need to be willing to set aside your objections to reading fantasy… the novel needs to be coherent in its own imagined world; it does not need to be congruent with reality. Embrace what Coleridge described as “willing suspension of disbelief that creates dramatic illusion.”

Thus he was to treat of characters supernatural, which are incredible and improbable, and which under normal circumstances we would not believe in, but the treatment was to be such that as long as we were reading his poems, there would be, “a willing suspension of disbelief”, and we would believe for the moment in what is essentially incredible and improbable. In other words, the treatment should be such as would send the judgment of readers to sleep, so to say, so that they would peruse the poem with delight.

At the moment I am reading Leviathan, a steampunk novel written by Scott Westerfeld, the first of a trilogy. The basic premises of the book are truly bizarre… but having successfully suspended disbelief, I am finding it quite interesting. The ethical issues, about manipulating animal DNA to create new species for military deployment, I will set aside for now. The recasting of WWI European international relations is also challenging my suspension of disbelief.

But, what if….?

What are you reading now?

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