Page 3, 26th December 2003

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Page 3, 26th December 2003 — Challenge to BBC over book allegation
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Challenge to BBC over book allegation

BY CHRISTINA FARRELL

THE CATHOLEC HERM 1) has entered the fray against the BBC's much-hyped book series, The Big Read, after it emerged that the programme makers repeated the accusation that an article in the newspaper had advocated the burning of one of the featured books.

The hook in question is the best selling trilogy His Dark Materials by writer Philip Pullman which came third in a national poll conducted on Saturday December 13. The winner was JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and the runner-up Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

While commentators debated the rights and wrongs of picking a national literary number one, The Catholic Herald attempted to establish why explorer Benedict Allen's approbation of Pullman's bestseller, had repeated the distortion that the book was fit only -for burning".

Leonie Caldecott, the Catholic writer and broadcaster, wrote a review in the Herald in 1999 defending IX Rowling's Harry Potter series. Writing in The Catholic Herald this week Mrs Caldecott said: "I joked that fundamentalist campaigners against Rowling could find things far more worthy of the bonfire than Harry Potter."

The comment has been seized upon, and misquoted, by publishers as advocacy for burning the book marketing manna for Pullman who has declared that he hates the Church and is against organised religion.

Mrs Caldecott said: "While no one can deny that the latter [Pullman] has been stupendously successful (third is an honourable ranking among a remarkably eclectic list), the tactics of the author and his supporters have not been exactly honourable."

The grand finale of The Big Read attracted a relatively disappointing number of votes fewer than one million people voted but the series has had a dramatic effect on book sales.

Harper Lee's stunning expose of racism in the American Deep South in lb Kill A Mocking Bini entered the booksellers' top 10 for the first time since publication.

Dominic Brendon from Books Etc, London Wall, said Pullman had benefited from the publicity and the books had gone "absolutely mad".

"All the top 21 in the BBC's The Big Read have been selling fantastically well. The one that really stands out is the Pullman trilogy. It's huge. Sales are up

well over 100 pa cent."

The BBC was unavailable for comment.




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