Imaginary Friends by Philip Pullman
I know we’re a few weeks past Independent Booksellers Week now, but you may still be able to get a copy of this single essay by Philip Pullman, published as a little book for IBW and only available in indie bookshops. Each year a different essay about books and reading is published for the week, and Pullman’s joins those by Julian Barnes, Ann Patchett, Mark Forsyth and Robert MacFarlane from previous years (I hope I haven’t missed any of them!).
However, if you don’t have an indie bookshop nearby and can wait, in November Pullman’s essay will be part of a book of 30 essays by Pullman being published, called Daemon Voices: Essays on Storytelling.
Now, you all know how Pullman isn’t afraid of holding back on controversial topics. Imaginary Friends was originally published in the New Statesman in 2011 and was written:
In answer to Richard Dawkins’s assertion that fairy tales may have a pernicious effect on children, with reference to the author’s own experience of reading and imagining.
‘Pernicious’ is such a Dawkins word, isn’t it? Pullman begins by praising Dawkin’s children’s book, The Magic of Reality. In it Dawkins takes myths like those of creation, rainbows, evolution for example, and explains the science to give young readers a sense of wonder about the subject. I’ve not read this book, but it does sound great – hurrah for science!
The book reminds Pullman of a TV interview with Dawkins in which he worries that stories like turning a prince into a frog could have a ‘pernicious effect’, and Pullman goes on to characteristically dissect and disprove this statement in typical style. Hurrah for storytelling and imagination!
It’s a superb essay. I can’t wait for the full book, (nor the first House of Dust book natch!).