Apologies for the longish break; I’ve had a longer-than-usual digital detox this Christmas, involving being off Facebook, email and WordPress as well as eschewing my usual daily Guardian crossword. My laptop has been smouldering with the TV, Netflix and radio programmes I’ve been plonking myself in front of (in front of which I have been plonking myself) but I haven’t only been ‘consuming’ these ‘products’ (I shall come back to my loathing of those terms in a moment) – I have been reading. And reading. And reading some more. Yes, for Christmas I received a copy of ‘The Book of Dust’ by Phillip Pullman. At 525 pages it weighs in at several kilos and needs the arms of a Hindu god in order to both hold and read it (actually I have read longer books, though not usually in one volume – War and Peace comes to mind, as well as does In Search of Lost Time. I have a vivid memory of struggling with something that had more than 1000 pages, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was. *
Aaanyway, the Book of Dust – absolutely brilliant; so good I had to read it twice and sadly I did so at such a rate that before the week was out, I’d finished. ‘La Belle Sauvage’ is the first volume of The Book of Dust trilogy; I have no idea when the second will be out or what it will be called (the Book of Dust Jacket, perhaps?)
Other than that Christmas presents centred around food and drink; things which are actually products and which I did actually consume. I have a rabid dislike of these words being applied inappropriately to things which are not products (TV, films, shows, etc) and if anyone ever dares to suggest that The Book of Dust is a product which I have consumed, I shall beat them around the ears with all 525 pages of it.
Well, that’s it for today. I daresay I shall have more thoughts in the days to come…
Happy New Year
* I think it may have been ‘A Suitable Boy’.
To listen or not to listen? That was my dilemma at the weekend (yes, that same weekend that was packed with non-violence and non-nuclear weapons) when the BBC broadcast in its entirety Philip Pullman’s prequel to His Dark Materials, another three volumes collectively entitled The Book of Dust. I was so torn: on the one hand I really wanted to read the text first; on the other hand it might be Christmas before I could get my hands on a copy and even then, that particular item on my Christmas list might not materialise. Add to that the inducement of Simon Russell Beale’s hypnotic voice – and reader, I caved.
I was glad of my caving: it made the space between nuclear weapons and Casualty (not long usually but in this case about four hours) – enchanting. I forgot I was in the kitchen making bread; instead I was at an inn on the riverside in Lyra’s Oxford where Lyra, a baby, is being looked after by some nuns. But others are taking an unnatural interest in this baby…
I shall not post spoilers because as I said before, when a book is so new it’s unfair. But here’s the link to the programme:
I might even listen again – again.
Had a rather disturbed night; woke up at 3 am with a terrible headache which eventually went away but kept me tossing and groaning (fnarr, fnarr) for at least an hour. It’s the kind of headache which is horrible when you have it but which leaves you feeling washed clean when it passes.
Yesterday was a very chilled day, spent mostly in the garden reading “His Dark Materials’ – apparently Phillip Pullman has been working on a sequel called ‘The Book of Dust’ for a very long time now.
‘I wonder if it’s a reference to Borges’ Book of Sand?’ I said.
‘Oo!’ said Mark excitedly. ‘It could be!’
It wasn’t that exciting really; but Dust is a central concept in “His Dark Materials’ and is a sort of cross between the force of splitting the atom and sexual awareness. In these books the Church – very strongly Catholic – is a force for evil and tries to suppress the knowledge of this Dust. They are terrific books and, just as you don’t have to be a Christian to appreciate the Narnia books, you don’t have to be an atheist to like these.
Mark got a book out of the library and for a joke covered it with newspaper and put a label on it which said ‘If I told you that I’d have to kill you.’ Turns out the book was written by a patient of his and he didn’t want to break confidentiality. No, I can’t tell you who it was because I’m afraid if I told you that…
Actually managed to pin Daniel down and read something to him yesterday – this hardly ever happens as he is very resistant to new material; he will read Harry Potter or graphic novels but not much else. I read him a scene where two boys wind up a third boy until the third boy snaps and then the third gets blamed for it. The second boy doesn’t tell on his friend because that’s their code. It’s interesting and Daniel really liked it, so that’s good. Today they will be doing Maths and Science and I shall be trying to work out what the hell to write.