In his new book, Daemon Voices: On Stories And Storytelling, he shows he can also write brilliantly about writing ... Daemon Voices is full of...brilliant, boiled-down analyses of writing, storytelling, and the peculiar blend of inspiration and labor that goes into creating a successful novel ... Christianity, biblical stories, and original sin are through-lines of Daemon Voices, just as they are in the His Dark Materials series ... Fans of His Dark Materials will find plenty to enjoy, as Pullman often references the trilogy to demonstrate what one process of writing can look like—the collection of ideas, references, resources, and reactions that become a story. He also implores writers not to over-think it ... The overriding sense Pullman imparts in Daemon Voices is one of delight: delight in storytelling, delight in reading, delight in the entertainment and questions and lessons a good book carries with it. Daemon Voices is a wonderful distillation of decades of writing and thinking about what goes into storytelling. Like his best books, it has a richness of ideas in its wide breadth of topics and illuminating conclusions. Writers will savor its lessons. But it’s also a very enjoyable book to read.
We get all facets of the author and scholar in Daemon Voices, a collection of essays and speeches gathered under the umbrella of 'stories and storytelling.' Some pieces illuminate Pullman’s path to his own finished books, but the range is much broader, a kaleidoscope of topics viewed through Pullman’s particular lens ... The book’s not a beach read (I tried!), but Pullman can unwind certain dense topics as lyrically as a poet. We’re informed by his ruminations on favorites like John Milton ... He allies himself with readers ... Some of the topics in Daemon Voices are so specifically linked to events, publications, or particular audiences that they feel a little out of place collected back-to-back ... More frustrating—and hard to avoid in this format—are the repetitions. Naturally, an author speaking before different groups of people will tell some of the same stories or points. For this, among other reasons, it’s not a book to read in one sitting. Dipping in and out of it, though, the restatements seem to build a case, serving as reminders rather than frustrations.
To fans of Philip Pullman, lovers of literature and writers of all stripes, it’s a gold mine. Many books about writing take an elevated tone, bandying about obscure terms from literary theory, or treating the process of inspiration as a holy mystery. Pullman puts on no airs and graces. He seems not to feel the need, as many do, to cloak the job in smoke and mirrors; instead, he is funny, honest and very down to earth ... Pullman is also refreshingly open about the business side of being a writer ... There’s so much richness to be found in this collection: essays on Dickens, Blake and Paradise Lost; explorations of both science and religion; powerful asides on the damage done to children’s imaginations by the national curriculum (Pullman was a teacher for many years); pieces on the moral power of fiction and on the different kind of storytelling found in theater and film. Humane, wise and immensely readable, Daemon Voices is a fascinating tour of Pullman’s teeming imagination and an inestimable illumination of the writing life.
Taken in long swigs, Daemon Voices can be overwhelming, a torrent of enthusiasm for science, art, music and literature ... these essays cast a spell 'for the refreshment of the spirit.' To read them is to be invigorated by the company of a joyfully wide-ranging, endlessly curious and imaginative mind ... Daemon Voices includes appreciations of Milton and Blake, as well as of Dickens, and Phillipa Pearce ... If that sounds like a tall order for kids’ books, this is in fact the essence of Pullman’s appeal: He takes children seriously. He addresses them as intelligent, moral beings struggling to make sense of the world. He writes clearly when writing for them because that’s how he writes for everyone.
To invite a novelist to opine upon fiction is to beg for brutal exhaustion. Novelists, it seems, have spent a great deal of time analyzing their art, which is no less than storytelling. They will exsanguinate all but their most hagiographic fans as their stories turn to essays turn to ash. It’s not surprising that Philip Pullman is guilty of the same crimes in Daemon Voices, his essay collection which assays the idea of stories and their telling. Pullman tends to belabor his battle axes—most notably in the academic speech 'Poco a Poco,' whose very title promises torture. He so infuriatingly atomizes his particular point in said essay that I had to skip the next two laborious academic speeches ... Whatever the case may be, it should be noted that for all its fatal wanderings, Daemon Voices does hit on one timely subject changing the shape of shared culture ... It’s the author’s responsibility to pluck and arrange the points in a semi-linear format for the reader to follow ... But when even the book’s editor writes in the foreword about the repetition of the ideas to come, either a shorter book or a more ruthless editor is needed.
Few contemporary writers of imaginative fiction are able to explore large ethical and moral issues authoritatively, accommodating both intellect and emotion ... Introduced by author Simon Mason, this wide-ranging excursion maintains impressive coherence and is bound to satisfy devoted Pullman readers curious about his illuminating observations and why the appetite for—and value of—fiction is universal, from fire-lit cave to seminar room.
Rather than dish out amusing quotes from fan letters or standard-issue author talk, Pullman...offers meaty but always lucidly argued ruminations on the nature of story ... This is all saved from earnest or recondite lit-crit not only by the author’s evident intelligence and respect for his readers, but also a gift for dandy one-liners ... Published or presented between 1997 and 2014 and arranged in loose thematic order, these articles, talks, and introductory essays consistently demonstrate that Pullman—for all that his gaze is avowedly white and male—is as fine a thinker as he is a storyteller. It’s almost not fair. A collection of pieces infused with abundant wisdom, provocative notions, and illuminating insights.
This collection of 32 talks, published articles, and prefaces written between 1997 and 2014 by children’s writer Pullman...addresses 'the business of the storyteller' with the quiet confidence of a master craftsmen sharing the tricks of his trade ... 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.'