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Wednesday, 23 January, 2002, 10:07 GMT
Pullman: The story's the thing
Philip Pullman
Pullman says his audience includes children and adults
The Amber Spyglass, Philip Pullman's Whitbread Prize-winning novel, may be classed as a children's book and may be about children - but it is aimed at adults as well as young readers, the author says.

The complex fantasy story, the last instalment in the His Dark Materials trilogy, became the first winner of the children's section to also win the overall prize.


The story's the important thing

Philip Pullman
But Mr Pullman says one of the book's attractions is that anybody can enjoy it.

"The question of whether fiction is ever aimed at anyone is a very difficult one," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"What I like to think of as my audience includes children and it includes adults too.

"The point about it is that it's inclusive. It doesn't shut anyone out. It doesn't say this story's only for girls or only for boys or only for women or anyone else.

"The story's the important thing."

The Amber Spyglass is about the loss of innocence
The Amber Spyglass is about the loss of innocence
Having such a wide audience is a great advantage for a writer, he said.

"It makes you remember that the story is at the forefront of what you're doing.

"If you become so excited by your own philosophical speculations, or so carried away by the richness and profundity of your own research and forget the story, forget to tell people what happens next, you'll lose part of the audience."

Mr Pullman even stopped entering his books in the competition during the years that the organisers split it into two and gave the children's section a smaller prize.

"While that was the case, I thought I'd rather not take part because I didn't want to assent to the idea that children's books are worth less or deserve smaller prizes than grown-up books," he said.

'Lucky'

But after the categories were brought back together under the one main prize, a resurgence in children's literature - led by Harry Potter - meant a book from the children's section was more likely to win than ever.

"I think some children's book was going to win the overall prize eventually, I'm just lucky that it was me. I certainly didn't expect to," Mr Pullman said.

The Amber Spyglass is about "the loss of innocence and the taking of the first steps on the road to wisdom", he said.

"I'm inverting the traditional view of the Fall as being a catastrophe and a disaster, and pointing it out that it's actually a very good thing that we begin to grow up because that's what we're all about."

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Author Philip Pullman
talks about the book's appeal on BBC Radio 4


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