Sunday, February 25, 2007

Clockwork, or All Wound Up - Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman's Clockwork is a short but very compelling tale about a German town named Glockenheim where the residents set great store by their clockmaking tradition: each time an apprentice becomes master of his craft, he commemorates the occasion by adding a new figure to the town's great clock. On the eve of one such celebration, a sinister train of events is set in motion when the local novelist Fritz entertains the villagers with his most recent work: the tale of Prince Florian, the son of the deceased local ruler, whose fate is linked to a brilliant clockmaker named Dr Kalmenius. However Fritz's narrative is interrupted by the arrival of a cloaked man who appears to have sprung straight from the pages of his story: the aforementioned enigmatic Dr. Kalmenius of Schatzberg, who has come - or so it appears - to help the young apprentice clockmaker Karl to achieve an unearned triumph at the next day's ceremonies. Meanwhile, poor Prince Florian, whose time has nearly run out, stumbles into Glockenheim and finds the innkeeper's little daughter Gretl, who is the one person there who is capable of restoring true life to the mechanical prince.

Each character in this tale gets his or her just deserts with a fairy-tale ending that pays fitting and playful tribute to the story's twin themes: "So they both lived happily ever after" and "that was how they all wound up"; this book is both about clockwork and about storytelling and offers an interesting point of view about the art of storytelling:

"For every once upon a time there must be a story to follow, because if a story doesn't, something else will, and it might not be as harmless as a story." (p. 76)

Clockwork is also available from

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