A year after the level 13 episode I bought Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights as holiday reading. Son was still mainly on a diet of Blyton and Dahl, except for me forcing him to read the first two Harry Potter books, or be disowned.
I can still picture Son in the armchair where he read Northern Lights in just two days for the 400 pages. He didn’t do anything else. He just sat there. Talk about life changing events.
I didn’t realise for a while quite how much Son loved His Dark Materials. He read lots of other books. He became a library helper at his secondary school. Thanks to an enlightened school librarian who invited authors to school, he met quite a few, and read all their books too. But Philip Pullman and HDM must always have been with him. He’d sit in front of the computer every day and nerd with all the other Pullman nerds on the various fansites. I thought it was a pathetic waste of time.
At sixteen he persuaded the family to travel the 250 miles to London to see all six hours of HDM at the National Theatre. When we returned home he secured the last ticket to go and see both parts of the play again, so I accompanied him to the National Theatre and waited in the foyer. Having caught the madness bug I jokingly suggested we go to Gothenburg that autumn, as I’d read that Philip Pullman would be there. We went. And by some fluke the opportunity to interview Pullman fell into our laps only days before. So we met him. Did the interview, which was published on the fansites.
Son went on to read the books recommended to him by Pullman. He started travelling to London to meet up with his new friends from the fansites, and he joined in helping to run them. They made global podcasts together, working to find a time when they were all awake.
When we returned to Gothenburg a year later he went round and asked the authors there for a Philip Pullman quote for the website. Authors like Sara Paretsky, Eoin Colfer and Jacqueline Wilson were all happy to oblige. Back home a package arrived from Alabama. An academic called Laurie Frost had written a reference book on HDM, called The Elements of His Dark Materials. She asked him to review it for her. Closer inspection of this rather wonderful book revealed that Son even made it into one of the footnotes.
At Son’s sixth form school the Oxbridge expert taunted him with his immature literary interests, but when he went for his interview Philip Pullman was the first subject that came up. Son is now involved in the new film project on Pullman’s The Butterfly Tattoo. It’s another of Son’s pals who’s in charge and who managed to raise £100,000 the first day the shares were offered. And this morning Son returned from a 24 hour outing to Dublin to see both parts of the HDM play at a Dublin college. A jesuit run college, just to make it more interesting.
On the whole I think learning to read was a good move.