Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pullman stabs himself with The Subtle Knife


Jewish date:  11 Marḥeshwan 5770 (Parashath Lekh-Lekha).

Today’s holidays:  Thursday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism).

Worthy cause of the day:  “Take Action: Sign the petition to President Obama | Save Darfur”.

Topic 1:  I have now read chapter 2 of The Subtle Knife (Book 2 of His Dark Materials) by Philip Pullman, and Pullman sets himself up for disaster.  The setting shifts back to the world Lyra started in.  Serafina Pekkala, a witch, discovers a lot of Church officials and Mrs. Coulter in a room together, plotting their next move.  They have already lost Lyra and an alethiometer (a divination device, the “Golden Compass” of The Golden Compass), and they are using their alethiometer and torturing a witch who thought with Lyra in an effort to get more information.  Lyra is the central character of prophesies, and they are very upset to have lost track of her and are trying to get hold of her again.  After euthanizing the tortured witch, Serafina goes on to investigate further consult and turn up other dirt on the Church and Lord Asriel.  It turns out that Lord Asriel has taken upon himself to do something amazingly ambitious and audacious:  he hopes to kill the Authority, the god of the Church/Magisterium.  This is the point where Pullman (figuratively) stabs himself, because he sets up a situation in which he cannot win.  If the Authority is an accurate reflection of the Christian Trinity, then this is impossible.  The Trinity is supposed to be immortal; therefore by definition there is nothing any human could possibly do to kill Him/Them.  Thus if Lord Asriel or any other human character kills an immaterial Authority, Pullman has him do something impossible.  On the other hand, if the Authority is sufficiently low a being so as to be killable, Pullman is attacking a god which does not reflect the one that Christians actually believe in.  Either way, Pullman loses.

Topic 2:  It is time again for another update of the latest episode of Eastwick, this time “Bonfire and Betrayal”, a Halloween episode, with references to witch burnings.  (Who did not see that coming?)  There is more of the tension between predestination versus free will in Roxanne’s visions, with attempts to prevent a foreseen death.  There is the disgraced pastor going insane and trying to murder Joanna.  (This feels cliché, or at least soap operaish.  Actually, the whole show feels soap operaish.)  There are more magic powers.  Nothing spectacular.