Michael returned from California with a news snippet torn out of a copy of the New Humanist he'd taken to read on the plane. At the Oxford Literary Festival, Philip Pullman was asked whether the title of his most recent book wasn't offensive to Christians.
Here's his short, sharp retort, well-circulated by internet commentators:
"It was a shocking thing to say and I knew it was a shocking thing to say. But no one has the right to live without being shocked. No one has the right to spend their life without being offended. Nobody has to read this book. Nobody has to pick it up. Nobody has to open it. And if you open it and read it, you don't have to like it. And if you read it and you dislike it, you don't have to remain silent about it. You can write to me, you can complain about it, you can write to the publisher, you can write to the papers, you can write your own book. You can do all those things, but there your rights stop. No one has the right to stop me writing this book. No one has the right to stop it being published, or bought, or sold or read. That's all I have to say on that subject."
Andrew Sullivan was one of many who posted a video of the actual exchange (link below). Here's to freedom of speech and press. The literary merit of The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ may be debatable, but neither the book nor its title could be construed as inciting hate or violence towards others. Ergo—roll the presses!
Review of novel on Bookslut: