15 October 2010

Day 202: The Subtle Knife

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman.  ISBN: 9780375846724.

In the first book, Lyra learned not to trust adults, even those who should have protected her.  In the second book, Lyra finds out that even people her own age can be harmful.  I think most people learn this lesson in reverse, but they're both difficult lessons in their own way.  It's a terrible thing to learn that anyone would want harm to come to you, or even simply let it happen, but human nature almost seems to require harm in one form or another.  It's why the people who are willing to protect us are so special.

I really do admire the bravery that is required in publishing and writing something like this.  It is not a popular idea that adults are unreliable and may harm children.  It is especially unpopular that children are capable of hurting each other (sometimes fatally); just look at the books that tend to be banned or cause outrage: Lord of the Flies, The Chocolate War, and many others.  We may not like it, but children do hurt each other.  They are capable of atrocities, and this is terrifying because children aren't supposed to behave that way.  But maybe they see so much cruelty in their own lives that they are influenced by it and feel that it is normal.

I've certainly seen a lot of indifference in my life regarding cruelty by children to other children.  My father happens to be an unreasonably sarcastic and bitter person.  Rather than protecting me from my brother, there were days when he encouraged my brother to hit me, and when I didn't fight back my father proceeded to call me names and encourage to return blows.  These were probably lessons I could have done without, at least from my own family, but they did make me more prepared to deal with the world around me.  I would prefer not to need those lessons, but that would require more change in human nature than the species has made in the last 400+ years.

I hope that things change, but the only thing I can do is to try to be a little kinder and ask others to do the same, and if you have the chance to apologize to someone from the past that you may have tormented, please do so.  It's not the easiest thing to do, for either party, but it is the right thing, and as someone who had a hard time, it would mean a lot to me to have those people tell me they regretted treating me the way they did.

To anyone I may have harmed in the past, I am sorry.  I sometimes get distracted from being the person I want to be by the situations I've had to face.  It isn't fair to you, but I have always regretted treating people poorly.

A good review can be found at Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, which is not the "list of hot underwear model lineups in a fight to the death" that it sounds like.


  1. aw man. this reminds me of my older brother telling me about the time he was walking home from school and he passed a kid his age walking with his mom. the kid said hello to my brother, and then the kid's mom told him, "don't say hi to him. call him four eyes" (because my brother wore glasses). that just struck me as the cruelest thing ever, to teach your kid that kind of meanness so young.

  2. It certainly doesn't do _anyone_ any favors. I mean, your brother got the bulk of the mistreatment, but the mother probably prevented that kid from being friends with some really great people, and I sort of hope her training bit her in the ass when the kid got older. Respect pretty much has to be a constant, otherwise it's too easy to just be mean and rude.


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