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.