[DWJ] Off topic: Neil Gaiman's Crazy Hair

Gili Bar-Hillel gbhillel at netvision.net.il
Sun Oct 15 05:44:10 EDT 2006

Hmm. I don't usually write up my lectures, I prepare an outline/prompt sheet
for myself, but nothing I feel I can share. And even my outline is in
Hebrew. But here's the general gist of things: the issue of Pullman vs.
Lewis has been discussed numerous times. Part of my lecture was simply
summing up the history of this: how Pullman has gone on record claiming to
detest the Narnia books and saying all sorts of horrible things about them,
and defenders of Lewis have in turn said all sorts of horrible things about
Pullman. Pullman is the one who first called himself the "anti-Lewis". And
yet many readers of fantasy have tremendously enjoyed both the Narnia books
and the Dark Materials trilogy. What it boils down to is different religious
beliefs, or lack thereof. Pullman accuses Lewis of all sorts of things that
presumably have nothing to do with religious belief such as misogyny,
racism, snobbery and preachiness; but Pullman is responding to a simplified
view of Lewis' morality, where more nuanced readings are possible. Yes, they
have different beliefs, as can be seen by exploring some of the myths that
both of them have incorporated into their works: the eating of the forbidden
fruit in the garden of Eden, the concept of heaven. But to a reader of
fantasy who is neither concerned with promoting Christianity, nor with
shooting down the religious establishment, the differences between Lewis and
Pullman can appear superficial, or as no more than flip sides of the same
coin. Pullman rejects the concept of "sin" as promoted by the Church, but he
does not reject morality in general. Does it really matter if we do right
because we believe that we are being watched and judged and will be rewarded
in the afterlife, or because we believe that our actions have immediate
consequences and we must do right so as not to pollute the world we are
living in now? Theological scholars could spend a lifetime debating points
such as this, but fantasy readers can just as easily ignore them, as long as
there is a good story pulling them along - and both Lewis and Pullman are
master storytellers. Or something like that.

-----Original Message-----
From: dwj-bounces at suberic.net [mailto:dwj-bounces at suberic.net]On Behalf Of
Richard Nagel
Sent: Saturday, October 14, 2006 11:36 PM
To: Diana Wynne Jones
Subject: Re: [DWJ] Off topic: Neil Gaiman's Crazy Hair

Dear Gili,

I'm sure I'm not the only member of the DWJ list who'd love to read your
lecture about Pullman as the anti-Lewis. Is is available online or could
you post it to the list?

Richard Nagel

Gili Bar-Hillel wrote:
> Hello all,
> I thought you all might enjoy this home video of Neil Gaiman reading an
> unpublished poem at the ICon festival in Tel-Aviv. The poem is called
> Hair" and was written by him in one sitting, as an email to his daughter
> once when he was touring and wanted to write her something nice. Someday
> Dave McKean is supposed to illustrate it so it can come out as a
> book, but in the meantime he occasionally pulls it out at readings. The
> first two lines that were amputated in the move to You Tube are: "This is
> Bonnie, this is me; I'm eleven, Bonnie's three".
> Here's the link:
> http://israblog.nana.co.il/tblogread.asp?blog=24310&blogcode=5062956
> be alarmed by the Hebrew, You Tube is You Tube)
> ObDWJ: One of the two lectures I gave at ICon this year was about the
> tributes and winks at "The Wizard of Oz" in "Howl's Moving Castle". I know
> I've written about this before here, but I've padded it out enough to
> sustain a 90 minute lecture, and the audience reacted very warmly. I think
> this may be the first DWJ lecture ever to be given at ICon
> (http://promo.icon.org.il/eng/). The question I was asked most frequently
> after the lecture, was "when will more DWJ titles be published in Hebrew"?
> (My other lecture was entitled, "Is Philip Pullman the Anti-Lewis"? And to
> my great surprise, it managed to draw several dozen enthusiasts, despite
> fact that it was parallel to Neil Gaiman's reading).
> Gili
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