His Dark Example

Colin Burrow

  • The Book of Dust, Vol. I: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
    David Fickling, 546 pp, £20.00, October 2017, ISBN 978 0 385 60441 3
  • Daemon Voices: Essays on Storytelling by Philip Pullman
    David Fickling, 480 pp, £20.00, October 2017, ISBN 978 1 910200 96 4

My children are now 21 and beyond the age of being reasoned with or read to. This has its advantages: reasoning has never come naturally to me. But I profoundly miss reading to them as they slumped against me in symmetrical warmth (they are non-identical twins). There were some books, it’s true, over which I fell asleep. Reading The Hobbit aloud enabled me to acquire the skill of slicing out three unnecessary subordinate clauses from a sentence without making it look as though I was skipping anything at all. Reading the Alex Rider series made me long to break free of the relentless rhythm of subject, combative verb, object. Or no verb. And add a florid subordinate clause in which dear vigorous Alex might experience an equivocal thought or a complex emotion. Reading the Harry Potter books was torment. Could I yet again suppress the inner groan as the apparently tricephalic hybrid of Harry-Ron-and-Hermione proceeded to do exactly the same thing yet again, or as, once more, I had to recite a tedious recapitulation of the past?

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