Today’s guest column comes via longtime LGG&F reader Kathryn Hemmann. Kathryn teaches classes on Japanese literature and cinema by day and diligently trains to become a Pokémon Master by night. She posts reviews of Japanese fiction in translation along with occasional essays about pop culture on her blog, Contemporary Japanese Literature.
Readers should be advised that this essay contains frank references to adolescent sexuality.
Part 1: In Which the Protagonist Is Suddenly Male
One of my personal goals in 2014 was to finish Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. My friends pestered me to read it, my students asked me what I thought about it, and the internet at large can’t stop recommending it. Still, I’ve been putting off actually sitting down with the books for years. Pullman’s linguistic flair is impressive, but I still had to force myself to make it through a certain number of self-assigned chapters every day. It was a pleasure to re-read The Golden Compass, but the sudden shift to a male protagonist in The Subtle Knife was accompanied by a number of unsavory implications that are exacerbated in the last book of the series, The Amber Spyglass. If you’ve never encountered the His Dark Materials trilogy before, this entire essay is full of spoilers, so please proceed with caution.