Daemon Voices: On Stories and Storytelling

Philip Pullman, edited by Simon Mason. Knopf, $30 (480p) ISBN 978-0-525-52117-4
This collection of 32 talks, published articles, and prefaces written between 1997 and 2014 by children’s writer Pullman (La Belle Sauvage) addresses “the business of the storyteller” with the quiet confidence of a master craftsmen sharing the tricks of his trade. Though Pullman claims no authority beyond knowing “what it feels like to write a story,” the essays delineate and defend the real work of fiction to nourish imagination, shape moral understanding, and, above all, delight. The book progresses from how stories work—“the aim must always be clarity”—to why they matter, along the way peeking into Pullman’s inspirations (notably including William Blake, Robert Burton, John Milton, and the Grimm brothers), pet peeves (“I shall say no more about our current educational system”), and process. Democratic in his philosophy, materialist in his beliefs (“this world is where the things are that matter”), and with a droll humor that occasionally approaches whimsy, Pullman employs a confiding, ruminative tone, a sharply analytical eye, and a vocabulary free of pedantry or cant to insist on the central value of a sense of wonder. The book is a toolbox stacked with generous, sensible advice for writers and thinkers who agree with Pullman that stories “are not luxuries; they’re essential to our wellbeing.” (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 05/28/2018
Release date: 09/18/2018
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