Tag: The Elements of His Dark Materials

How Rough Is It? Or, Philip Nicholas Pullman Has Always Been Philip Nicholas Pullman.

I understand the concept of the Rough Guides’ travel series. It is intended for those whose desire to travel is greater than their disposable income.  Rough then is used as an antonym for Luxury. Fine.

But why would anyone want their reference book rough? Rough as opposed to what? Fact-checked?

I haven’t ever used a Rough Guides travel book, and I never will. If the same fact-checking standards apply to the travel and reference series, I wouldn’t trust one to help me find my way out of a paper bag.

I’ve been blogging about Paul Simpson’s The Rough Guide to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials this week. Simpson is identified as the author and he owns the copyright (in my American edition). But he had help, so to speak. There’s a masthead on the copyright page. Let’s look at this:

  • Text Editor: Paul Simpson
  • [designers]
  • Proofreading: Lesley Turner, Martin Rosser, Ian Cranna
  • Writing: Paul Simpson, Tom Bullough

First of all, I  know from painful experience that a writer should not be his or her own editor.  We’ll leave that for now and look at the other list: 

  • Series Editor: Mark Ellingham [not any longer: Andrew Lockett is the Man] 
  • Editors: Peter Buckley, Duncan Clark, Tracy Hopkins, Sean Mahoney, Matt Milton, Joe Staines, Ruth Tidball
  • Director: Andrew Lockett

Now I know we all make mistakes. But couldn’t one of these 13 people have checked the name of the author of their book’s subject? Is that expecting too much?

From page 14 of The Rough Guide:

On his website (www.philippullman.com [sic]), Philip Nicholas Outram (as he was born–he became Pullman later in honour of his stepfather) sums up his early life with the dry observation that “I was born in Norwich…”

In pages 14 to 17, Pullman’s father is identified four times as Alfred Outram.

Boy, do we need to have a little talk.  Philip Pullman is Philip Pullman. He was never Philip Outram.His father’s name was Alfred Outram Pullman. The story about Philip abandoning his father’s name to honor his step-father is balderdash, poppycock, or whatever you want to call it. It just plain isn’t true.

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What do you mean? I rearranged the words…

 I would love to have a little talk with Paul Simpson, author of The Rough Guide to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, a title in the Rough Guides Reference Series, published in 2007 by Rough Guides, a division of Penguin in the UK and of Penguin Putnam in the US.  First I’d sit him down and we would visit How to Recognize Plagiarism, a service of the School of Education, Indiana University where we would look at its fine collection of examples of plagiarized passages, paying particular attention to what is and isn’t a paraphrase.

Then we would open my book, The Elements of His Dark Materials (Niles, IL: Fell, 2006), and the US edition of his and compare a few passages. I’d take three highlighters and mark exact copying in blue, near exact in green, and close substitutions in pink. Look how colorful the passages become! Unfortunately, this doesn’t allow me to mark the similarities in sentence structure, but it will do.

Elements 255: Mrs Coulter reaches for Metatron’s hand as she leads him toward the abyss, but there is nothing for her to grasp, even though the angel seems to yearn for physical contact with a woman. Moments later,Metatron delivers skull crushing blows and experiences great pain when Coulter stabs her fingers into his eyes.

Rough Guide 54: When Mrs Coulter reaches for Metatron’s hand near the abyss, there is nothing to grasp. Yet the dusty regent is soon delivering a few skullcrushing blows and cries out in pain when Mrs. Coulter stabs his eyes with her fingers.

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