MASSIVE CONTROVERSY is likely to blow up over the film adaption of The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman (which hits the screens in December). The word on the street is that the anti-Catholic church message in the book comes across far more powerfully in the movie, and there are fears that many people will be upset about it.
Neither the book nor the movie mention Roman Catholicism, but even my child’s hamster couldn’t fail to realize that the bad guy organization called The Magisterium in the story is clearly intended to be that particular church.
Some Catholic organizations are calling for families to boycott the movie, but of course, the boring columnists of the world will predictably point out that this will only increase publicity for it.
My view: It's a great book, and I love Pullman's work. But the use of the church as all-purpose whipping boy by auteurs is getting very tired. I am not a Catholic, but I keep a close eye on charitable and non-profit organizations, and it's clear that the Catholic Church does an astonishing amount of good in the world. Yes, as in every organization, there are bad apples in it, but the good outweighs the bad by a hundred-fold.
Yet authors (such as Dan Brown) portray this tiny bad element as the whole shebang, and do immeasurable harm to the cause of hundreds of thousands of charity workers struggling to make a difference to the poor and needy.
Yes, fiction does come with a free license to reinvent things any way you want, but (to quote a famous British newspaperman) with great power comes great responsibility. I bet if millionaire authors would devote a month of their lives to working with Catholic missions in Kolkota they might be a little more sensitive.
GRAY TAN, the super-agent dealing with east-west deals at Jia-Xi Books, has pulled off a string of successes, Publishers' Marketplace reports.
Jose Carlos Somoza’s Zig Zag has been sold for translation into complex (Hong Kong and Taiwan) Chinese characters.
The same author’s three best known books will also be going into simple (mainland China) Chinese characters.
Gray has also sold John Connolly’s Charlie Parker thriller series to New Star Press, a mainland China publishing house.
PENGUIN INDIA has bought the Indian rights to Ahmad Saidullah's Happiness and Other Disorders, a book of short stories first published in Canada. He won a top award in that country for short story writing, becoming the third author with south Asian roots to get on that list: the previous ones were Michael Ondaatje and Shauna Singh Baldwin, both marvellous authors.
SCHOLASTIC INDIA has published The World’s Funniest Book of Poems, by Nury Vittachi and illustrator Eamonn O’Boyle. The deal was brokered by Anushka Ravishankar.
MANY NEWSPAPERS (including today’s South China Morning Post) have printed a Guardian interview with Jiang Rong, in which this column is quoted. The Internet is an amazing thing. It's like writing a diary into the ether and you never know which bit will end up where.