Thursday, December 6, 2007

Dust in The Wind (Thursday Thirteen #33)

The night before last, I curled up on my couch with a book that has been receiving much ado lately because of the movie “The Golden Compass” that is opening this Friday. "The Golden Compass” is the first in the “His Dark Materials” trilogy by Phillip Pullman, who, I hear, is quite an outspoken atheist. I must be honest, I had never heard of the author or the books before all of this hoopla.

Shame on me
, I know.

The Catholic League and The American Family Association have taken a strong stance against this movie and the books, claiming they promote atheism to children and that we shouldn’t read them, allow our children to read them, or see the movie.

That’s fine to say, but the book is part of the required readings in two of my middle school children’s Language Arts classes. They are reading it right now. I asked the teacher if he’d received any complaints about the choice of reading material and he said yes, but the parents admitted they hadn’t actually read the book themselves.

Now, how can you complain if you haven’t even read the book?

Even if I thought this was the worst book ever, I wouldn’t forbid my kids to read it. If reading a fictional book can shake your faith, then I would have to say you’re faith isn’t very strong to begin with and/or you don’t know why you believe what you do. I say reading a book that challenges your religious beliefs can also strengthen your knowledge about your own beliefs.

You should know why you believe what it is you believe.

You know me and nothing riles up my curiosity like controversy and telling me not to do something, so I read the book and literally, could not put it down. I read it cover to cover in one sitting. It was THAT good.

Today is Thursday Thirteen...and here’s mine.


1. I’ve read a lot of blog posts about this book and one thing that keeps coming up over and over is that the people all have “daemons”. When we see this word now, we think of “demon” and evil, but actually “daemon” comes from the word “daimon” which means attendant spirit. Guardian angels are attendant spirits.

2. The character’s “daemons” are actually their souls, they are just not within the physical body. While they exist alongside each other in the book, they are an indivisible whole and can not exist without the other.

3. The characters also have a ghast (ghost) upon death which means that they have a body, soul and spirit.

4. Because of innocence, the daemons of children can take on different forms. Once the child reaches adolescence, though, the daemon takes on its final form, representing the soul of the person and it can no longer change.

5. Perhaps because of all of the atheistic hoopla surrounding the book, I initially thought that Lyra, the main character in the book, would be like the Spokesperson for Atheism. As the story goes on, it becomes clearer than she is representing Eve. When Eve was tempted by the apple, she left innocence behind, as most teenagers do. Some people call it sin, others may call it knowledge. Lyra must remain innocent until she fulfills her task, but is determined or tempted to find out about meaning of Dust.

6. In this story, Dust equates to original sin. I’m thinking it’s meaning is lust.

7. Lyra’s name is a derivative of the word “lyre” which means harp. Revelations 14:2 reads:

“And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps.”

I may be wrong about her name symbolizing something, but it was something I noticed.

8. Lyra’s daemon is named Pantalaimon. There is a saint called Panteleimon, but he is better known as Saint Pantaleon. Pantaleon was condemned to death after it was decided by an emporer that the miracles he was performing were magic. Despite many attempts to execute him, Christ appeared to heal him and all were unsuccessful. The executioners all converted to Christianity and Pantaleon begged heaven to forgive them. His name now means “all merciful”.

9. The Magisterium exists. It is the teaching authority of the Catholic Church. It is composed of the Pope and the current Bishops of the Church and they teach and interpret the word of God.

10. Lord Asriel is a character in the book that I perceive as the devil in this story. The Angel of Death is sometimes known as Azrael or Sariel. Azrael severs human souls from their bodies.

11. In the book, the daemons are severed from the humans by a process called Intercision. It is thought that if it were done before children reached adolescence, it would prevent the onset of “upsetting emotions”. These “upset emotions” are, of course, sexual in nature and Intercision is supposed to represent castration or male and female circumcisions. I don’t know all that much about female circumcisions, but obviously, males are circumcised to this day in religious ceremonies.

12. It’s also no secret that long ago, The Catholic Church would castrate young men prior to puberty to keep their voices from changing. They were known as castrati. Females weren’t allowed to sing in the Church, so this ensured high pitched voices. Most of the young boys died during this procedure, just like most of the characters in the book die if separated from their daemon.

13. What I took from this book was there there can be good and bad in everything. Things don’t always appear to be what they seem and that we shouldn’t decide something is good or bad based off of generalizations.

I thought the book was excellent and I’m halfway through “The Subtle Knife” which is the second book in the trilogy. I hope the movie is as good as the book! (I doubt that, though!)


Kara said...

I must get this book. Everyone keeps talking about it.

Robin said...

I'd never heard of this book until now (I guess the controversy hasn't reached Israel), but reading this I definitely want to go out and read it. I'm all for any book that gets kids really thinking, and just knowing it's being complained about by people who haven't bothered reading it makes me want to go out and buy multiple copies.

Courtney said...

I haven't read the book yet, but your post makes me what to. Thanks for the review.

Open Grove Claudia said...

I thought they were good books - interesting story - great characters. I am not sure what the hoopla is about - personally I think it's marketing for the movie. But that's just me.

Happy TT.

Shelly Kneupper Tucker said...

Now you've got me interested! I had the daemon on my blog, but hadn't read the book. Great review. And, I totally agree with your words:
"You should know why you believe what it is you believe." Great job.

This Eclectic Life

I hate having to type my whole link so people can find me. What's with this blogger thang now?

stubarnes said...

Very well done. Good to see an intelligent take on the work.

TT Love Scenes:

Sassy Lucy said...

I have owned the books for awhile, but did not read them yet, my son tried but did not get into daughter wants to see the movie and I want her to read the book.
Great T13

Sandee (Comedy +) said...

Haven't read the book, but it seems you have grasped it's meaning. I especially like #13. So true. Have a great TT. :)

Karina said...

You made some very good points in your intro to your TT.

I love that you read it so you could make up your own mind regarding the controversy, all the "complainers" should do the same. But then, these are the same folks that wanted to ban Harry Potter, right?

FRIGGA said...

Well it sounds like a highly spiritual book and not a book promoting atheism at all. I'm glad you took the time to learn more about it! Happy TT :P

Anonymous said...

I have tagged and given you an award. :-)

Vixen said...

The movies are rarely as good as the book.

I too had never heard of these until all this hoopla started on the news. As a Catholic, all I could think was exactly what you said (only it wasn't so concise in my head)"If reading a fictional book can shake your faith, then I would have to say you’re faith isn’t very strong to begin with and/or you don’t know why you believe what you do."

Now that I have read your TT, I may go get the books....


Mommy the Maid said...

I have heard a lot about it but haven't had the chance to look into it.

I really love what you said about faith not being strong if a fictional piece of work can shake that.

Rene said...

My son read the triology last year while he was in 5th grade and really enjoyed the books. I haven't read them myself. I do want to see the movie. I love Daniel Craig.

The Rock Chick said...

Kara: Yes, you should! I don't even normally like stories like this one and I liked it!!

robin: you are just like me! I probably wouldn't have read it at all if someone didn't tell me not to! LOL

courtney: you're welcome! Happy TT!

open grove claudia: I think by protesting the book and the movie, all it is doing is making everyone want to see it and read it. Maybe it would be better sometimes not to say anything, right?

shelly: thank you!! I don't know what's with this new blogger thing. I turned off my word verification--maybe that will stop all of this comment security :)

stubarnes: thank you. I try :)

sassy lucy: my kids don't like the books either and because of that, now they don't want to see the movie. Which is fine with a few bucks! LOL

sandee: thank you! Happy TT!

Frigga: well, I think the books get more atheistic as they go, which is still ok with me, but I think it's how you interpret them though.

karina: yes, Harry Potter and The Da Vinci Code (which was one of the best books I've ever read!)

kelly: wow-thank you!!!

vixen: I agree, I've never a seen a movie as good as the book. I normally won't even read the book before I see the move just because of that, but I had to know what all the hoopla was about.

mommy the maid: thank you! Happy TT!

rene: give the books a try, too! It's really an excellent story!

Jeff Keith said...

I will definately check this book out. Thanks for great input!

Anonymous said...

It sounds like a very interesting book. I am a deep thinker which I think makes this book all the more enticing.


Nicholas said...

I only heard of this book recently. I think we should tell our children that if they ever hear of a book that someone or other wants to ban, they should run, not walk, to the bookstore or library and get hold of it so they can see what "they" want to keep hidden.

I shall read this book. Anything that upsets a cult or corporation is ok by me.

Jessica Morris said...

Ok, so I will be the odd one out :) While I thoroughly agree with your comment about your faith not being strong if it can be shaken by a piece of fiction I do have a problem with the fact that this author has an agenda.
I have heard the books are really well written. I am not out to bash the books.
I haven't read them and don't intend to ;) But not because I am trying to stick my head in the sand.

I have however read interviews he has done (and full interviews - not quotes other people with agendas have quoted!) search his name there and you can find out a lot on him. (and that site is for him!)
Anyways, I don't agree with the man , regardless of how well he may be able to tell a story.
And perhaps if I knew the intent and thoughts of a lot of the authors I read then I wouldn't want to be reading them, but not everybody is the subject of hot debate and easily found out about, and I can only be responsible for the information I do know.

Those are my jumbled thoughts at the wee morning hours :)

pussreboots said...

Well written TT and review but I still don't want to read the book or see the film (even though I am an atheist). The books just don't appeal to me.

The Rock Chick said...

Jessica: Your opinions are never the "odd man out" to me! You know that you are more than free to disagree with me. (In fact, I kind of like it when people do that!) I'm going to check out your link because I have only seen a quote here and there by the author. You've read my review of the first book and so far, I don't see any agenda, but I am reserving the right to change my opinion based on the second and third books in the trilogy which are supposedly where the criticisms of his work are supposed to be. I'm halfway through the second book and I still don't see anything, but I do think the interpretation may lie in one's individual beliefs as well.

pussreboots: I didn't think this book would appeal to me either. I've tried to read Harry Potter, etc. and just couldn't get beyond a couple of chapters. I was surprised.

Qtpies7 said...

For me, it doesn't have anything to do with the banning of the book, but I don't put my money in people's hands who want to tear apart what I believe.
I'm sure the story is captivating, but I won't give him my money. My children's faith is not shakable by a book.

Crystal said...

Never heard of him or the books.

Doesn't sound like my cup of tea though.

Damien said...

It sounds like you really got the book! For me, it was good descriptive writing, but I had trouble getting beyond his apparent cynicism and almost rage against church. I think he will always appeal to a certain type: the atheist, the fantasy role-playing aficianado etc. But that's just my perception. There were mostly those types at the movie today. It was ok, but still I think the anti religion stuff gets old. probably because I like church and all.

Malcolm: said...

Although I haven't read any of Philip Pullman's work, I am familiar with them from my time working in bookstores. Your comments make me want to read the books though. I like the question you posed (How can you complain if you haven't read the book?) I think that too many people take the easy way out and shoot things down before knowing all the facts.

The Rock Chick said...

Damien: Yes, I think I did "get" the book. I'm reserving my right to change my opinion after I finish the trilogy, but I did not find this book "anti-religious" per se, just more of a "there can be good and bad things in everything", even things that we initially perceive as "good", like the Church or religion. As unfortunate as that is, it's true. I think the author chose to use the stereotypes we have of things in opposition to make this point.

I'm very interested in finishing this trilogy to the end and see what I think afterward. I'm almost done with the second book and I'm still not seeing things differently.

Malcolm: I used to work in a bookstore, too! It was actually one of my favorite jobs. I thought these books contained quite a bit of Christian symbolism (as I tried to explain in my post) and it wasn't derogatory in nature at all! I may not be seeing the books as a lot of people do, though.

I don't believe that because someone is expressing an opinion that differs from yours means that they are necessarily putting your beliefs down. I really think the author is using what most people believe as "good and bad" to make this point.

Linda R. Moore said...

Cool TT! It makes me want to watch the movie even more, now. :)

Thanks for visiting my TT :)