Saturday, 29 January 2011

Arise, Sir Philip

Writer Philip Pullman is the most fabulous ranter on behalf of us, The Public.

Here he points the finger at Tory MP Eric Pickles (his real name!) and his ilk. Mr Pickles, Britain’s Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government,  has cut the budgets of the local councils that run public libraries and a lot of other things, and this is why a lot of libraries are fearing for their lives right now. 

Here’s a bit of what Philip Pullman says in his speech defending libraries in Oxfordshire, where he lives: “I love the public library service... because its presence in a town or a city reminds us that there are things above profit... things that stand for civic decency and public respect for imagination and knowledge and the value of simple delight.”

I hereby name Mr Pullman Defender of the Realm.

(It must be about time I read some of his books other than the infamously famous His Dark Materials trilogy, which I loved. Perhaps that should be my next mission in this Latitude of Libraries. Any suggestions?)


  1. The UK libraries have had a real fight on their hands for some time, particularly in low socio-economic areas where small town branches have closed, supposedly in moves to strengthen the larger central branches. However, what actually happened - at least in my old stomping ground - was that small branches died out, the books vanished and the larger branches got face lifts but no new books.

    The people who most benefitted from the smaller branches cannot afford to travel to the larger branches and the class/education barrier lives on.

    Simple without the delight.

  2. Lordy. Thanks for the informed comment, Rachel.

  3. You could start with Lyra's Oxford by Pullman - a slim volume but full of interesting ideas.

  4. I recommend The Scarecrow and His Servant. A scarecrow with a turnip for a head comes to life when he is struck by lightning. He embarks on travels and adventures with an orphan named Jack whose motto for life is "it could be worse." It's a charming and funny story for all ages.

  5. Thank you, Patricia and Lindy — and Carol, who emailed to suggest a book about Pullman’s trilogy, “Darkness Visible”.

    Now I have to confess that from my hoarding days I have all three books here at home — but have read only one, Lindy’s recommendation, which I also loved. “The Scarecrow and His Servant” was a fine antidote to some too, too serious reading I had been doing for work. Next: Lyra’s Oxford. And perhaps when I look Pullman up at the library I should go for his Sally Lockhart quartet.