I'm feeling too tired and lazy to write anything substantive today, but here's a link to a new Independent article on Philip Pullman. A randomish excerpt:
Pullman offers an energetic engagement with the world, of life as a quest for love and truth. We're told in The Scarecrow and His Servant that "although the Scarecrow's heart was broken, his curiosity about the world was undimmed". Insofar as literature offers lessons for life, would he agree this is his central theme? He pauses before replying. "Yes. Curiosity is a great virtue. So is hope. You mentioned optimism," he says. "Actually, the word I'd use is hope. It's not the name of a temperament. It's the name of a virtue."
It is precisely the absence of this virtue that triggers his quarrel with CS Lewis, whose Narnia books are the clear precursor of His Dark Materials. "What I object to," Pullman explains, "is not the presence of Christian doctrine, it's the absence of Christian virtue. If you were an otherwise intelligent person and you knew nothing of Christianity, and you heard that the Narnia books were great examples of Christian fiction, you would never know that the greatest virtue was supposed to be love."