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Saturday August 18, 2018

Tabada: The wilding

TINY yellow flowers carpeting the road. Glossy purple and green balls of caimito that drip sweet juice down one’s chin and leave one’s gums and lips caked afterwards in an odd telltale stiffness.

No one needs to tell me summer is here.

The traditional two months of release from school means that, even after I have long outgrown childhood, March still brings on a great restlessness, which the first rain in May only dampens.

I can see this same restiveness in nature. Leaves leaving trees in a great exodus, scattered into all directions by a wayward wind. Even the riotous grass withers and withdraws beneath the earth to a place I cannot behold.

This going away makes me wonder why I am still here.

This leave-taking is what reading becomes for me.

Reading looks such a placid, quiet preoccupation. Except for the flipping of a page, a reader is an enraptured creature, appearing to sleep with eyes wide open. The lips may just so slightly move, mumbling an incantation unheard or just breathing, keeping the reader barely connected with this world.

Inside, the reader is a savage, thumbing her nose at boring life and its petty fetters, escaping through the window of a scholar’s office to run wild and free, from roof to roof in the mythical Jordan College in the Oxford created by Philip Pullman and illustrated by Clement Oubrerie in the graphic novel adaptation of the controversial “children’s” classic, “The Golden Compass.”

This is the first novel in Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Pullman’s mistrust for organized religion bars these books from getting within shouting distance of schools’ required reading lists.

His thesis—a troublemaker will save the world—will not endear the trilogy to parents who regard books as pacifiers for unruly imaginations and tools to churn out exemplars and leaders.

But if you can relate to the child Lyra Belacqua shouting “Long live savages!” after running away from a lesson on experimental theology, if you have ever yearned to hide behind bookcases to spy and eavesdrop, you will find yourself at home in a tale where beasts, witches, and daemons in animal form are less deceptive than scientists, theologians, and religious authorities.

Offering not just deviations but disruptions, fantasy and science fiction compose my idea of perfect narratives. Lyra’s daemon Pantalaimon says my favorite lines in the graphic novel:

“Are you mad? Why are you always imagining things?”

Uttered by a talking animal in a make-believe university of great learning, the lines are found in two small panels on page 3. As a counterpoint for all the insanity organizing our world, has the imaginary been couched in terms more casual, insidious, and heartbreaking?


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