Unpopular Opinion

Okay, I know -- I know -- that Loyal is going to kill me for saying it, and the DD will be none too pleased, and all that. And I am really sorry. But I have to get it off my chest.

I just reread The Golden Compass. And, well. It had all the problems I remembered it having.

To get a few things out of the way -- it's a good book. I've got no qualms with it theologically. I'd still recommend it to people, I certainly don't have anything against people who like it. I just bought the whole trilogy from the Store, because my sister STOLE my copies. (She has stolen so many of my books. Eeeeevil.)

But with all that said, it just doesn't hang together quite as well as Pullman seems to think it does. For one thing, Lyra is just not that sympathetic to me. She's like Hamlet -- she reads like a symbolic figure, not a realistic character. And I know she all ends up being Eve, and prophecy this, and chosen one that, but Harry Potter managed to be all prophesied about and chosen and Christlike and all and still managed to make me care about his family life, which is something I just can't muster up for Lyra. She gets better in the later books, and I like Will okay, but they both necessarily have a mixture of mature world-weariness and childlike cluelessness which I don't find remotely convincing.

And really, I think the whole story kind of has that problem. The daemons, for example, are a really interesting idea, and fun to speculate about and give a lot to the story, and all that. And yet, I still feel like they're there for the express purpose of giving the reader a clear symbol of childhood and adulthood. I feel like the whole idea is there because of that one Bible passage at the end of book one. And certain things about it just aren't adequately explained.

Fundamentally, too, I just disagree with the notion that the only way to become an adult is through some form of sexual initiation. Lyra suffers the horrible guilt of causing a friend's death, she is forced to choose between separating herself from her own soul and betraying her friend yet again, she is betrayed and held captive by her father, her mother, and several others, if memory serves, and yet she doesn't reach spiritual adulthood until she discovers the joys of making out with a twelve-year-old? It seems to me that the device of the daemons and their permanent form is so that the reader has a way of knowing when Pullman thinks Lyra has grown up, because otherwise it really would be completely unclear. To me being an adult has a lot to do with learning to take responsibility for your actions, and the consequences they have on other people, not anything necessarily physical. I realize that some people don't seem to ever hit this milestone -- or give no evidence of having hit it, anyway -- but some people are never sexually initiated, either, or not until they're in their twenties or thirties or forties. The idea just seems shoddy to me in certain ways.

But that's really my problem with the whole thing, the whole book, the whole series. It's so detailed and vivid and well-thought-out, and everything is there, and yet in certain ways it seems written not to tell a story, but to prove a point, to make a statement, and that just annoys me, every time. I don't mind books that say true things about life, obviously -- hi, degree in philosophy. But a book like Pride and Prejudice, a poem like Tintern Abbey, a play like Arcadia -- they tell me different things every time I read them, based on where I am, and what I'm thinking about, and what parts I choose to focus on. With His Dark Materials, there is some of that, but there's also some of the feeling that the only two possible responses are to disagree with Pullman or to agree with him, and in the end, that's not very interesting. Because in some ways I agree, and in some ways I disagree, but I can't do much give and take if the author doesn't allow me any leeway.

Please don't hate me, Loyal. If it makes you feel any better, I have really similar problems with Hamlet, and to some degree even The Chronicles of Narnia. And Squeak forgave me Hamlet, and Jay (from college) forgave me Narnia. And hey, you can always dismiss me as a moron who sometimes has been known to pay good money to watch The O.C. (Soooo shallow. My only excuse is that I had a Christmas present to finish making.)


Questions... Questions That Need Answering

These are my questions today:

1. Who is going to crack me up today? The Christmas season is annoying in certain ways (obviously) but there seem to be higher percentages of customers who ... how can I say this? Who could easily be satirized in a Jane Austen novel, how about that. Like the older couple in last Monday, who appeared so confused that I stopped "shelving" (read: reading) and asked if they needed help. I got them sorted out, and heard the woman tell her husband triumphantly, "You see, Frank? All we had to do was ask!"

2. What does The Guy I Have My Eye On think about me? I know, I know, so shallow. But I haven't gone remotely ga-ga over a boy in almost a year and a half, so I am due. And this guy is cute and sweet and polite, and I can't tell if he has his eye on me back, or if he's just a nice guy. And there is no one I can ask.

3. When is the guy whose room I took going to move off the couch? He's a nice guy, and I totally understand the legarthy that seizes one at the prospect of moving out, especially packing up one's stuff and moving to another country, but they put the ad in, I only answered it, and it has been a full month since I moved in. Again, I have no objections to him personally, but the house really isn't big enough for four, and he spends forever in the bathroom.

4. Where are all these ants coming from? Look, my friends, the buffet table is CLOSED. I thought I made that perfectly clear when I took all the dirty dishes out of my room and then squirted you all with Windex.

5. How am I going to find time to go to the city and get my nose ring adjusted? Which it needs, sometime before Christmas. In broader terms, how is it that I have loads of time to spend goofing off checking my email and such, and none at all to do the research I am supposed to be doing? How can I make time for dates with old college chums (not date-dates, see above. Just hang-out dates) but not to sit down at the library and do some good old-fashioned research? How does my internal time management even work?

6. Why don't I like any modern playwrights except Stoppard? I saw a play last night, by an award-winning playwright, and it seriously just sounded like Lionel's efforts from season two of Slings & Arrows. I mean, don't get me wrong, the staging was excellent and the story reasonably compelling, but the dialogue just... did nothing for me. Why is that? It's not just this guy, it's pretty much any play that's been written in the last twenty or thirty years, except musicals, Stoppard, and the short plays my friend Tangy used to write when we were teenagers.



You know what is not fair? Do you know what is playing in London right now? Right this very moment?

-Patrick Stewart is playing Macbeth
-Ian McKellan is playing King Lear
-Ewan McGregor is playing Iago

I mean, shit. AND I AM MISSING IT!!! All of it, I am missing. All that is going on, and I am stuck here where I cannot see a bit of it. SO SAD.

I don't miss Europe, but if I were there right now, I can tell you, I would be in London seeing this stuff. For a long weekend, at the very least. Possibly two or three long weekends so I could see it two or three times. (Shut up, London theater is wicked cheap.) Sometimes I am here and I think about it and jump up and down with frustration.

Of course, if I weren't here, would I be helping the OS cast a show? Not so much. So...

Cast, Cast, Cast, Cast

We are (knock on a lot of wood) basically cast for The Winter Thing. The last round of auditions was today, and everyone feels pretty good about the final part. And yay!

I really like our cast. But even more than I like them, I'm anxious to see them play off each other. If we (by which I mean mostly the OS, of course) can take these people and this script and build it into this really beautiful ensemble show, it will be so far beyond awesome. Ah, the fun of having so much potential and then the headache of having to live up to it! But it is so exciting for me to be working on it. ("Working" in the loosest sense of the word, of course. Mostly I stay quiet, and note things, and think about them.) But it gives me so much to think about, and of course I learn a lot every time I go in there. In a couple weeks I'll get to sit in on a design meeting, which will be really interesting (and informative. I suck at design).

I am of course, the country bumpkin. But I am the country bumpkin who is there, not the one who can't seem to break in anywhere, and that's one of the things I love. As well as the theater itself, of course!