At Books & Culture, Betty Smartt Carter’s “The Good Man Philip and the Scoundrel Pullman” is an amusing summary of Philip Pullman’s career, written as a semi-parody of the Grand Idea of his recent novel (The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ), in which twins named “Jesus” and “Christ” (so, one was Jewish and one was Greek, and one got a real name and one got a title?) get to embody the qualities that Philip Pullman does and doesn’t like, respectively, about the Jesus of the Bible.

I haven’t read Pullman’s latest, since I lost any appetite for Pullman after The Amber Spyglass (the third volume of the His Dark Materials trilogy), but one of the things I like about Carter’s parable is that it captures the sense of initial intrigue (mixed with a little uneasiness) that many readers experienced when starting His Dark Materials, followed by disappointment as Pullman’s engaging writing style was overcome by his need to “preach” his particular beliefs about the church and God. It looks like that trend has only continued.


  1. Wow. Sums up everything I’ve felt about Pullman (or is it Phillip?) with more nuance than I could’ve even imagined.

  2. Yeah, looking back at my review of Pullman’s trilogy, I wasn’t all that nuanced either:

    Life doesn’t actually work out perfectly for us as often as we’d like. Sometimes there are earthquakes that level cities in Turkey. Sometimes Spinach is found to test positive for Salmonella. Sometimes a country introduces democracy to another. And sometimes, just sometimes, Philip Pullman writes a book.

  3. So what you didn’t like about the Amber Spyglass was that it was too preachy? Just curious.

    I found all the books preachy–mostly the first and last though. I rather enjoyed The Subtle Knife.

  4. Here’s my comments on the last book from my review of the series.

    Book three was just a mess. It’s almost nonsensical as it strives against reason and its own narrative to bring the story to some kind of resolution. The great betrayal prophesied? Not really a betrayal at all. Lyra being tempted? Never happens. Mary playing the role of the serpent? Nope. She just kind of stands around. Oh, and the big plan to take war to heaven and kill God? Has nothing to do with anything in the story really. Though they do end up killing the Enoch from some world. The last 250 pages are baffling. There is no climax. The plot contrivances are painful. I’m not even sure what the point of the story was. Things happen because in Pullman’s mind they need to, not because it would make any sense for something to happen a certain way.

    And this was my reaction after thoroughly enjoying the first book. (Well, until the finale of Compass, which was the first indication that Pullman had bitten off far more than he could chew narratively speaking).

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