"In search of Dark Materials" Oxford by KennetRose
Oxford Travel Guide: 965 reviews and 2,036 photos
I've been worried for a long time about my Oxford page. I have never lived there nor have I studied there (Liverpool and the Open University, me, and what's wrong with that???) so I don't have an intimate insider's knowledge. I don't relate to it as a tourist either, it's somewhere I go shopping, especially for books and music, and a place I just enjoy for itself. So I found it hard to get an original angle on it, one that would say something nobody else was saying. There are Lewis Carroll tours and Inspector Morse tours and Tolkien tours, even Harry Potter tours, but nobody in Oxford, so far, seems to be doing a Pullman trail!
Early in 2003 I was confined to bed with a nasty virus, so to pass the time I obtained the three volumes of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, a series of childrens (allegedly) books that had been praised highly but which had also been the centre of a storm of controversy for their anti-religious philosophy. At the end of the 1,300 pages I was in a daze. I just went straight back to the beginning and read it right through again. And then I kept dipping into it again and again to hunt down the rich mixture of philosophy and literary allusion that makes it tick.
The scene is set partly in Oxford. Well, two Oxfords actually, the one we know and the one in another universe wherein lives our heroine Lyra Belacqua, a young girl whose journey from "coarse and greedy little savage" to young woman of quite stunning maturity forms the backbone of the story. In Lyra's world, John Calvin has been Pope, the English Civil War never happened and things in Oxford are familiar and yet, as we gradually realise, also very strange indeed. And there I had my framework for my Oxford page!
Next time your children clamour for more Harry Potter, give them His Dark Materials instead, and read it yourself if they will let go of it! The three volumes are: Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. For some inscrutable reason best known to Pullman's US publishers, Northern Lights is called The Golden Compass across the pond.
This is where I head when I'm looking for that hard-to-find recording that nowhere else seems to have. I have to say... more travel advice
Nothing whatever to do with Lyra, who is not recorded as going punting. But no self-respecting Oxford page would be... more travel advice
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