Sunday, 11 April 2021

Author used church event to speak up for all our libraries

Author used church event to speak up for all our libraries

Philip Pullman | St Leonard’s Church, Watlington | Saturday, April 26

ACCLAIMED author Sir Philip Pullman is always a crowd-puller and the Friends of Watlington Library drew a full house of book lovers into St Leonard’s Church for a talk titled “Read like a butterfly, Write like a bee”.

The talk was structured around anecdotes of Pullman’s reading experiences in libraries public, academic and private.

He described libraries as places of enjoyment and discovery, where readers can stumble upon new texts and new writers, both to gain knowledge and to spark the imagination.

He recommended browsing the shelves of libraries for surprise finds that broaden the mind and bring unexpected pleasure.

Be eclectic in your reading, he said. Read thrillers, comics, whatever takes your fancy — and don’t bother to finish books you are not enjoying!

Pullman was keen to emphasise the social side of libraries. For example, public libraries often house eccentric characters as well as books. For isolated communities, mobile libraries can offer a lifeline and a purposeful reason to meet your neighbours on a regular basis.

The talk was very personal, drawing on family memories to map Pullman’s reading journey from Noddy and encyclopaedias through the Moomins to Dickens and Milton.

Pullman related how he was free as a child to explore his grandfather’s extensive library. Later on, public libraries offered a choice of reading that expanded his tastes.

From reading, Pullman turned to writing. He acknowledged the enormous power of story and praised the narrative hooks in genres such as the thriller.

But to be a successful writer, routine is as important as inspiration — writing must be a daily habit, hence his analogy of a bee in a hexagonal cell.

Pullman explained some of the sources of his His Dark Materials trilogy and offered a tantalising preview of his latest title, The Secret Commonwealth, the second in his new The Book of Dust trilogy, due out in October.

“Read like a butterfly, Write like a bee” offered a subtle but highly charged defence of local libraries.

Sir Philip’s genial manner and easy interaction with the audience made this a thought-provoking and memorable occasion.

Susan Creed

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