LJ Reviews 2018 September #1
Pullman (His Dark Materials trilogy) gathers in this volume 30-plus essays covering philosophy, the writer's craft, folk and fairy tales, William Blake's enduring power, children's literature, film, TV, theater, education and its relevance to story, and other topics. Few contemporary writers of imaginative fiction are able to explore large ethical and moral issues authoritatively, accommodating both intellect and emotion. Reminiscent of the late Harlan Ellison and Ursula K. Le Guin, Pullman achieves this without abandoning personal responsibility. Collections of this size, like symphonies, refrain themes. Pullman addresses this by front-listing recurring subjects and grouping them with essay titles in which they are discussed. The author doesn't suffer gladly those offering unoriginal and/or tedious questions aimed at sussing "meaning" from his art, instead reminding that he's "not in the message business; [but] in the 'once upon a time' business." VERDICT Introduced by author Simon Mason, this wide-ranging excursion maintains impressive coherence and is bound to satisfy devoted Pullman readers curious about his illuminating observations and why the appetite for—and value of—fiction is universal, from fire-lit cave to seminar room.—William Grabowski, McMechen, WV
Copyright 2018 Library Journal.
PW Reviews 2018 May #4
This collection of 32 talks, published articles, and prefaces written between 1997 and 2014 by children's writer Pullman (La Belle Sauvage) addresses "the business of the storyteller" with the quiet confidence of a master craftsmen sharing the tricks of his trade. Though Pullman claims no authority beyond knowing "what it feels like to write a story," the essays delineate and defend the real work of fiction to nourish imagination, shape moral understanding, and, above all, delight. The book progresses from how stories work—"the aim must always be clarity"—to why they matter, along the way peeking into Pullman's inspirations (notably including William Blake, Robert Burton, John Milton, and the Grimm brothers), pet peeves ("I shall say no more about our current educational system"), and process. Democratic in his philosophy, materialist in his beliefs ("this world is where the things are that matter"), and with a droll humor that occasionally approaches whimsy, Pullman employs a confiding, ruminative tone, a sharply analytical eye, and a vocabulary free of pedantry or cant to insist on the central value of a sense of wonder. The book is a toolbox stacked with generous, sensible advice for writers and thinkers who agree with Pullman that stories "are not luxuries; they're essential to our wellbeing." (Sept.)
Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.