Pause for thought: Philip Pullman

The book that reads you as much as you read it.

Pullman(1)“The act of true reading is in its very essence democratic. Consider the nature of what happens when we read a book – and I mean, of course, a work of literature, not an instruction manual or a textbook – in private, unsupervised, un-spied-on, alone. It isn’t like a lecture: it’s like a conversation. There’s a back-and-forthness about it. The book proposes, the reader questions, the book responds, the reader considers. We bring our own preconceptions and expectations, our own intellectual qualities, and our limitations, too, our own previous experiences of reading, our own temperament, our own hopes and fears, our own personality to the encounter… Nor do we have to read it in a way determined by someone else. We can skim, or we can read it slowly; we can read every word, or we can skip long passages; we can read it in the order in which it presents itself, or we can read it in any order we please; we can look at the last page first, or decide to wait for it; we can put the book down and reflect, or we can go to the library and check what it claims to be fact against another authority; we can assent, or we can disagree.”

From “The war on words” by the English novelist Philip Pullman (The Guardian, 6 November 2004). Pullman is the author of several best-selling books, including the fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials and the fictionalised biography The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. In 2017, he published La Belle Sauvage, the first volume in his new series The Book of Dust.


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Philip Lee

Writer and musician who tries to join up the dots.

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