He’s Literary and he Suffers from Cranio-Rectal Inversion

Actually this isn’t really true. Judging by the evidence I bothered to obtain he enjoys every moment of it and even thinks his rectal emissions have a rather pleasant aroma.

I refer, of course, to the twit idiot moron.. oh bugger. I can’t think of anything sufficiently stupid that won’t be insulted by the comparison. The alleged literature person at the Guardian who has “read Pratchett” and decided it’s “more entertainment than art”.

Well, gee, bright spark, there’s a good chunk of your problem right there. Art is supposed to be a form of entertainment. People who take the view that art – or should that be “Arte” complete with fancy damn near unreadable font? – is not entertainment always strike me as pretentious wankers with no idea what they’re talking about.

The rest of the so called “column” discussing the lack of merits of Pratchett’s Small Gods – which I personally classify as early Pratchett, before he’d come into his full strength as an author – shows just how much pretentious wankery this specimen is capable of. It’s truly amazing and best presented with commentary.

So, his words will be blockquoted, my observations (which are mine and only mine and furthermore have buggerall to do with the Hugos or Sad Puppy campaigns – so digressions into those topics in comments will be eviscerated. Politely. I may be Kate the Impaler, but I do try to be civilized).

In the theocratic state of Omnia, isolated in a barren desert on the Discworld, a miracle has happened. A god – in fact the one Omnians worship, Om himself – has fallen to earth. He speaks to the young man who will become his prophet. But neither god nor prophet cuts an impressive figure. Om has taken the shape of a tortoise. Brutha, the young novice monk who finds him in a vegetable garden and is the only person who can hear him speak, is unpromising, apparently stupid, undoubtedly slow (the difference will become apparent), and not expected to progress beyond novicehood. That’s why he’s always working in the vegetable garden.

Let’s start with the basics. In most other worlds a deity manifesting to his worshipers would be a miracle. In the Discworld it’s usually considered a bloody nuisance. So, no, not a miracle.

If he did achieve monk status, he would be called Brother Brutha. This is the kind of joke Pratchett enjoys. In Small Gods he takes delight in bringing the hifalutin stuff of theology and cosmology down to earth with self-conscious silliness. Thus a philosopher expounds a theory of knowledge remarkably similar to that of the ancient Greek thinker Plato, except with a punchline:

“Life in this world, he said, is, as it were, a sojourn in a cave. What can we know of reality? For all we see of the true nature of existence is, shall we say, no more than bewildering and amusing shadows cast upon the inner wall of the cave by the unseen blinding light of absolute truth, from which we may or may not deduce some glimmer of veracity, and we as troglodyte seekers of wisdom can only lift our voices to the unseen and say, humbly, ‘Go on, do Deformed Rabbit … it’s my favourite.’”

The silliness our dear self-important columnist appears to have forgotten that silliness always runs along with profundity and often does so deliberately. That punchline is so utterly human it casts the entire Plato’s Cave analogy into a completely new light – one Mr Self-Important Columnist fails to see.

This is Pratchett at his best: expansive and lucid, taking one of the greatest ideas in western thought (it is, as his fans will know, almost an exact quote from Plato’s Republic) and having a bit of fun with it.

It’s not Pratchett at his best, but close enough – particularly when Pratchett at his worst has more value than any of the wunderkind this specimen praises (yes, I’ve tried them. See comments about pretentious wankery).

Small Gods turns the story of Galileo and the Inquisition upside down: scientists know the Discworld is a flat disc on the back of a turtle swimming through space, but in Omnia, they hold the bigoted belief that it is a sphere orbiting the sun. A heretical thinker who pointed out the truth was heard to mutter that the turtle really moves, just as Galileo – after being forced by the Catholic church to deny Copernicus’s theory that the spherical earth orbits the sun – is said to have muttered: “And yet it moves.”

Okay. Problem one. That’s only the surface story. If it’s all someone sees, then no, they’re not going to be impressed. They’re not going to impress me with their literary nous, either, because underneath the obvious parody here there’s narrative about war and what it takes to make one, the nature of good and evil, and – as always with Pratchett – the nature of humanity.

Small Gods came out four years after The Satanic Verses, when the fatwa on Salman Rushdie was very much in force. Pratchett, too, is taking on religion and seeking to undo fixed truths. The difference, of course, is that Pratchett is mocking a non-existent faith and risking the wrath of imaginary fundamentalists.

Is that seriously the only way you can frame this? I’ve read Rushdie’s Satanic Verses too, and it sucked. If not for the fatwa, the thing would have died without leaving a ripple. Far too much overblown prose that didn’t say a damn thing about anything. Of course, if you think “entertaining” is bad, you probably think Satanic Verses was magnificent.

Word of advice here, Mr Literary Columnist. It doesn’t matter a damn what the prose is like if, once you parse it out through the run-on sentences and trails of improbable clauses, all you have left is an Ourouborous tapeworm.

Not very well rendered ones, either. The villain in Small Gods is Vorbis, head of the Quisition, a man without a single redeeming feature or any back story to explain how he became so utterly inhuman. We see very quickly that the author has little time for doctrinaire bigots who fight doubt with fire, but Vorbis is a cardboard cut-out. We’re told again and again how loathsome he is; pantomimes are more nuanced.

Once again, Mr Literary Columnist has his head so deeply embedded in his rectal passage he completely misses the point. That or he read a copy of Small Gods that was missing the last 20 to 30 pages. Vorbis is not a villain. He’s an antagonist, certainly, but not a villain, and absolutely not inhuman. Vorbis is too human, a human convinced that he knows what’s right and has a deity-given duty to ensure that rightness is protected and encouraged – rather like some real-world humans who have become household names in the last hundred years, people like Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Pol Pot, Mao… Oh, and the Taliban, ISIS, Al Qaida and other such charming folk.

In the real world, as opposed to the Discworld, people have complexities, contradictions. A whole art form has evolved to explore them. It’s called the novel.

They have them on the Discworld, too, Mr Literary Columnist. The collection of mugs in the Quisition breakroom is one of the most telling examples: professional torturers with coffee mugs that have captions like “World’s Best Dad”. Of course, Pratchett doesn’t put a great big flashing arrow on the scene that says “Look! Human complexity!”, so maybe you couldn’t see it past the rectal emissions you’re so full of in this article.

Reading Small Gods has made me realise what I love about the novel as practised by someone like Roth. It is the courage to dive into human psychology and the insight to describe the bizarre flux of reality. Roth’s Portnoy locked in his bathroom trying to masturbate while his parents bang on the door – has he got bowel trouble, what’s wrong? – that’s my idea of great fiction, I am afraid.

No you’re not afraid at all. You’re giving Pratchett fans the collective finger while demonstrating that you have no idea why you piss them off. That, sir, is pretentious wankery of the highest order. At least figure out what they’re actually talking about before you flip them off.

Masturbation is also a recurring image in Small Gods. It is what the Omnian church fears young novices get up to in their dormitories. But there’s not much in this book to get them aroused. This sexless romp is a real ale novel, honing its opinions over a pint and a roll up and exuding a benign rationalism.

Oh. I see. Mr Literary Columnist doesn’t think it can possibly be literature if there’s no sex in it. I guess that means Austen isn’t literature either – so what is she? Women’s studies?

That rationalism is projected on to one of the most meticulous alternative worlds in the whole fantasy genre. The Discworld is mapped out in Small Gods with the same topographic and cultural detail as JRR Tolkein’s Middle Earth or George RR Martin’s Westeros. There are the same pleasures of entering a completely fabulous realm – the best part of the book takes place in a desert that evokes the suffering of the Church Fathers and includes a witty parody of the Temptations of St Jerome.

In short, Mr Literary Columnist is looking at a work of art and admiring the frame. This kind of thing often happens when people try to appear smarter than they are. Me, I don’t give a shit if someone thinks I’m stupid – stupid is as stupid does, and you, sir, do.

But for some reason, the fantasy genre is a graveyard for the English language. Even Tolkien himself – and yes, I have read him thoroughly – wrote an ordinary, flat, Hobbitish prose.

Tolkien is not the fantasy writer I’d recommend for his prose. Any more than I’d recommend Tolkien for his scientific approach to magic. That isn’t what he was writing for.

Pratchett’s deflationary jokes, like his Plato parody, are often funny in isolation, but taken together, they result in a determinedly unambitious, unexciting style. He seems to love handling clichés as if they were shiny pebbles:

“The sky was blue.”

“It was a million-to-one chance, with any luck.”

“Simony laughed bitterly.”

There’s nothing wrong with these sentences from Small Gods –the book is full of such expressions – but there is nothing special about them either.

This, dear Mr Literary Columnist, is an example of making the prose invisible. Yes, it’s deliberate. Pratchett doesn’t want excess fancy getting in the way of the reader. If I stop to admire pretty words, you’ve lost me. I don’t remember Pratchett’s phrasing, I remember his characters. His situations. The subtle parallels he draws that show disturbingly plausible ways to go from civilized to barbaric. Dear lord, I can remember and talk about this and give bloody examples when it’s been something in the order of seven years since I last read the book.

Fuck prose. If I can remember the meaning of a book that long after I last read it when I’ve read – quite literally – hundreds of other books since then, that author is doing it right.

That’s what I’ve felt previously when I looked at Pratchett’s prose, and following it for 397 pages has not suddenly transformed it into Henry James. The ordinariness of this writing is surely deliberate: it makes the book warm and friendly, like a normal chat with a normal bloke.

Why would anyone confuse this with the kind of literary prose it so emphatically does not want to be?

Ah. No. Literary prose does not mean the contents contain literature. Usually the opposite is the case. Unless, of course, you happen to be a pretentious wanker who wants to impress people with how much he knows about Arte.

This is the difference between entertainment and literature – the novel as distraction and the novel as art. You cannot divorce a literary novel from the way it is written. Sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, literature is the words and nothing but.

Bullshit. The stuff that’s the words and nothing but? That’s the stuff that will be forgotten in a generation, if it lasts that long. The things people remember and love? That’s literature.

Plenty of novels get published and loved that are not literature in this sense, but all I am saying, and all I was saying, is that I prefer the literary kind. I prefer it by a billion Ephebian miles.

You prefer meaningless quasi-literary wankage. Right.

You can praise Pratchett for his witty exposition of big ideas, his creation of a fantasy world that gives readers an alternative home (and will surely one day become as seductive on screen as Martin’s Westeros has in Game of Thrones). But you cannot say: “Pratchett writes really ordinary prose yet is a literary genius.”

Oh, yes, you can, sir. Real literature, the kind of thing that lasts past the flash-in-the-pan praise of the pretentious fashion-slaves who call themselves literary? That has meaning. Meaning that percolates and matures and emerges sometimes years later in the realization that there was a lot more to that fun romp than you’d have thought at first.

Pratchett’s fiction works well enough on its own terms. But I prefer writing that rubs up against the real world, that describes what it is to be alive in all its unpredictability, wild comedy, longing, grotesqueness, exhilaration – and shame.

And if you can’t see that in Pratchett’s work, sir, I pity you.

132 Comments

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132 responses to “He’s Literary and he Suffers from Cranio-Rectal Inversion

  1. I’ll admit that I never cared for Pratchett’s work. I don’t seem to have what you humans call “a sense of humor”. But it’s clear that millions of people do love his work, and I wouldn’t presume to call those people wrong.

    • Didn’t appeal to me either, but Kate almost convinces me to give him another go.

    • I can take him in very, very small doses myself (I usually can only get through about half a scene before I’ve hit capacity). I’m analyst enough to be able to see why other people like him, but his style and I are a bad fit, which is sad because the characters I have read bits about are very much intriguing. He’s not the only good author I’ve bounced off of which is why variety is a very good thing. 🙂

      • Me three. Pratchett is just Not My Thing.

        I’d disagree with Kate that art is supposed to be entertainment. I’d say art is — anything. It can be entertainment, or decoration, or functional, or useless, or purely itself. It doesn’t *have* to be anything in particular; that’s why it’s “art”. Anything can be art, and v.v.

        Where we have a problem is when Art is *required* by the beholder to be Meaningful, and if the beholder can’t see Meaningfulness, they define it as Crud. Basically, this boils down to “Anything *I* don’t like is Crud.” Or the snooty variant, “If I can understand it, it’s Crud.”

        With great irony, such folks usually next say something about the value of variety and diversity….

        • scott2harrison

          I’ll go with Heinlein. Art is the process of rendering the audience emotional. I have read great art that I never want to see again because it was exceptionally depressing. I have read great art (“How much for just the planet”) that had me laughing hysterically in an airliner (I only stayed in the seat because of the seat belt). I have also read books that put me to sleep (literally) before finishing. Those are not art, they are valuable as a replacement for sophorics when I have insomnia though.

          • Ditto on “How Much for Just the Planet.” It’s the best musical novel I’ve ever read. Of course, it may be the only musical novel I’ve ever read.

        • Kate Paulk

          I can accept that – I’m coming from the perspective that practically anything that’s accepted as art from the past – Shakespeare, classical opera, the great art works and the like – was the general entertainment of its day and in many ways still is entertaining.

          Of course, one person’s trash is another’s treasure as the saying goes, so a wide variety of topic and styles is a good thing.

    • Kate Paulk

      Not everyone does – humor is an individual thing – but the way this twit handled it bolstering his own ego while tearing Pratchett down is not acceptable.

  2. Angus Trim

    That might have been a little unfair, Kate. Entertaining, but unfair.

    Everyone has a different interpretation of life, and that poor guy apparently has a fairly small and narrow view of the world.

    His view of Pratchett shows the limits of his worldview.

  3. Civilized? So … polished stakes?

  4. Luke

    Amazingly, nearly all of his criticisms of Pratchett can also be leveled at that hack Shakespeare.
    Presumably, the author of the piece doesn’t like him, either.

    • Aimee Morgan

      I all but failed a college English class because the instructor took issue with my contention – stated loudly and clearly on the first day of class – that by her definition Shakespeare was just as much a hack as Stephen King and Danielle Steele. I followed that with a term paper arguing that the “Music” Aristotle refers to in his Poetics can also refer to the sounds in a play (footsteps, slamming of doors, and such that are written into the stage directions) and not just the soundtrack. I also argued with her about whether or not Romeo and Juliet was the greatest tragedy ever written (not even Will’s greatest tragedy. Not even in his top 10). She informed me with glee that I needed a 97% or better on the final to pass her class. (Which I aced, ’cause Theatre Major = English Major with costumes and gaffer’s tape).

      It was my first exposure to people who are so divorced from reality that they disregard any historical fact that contradicts their beliefs.* Sadly, thanks in large part to the internet, it wasn’t my last.

      *With the exception of devout practitioners of certain religions, who are in a special category by themselves.

    • Kate Paulk

      Precisely – although I suspect the author of that piece would be horribly offended by the idea.

      Of course, he doesn’t seem to have realized that it’s possible to express profound truths without the high-falutin’ prose.

  5. Robin Munn

    There’s also this howler, which Kate skipped over:

    The Discworld is mapped out in Small Gods with the same topographic and cultural detail as JRR Tolkein’s Middle Earth or George RR Martin’s Westeros.

    Um… no. The Discworld does not have the depth of Middle Earth; that wasn’t what Pratchett was trying to do. Tolkien created a self-consistent world, whose rich history shines through every chapter in the songs of the Elves, an aside by Gandalf, or a poem quoted by Frodo. The culture of Middle-Earth is central to the plot of The Lord of the Rings. Whereas Pratchett created a pastiche of a world in which to set satirical stories that reflect the real world in a fantasy-esque setting. The culture of Discworld isn’t nearly as important as the culture of the real world; in fact, entire areas of Discworld are left vague and only fleshed out as they become relevant to the plot in later books, and that’s how it should be. Pratchett and Tolkien were doing something completely different, and lumping them together like the above quote does just shows how utterly the author failed to understand either of them.

    (I can’t say anything informed about Westeros, since I never got past the first few chapters of A Game of Thrones. I’ll leave that to others.)

    • Robin Munn

      I’ll note, because I realize my comment above could be misread, that I love Pratchett’s work and was in no way criticizing him when I said he didn’t flesh Discworld out like Tolkien did. As I said, he was going for a completely different goal.

      • Sara the Red

        I recall reading an interview or something by him where he flat out stated that he’d intentionally started out in Discworld leaving it vague, so he could do whatever he wanted later. It was only when he started using the structure of police procedurals in the Guard Books–Nightwatch, specifically–that he realized he needed some more concrete geography for Ankh-Morpork, because otherwise his rooftop chase wasn’t going to work. Thus was the AM map born. But he did not rush out and ‘fill in’ the rest of the Discworld after that–his original desire to keep it vague enough for him to whatever he liked hadn’t changed.

        • References to this are in the backs of the copies of the Discworld books I have. There’s a reference section. The map reference page says “Here be dragons,” with a footnote that there is no map, because you can’t map a sense of humor.

          • Kate Paulk

            I’ve seen and heard those stories, too. He left things vague because that way it could grow and fill in organically as the ideas came to him.

      • Kate Paulk

        Well, yeah. Pratchett and Tolkien were writing for very different reasons with very different end goals and totally different types of stories. Tolkien was creating an alternate mythology. Pratchett was creating a stage on which he could satirize all the wonderful oddities and quirks of humanity.

    • Jen G.

      That comment got me too – Pratchett not only didn’t flush out his world, he was incapable of managing a consistent timeline of the books he’d written. This got bad enough that he needed an entire book just to hand wave away all the inconsistencies (and it still managed to be one of his best).

      • B. Durbin

        “Pratchett not only didn’t flush out his world,”

        But he did flood Ankh-Morpork a couple of times, which would count as flushing. 😉

  6. Robin Munn

    Another howler, which Kate did comment on but I’m going to say something about too:

    But you cannot say: “Pratchett writes really ordinary prose yet is a literary genius.”

    Sure you can. Try it: “Mark Twain writes really ordinary prose yet is a literary genius.” Or would you disagree with that one?

    *Shakes head* Some people, I tell ya…

    • Or Hemingway. I hate his simplistic (or simple, depending on whom you are talking to) prose but am forced to admit that his books had great ideas, relationships, and, what was the term, that ‘artiste’ used? Oh yes, a lot of the ‘real world’ in them. It is stupid to insist that literary works require difficult reading (as in poor flow, odd grammar, whatever current literary fetish turns them on …)

    • TRX

      > It’s not Pratchett at his best

      Bad Kate. No cookie.

      It’s not only one of Pratchett’s best, it’s one of the books I collect extras of, to pass on to nonreaders.

      “Here, read this book. It won’t hurt you.” (evil laughter)

      • Luke

        Ditto.
        If I had to choose his best work, I’d have to choose Small Gods.
        Although Guards! Guards! is my personal favorite.

        (His worst? The Fifth Elephant.)

        • I would actually say that Monstrous Regiment is – to me, it was his most SJW work, IMnsHO

            • Kate Paulk

              It’s one of his least convincing – although I must admit to a passing fondness for Nuggan and his tendency to decide absolutely *everything* is an abomination unto him.

          • Sara the Red

            I didn’t really get SJW vibes off it, though it’s not my favorite* of his later books. Like so many of his works, though, there’s a lot of YMMV involved. 😀

            *Except for the bit where they finally meet “Vimes the Butcher.” But then, it was Sam Vimes.

            • Don’t get me wrong – I loved big chunks of it, but it had too much of the ‘men always bad, woman always good’ vibe that wasn’t in his other works. He has a lot of strong characters such as Granny Weatherwax that show her hypercompetence without being so PC. I was disappointed with how he handled it; I did like the sergeant and her reveal

        • Sara the Red

          See, I love the Fifth Elephant. Nightwatch, though is my absolute favorite, followed very closely by Thud.

          Actually, Raising Steam is one I haven’t been able to finish–it felt like a whole lot of nothing jumbled together. (Thought that might have been the Alzheimers, sadly.)

          I haven’t read many of his earlier books. I read the first three or so many years ago, and went “Well, he’s got a clever turn with words, but these aren’t grabbing me.” Then, years later, I picked up Guards! Guards! and never looked back…

          Sam Vimes is my favorite fictional character.

          • Robin Munn

            It was most definitely the Alzheimers. I finished the book and said, “This novel was not written by Terry Pratchett, but by a different man with the same name.” Alas.

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              I don’t think I read that one. I thought I was getting hints of that in his earlier stuff, and lost the drive to read at some point.

            • TRX

              I’ll give him a pass due to his illness, and he admitted he had others helping him write it… but it felt more like “A Condensed History of British Railways” recast into a Discworld book. It might have been pretty good as a straight historical work, or fiction set in 19th century Britain, but… it wasn’t actually bad, it was just that the “Discworld” bits felt like they were tacked on to some other story.

            • Just reread this. It feels like the “in progress” edit of a movie, with storyboards, finished scenes, and everything in between (including the occasional “Special Effect Goes Here”). Take it as a guide, and imagine what it would be like, had TP been able to finish.

          • Kate Paulk

            Raising Steam clearly showed the impact of the Alzheimers. There were hints of the “real” Terry Pratchett, but it didn’t really gel.

        • Nathan

          Night Watch for best
          Worst? Not sure. Unseen Academicals?

          • The Hog Father. Not a good stand alone to recommend to people as a first PTerry, but so howlingly funny and so deep. I liked Small Gods, and it’s so complete that it’s where I recommend a lot of people start.

            • Luke

              Pretty much this.

              I was saddened that he never went back to Death and Susan afterwards, but anything he did with them after that was bound to be a disappointment, so…

            • TRX

              Precisely.

              “Hogfather” lost out to “Small Gods” on my list because I didn’t grow up with the Tooth Fairy/Father Christmas mythology, and I had a very hard time understanding why some things were happening.

              “Small Gods”‘ self-containment is why it’s the DW book I pass on to people – there’s such a huge backstory in most DW books that some are hard to follow for a new reader. I was one of those new readers not that long ago… that, and of all the books I’ve read, I’ve probably laughed as much reading “Small Gods” as any two other books…

              pterry’s humor is very much an individual thing, though. It seems he either nails people on the funny bone or they’re just standing there wondering what everyone else thinks is so funny. Sort of like my reaction to “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Boring, derivative, childish, heavy-handed, signaling every humor event like a student driver taking his license test. I can see how an eight-year-old never exposed to humor might find it amusing, but for an adult? Really?

              • Kate Paulk

                Hitchhikers has aged badly – it feels almost like the musings of an aged hippy trying to recapture the glorious 60s. There are still real gems in that series.

            • B. Durbin

              I hang out with theater people and opera folk a lot, so the one I’ve handed out the most is Maskerade. I gave one to Sean Bianco, in fact, former tenor, conductor, and host of a local opera program on NPR, and he enjoyed it.

              • Kate Paulk

                Maskerade is a good one for that. Mind you, I don’t think I ever recovered from Wyrd Sisters and the paragraph that managed to shoe-horn references to Shakespeare, practically every Lloyd-Weber musical ever, and a few other things as well into a single sentence that made sense. (Poor, poor Hwel. Those inspiration particles are bastards)

          • B. Durbin

            Unseen Academicals for worst, yes. It was a bit pointless in the end.

            Mind you, IMO, a bad Pratchett novel is like bad chocolate. It’s not good chocolate, but it’s still chocolate. And I like the callback to the axe theology.

        • Joe in PNG

          Man, I Loved! the Fifth Elephant! Or any Vimes books, really.

      • Kate Paulk

        Heh. Pratchett makes good book-candy. First hit is free!

      • It’s one of my son’s favorites. Along with Thief of Time and Pyramids.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      I haven’t read any Discworld since the last few books or so came out. As for the rest, I enjoyed them all, and the series covered a wide variety of tastes. The first book alone was a pastiche of Pern, Conan, Lovecraft, and Clancy, just to name the ones I can recognize in hindsight.

      • Kate Paulk

        Oh, yes. The first book was also much more heavily slapstick, which remained fairly strong in the next few before the satirical vein started to really pick up.

    • Kate Paulk

      Yep. It’s not the fancy wrapping. It’s the message you hide inside a wrapping that entices people to read and enjoy. The message can sink in later – but it will never get there if people don’t read it because they look at the prose and decide that’s way too fancy for them.

  7. sabrinachase

    Piffle and tosh. I got my mother, the hard-core English major, addicted to Pratchett. She would *pounce* on new books, chortling with glee.

    This soggy biscuit thinks “good literature” is stuff he can quote to impress his friends. Pratchett can be hard to quote–at least to give the full experience–because he’s like building up an immunity to iocaine powder. Only with constant small doses do you get the full effect. I mean “There were three humans and one Nobby Nobs” is not terribly funny all by itself standing in a field, but cumulatively it is hilarious.

    Also, what better describes the Human Condition(tm) than Tiffany Aching staking her annoying little brother out as bait so she can bash a monster in the head with a frying pan? Who among us has not longed to do the same? 😀

    • Sara the Red

      I don’t think I’ve ever really heard of the Satan Verses, and I have no intention of reading it. What “litra-CHOOR” I’ve been forced to read over the years I find to be unbearably pretentious, depressing, grey drek that they think is ‘great’ because it involves lots of grotesque behavior from deeply unlikable people couched in impenetrable “prose.” (Having to read “Beloved” in a modern novels class in high school, for example, taught me to give anything recommended by Oprah a very, very wide berth.)

      What I have always loved about Pratchett, aside from his sparkling wit, is that his humans (and not-humans) are so very *human.* And they are nearly all sympathetically so. Pratchett may have been angry at the petty, small-minded evils humanity comes up with, but instead of having that anger express itself as “humans are all monstrous, all the time” there instead shines through his books a deep faith in the good in humankind…even if that good sometimes can only be found with a backhoe. That even if we are all given over too often to petty evil, or cruelties, it doesn’t change the fact that we are just as frequently capable of–and perform–amazing miracles of good. I *love* that about his books.

      That twit can keep his stupid, depressing drek. I’ll take Pratchett any day, and I will read him to my children and grandchildren, and anyone else I can get to sit still long enough.

      • Robin Munn

        Having to read “Beloved” in a modern novels class in high school, for example, taught me to give anything recommended by Oprah a very, very wide berth.

        Is that the one by Toni Morrison? If so, that’s the one and only school-assigned book that I hated so much that asked the teacher for a different assignment. (AP English Lit, senior year of high school). I don’t remember exactly what I said to my teacher, but it was something like, “This book is so dark, I feel dirty reading it.” He assigned me Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man instead. Which was almost impenetrable, but I actually enjoyed it as a puzzle (though not particularly as a book).

      • TRX

        “Literature” is writing that is SO GOOD, people have to take courses on how to read and appreciate it… and then teach it in turn to others.

        [what was that? right. The Voices just passed on a message from someone with a garbled return address, but it seems relevant]

        “Getting an education was a bit like a communicable sexual disease. It made you unsuitable for a lot of jobs and then you had the urge to pass it on.”

    • Kate Paulk

      Ah, yes. So much Pratchett depends on context for the humor. You have to KNOW about Nobby Nobbs to get the humor in “three humans and one Nobby Nobbs”.

      To be fair, though, context is not required for the sequence in Lords and Ladies when Nanny Ogg and Casanunda approach the Long Man.

    • My brother was six feet tall at 12. When I was 3.
      I’d have needed a really big stake.

  8. dgarsys

    Even in my advancing and jaded age, I am sometimes stunned into silence by such obliviousness.

  9. The literati has been looking down their collective noses at stf for as long as stf has been a distinct category. It is not as bad post-Star Wars as it once was. That does not mean that is will not be worse again. I long ago gave up paying them any attention. I recommend that you do the same. It will do wonders for your blood pressure.

  10. Uncle Lar

    Well done love. A most excellent fisk indeed.
    Is this native ability, or have you been watching mister Correia?
    As to the subject of your ire, well duh this is after all what such wankers do, make their nasty messes on the good works of their betters.

    • Kate Paulk

      Thank you, sir. It is a native ability, but I do appreciate a good fisk when I see one.

      And yes, this is indeed what that kind do because it’s all they know how to do.

  11. Jess

    I don’t want to nitpick, but I really think you’re doing pretentious wankers a disservice by numbering this person among them.

  12. Oh my dear sweet and fluffy Lord. Portnoy wanking off in the bathroom is pretentious wankery! Literarily and literally!!! I wish I thought you had done that on purpose, but you used the phrase “pretentious wankery” twice earlier. But in that context! LOL (really!)

  13. Christopher M. Chupik

    Amazingly. NOT the work of Damien G Walter. This was an entirely different Village Idiot.

  14. What he would have thought about Candide if he had been around when it came out? Or The Canterbury Tales? Would he have panned Chaucer because he wrote in English?

    The amusing thing is the reviewer comes off as a character Pratchett might have written: a bitter wizard at the Unseen University, dismissing popular spellbooks as not real magic. Now, the spellbooks he> likes, that’s magic, full of elaborate rites and words difficult to pronounce, and good for few dissertations. Well, yes, he admits, the popular spellbooks do work better, but that’s beside the point.

    • Sara the Red

      As I recall, there was a very pithy line early in Guards! Guards! when Carrot is traveling to Ankh-Morpork regarding literary critics…

      But yes, Pratchett would totally have done that. And probably has, regarding other subjects. The thing about Pratchett was, it didn’t matter what you believed or whose ‘side’ you were on…you were absurd. Even when it was something he otherwise presented as a good thing…he did not shy away from the inherent absurdity at its core. He took no sides, and poked gentle fun (on occasion, not-so-gentle) at all comers. Another reason to love his work. He might make fun of you, but you could also be sure he saw you as just as human and worthy as he was–because we were all equally silly and equally miraculous.

      I suppose, in pretentious wankers views, that lack of existential angst is what bothers them.

      • Birthday Girl

        Yes, it’s clear ust looking at the characters of Carrot and Vimes … very different men, both unbearably absurd at times, and both beloved by the author. And the reader comes to love them both, also.

    • Kate Paulk

      Pratchett actually did this, I think possibly in Mort. Not so much the bitter, but the wizards feeling that even if you could do the spell without all the rites and arcane materials it just didn’t have the same gravitas.

  15. Mark in Mayenne

    Dear Impaler,
    The last paragraph nails it.

  16. “Stupid is as Stupid does. And you Sir Do!”
    Kate Ima stealing that one. Just so’s you know.

    Personally I’ve loved Pratchett since I read his first work, and I cant even remember which one it was. Despite the fact that it was oh so British (which isn’t an issue unless you work with a bunch of them, constantly, for years) there was something about the discworld books that just hit all the right notes. I’ll agree with whoever said that Monstrous regiment was a bit too SJW, my eyes rolled right outtta my head several times during the book. But then the Susan Death and Tiffany Aching books were always my least favorite threads in the disc-world tapestry.BTW not to speak ill of the dead but did anyone else ever get the sense that Pratchett was terrified of women? No Just me? OK Then.
    Anyway, I’m a Vimes man all the way. Though there’s also a special place in my heart for Moist. Also I didn’t realize that Rincewind was supposed to be an Homage to Flashman till Pratchett said so in an interview. In retrospect it makes sense but I guess I missed it because I always thought his lechery was as much a defining aspect of Ol Flash Harry as his cowardice, and Rince is anything but.
    But bottom line, Im glad you didn’t link to the article whatever walking abortion wrote the quoted pieces. It takes a special kind of stupid not to recognize Pratchett’s genius in my not so humble opinion.

    • TRX

      There are enough people who enjoy Discworld to support entire Discworld conventions.

      When Pratchett’s critics gather enough supporters to have their own conventions, maybe I’ll pay attention to them. Probably not, though.

      • Kate Paulk

        If Pratchett’s critics want to have their own conventions to celebrate the works they love, they’re welcome to do so. We don’t have to go to them if we disagree about said works.

    • There are three Heroes in Discworld, each representing a different generation or theme.

      The old generation – Cohen the Barbarian. All you need to be a hero is a sharp sword and a loincloth. Very direct , very simple, not stupid at all.

      The current generation – Sam Vimes, policeman extraordinaire. Truly a man of the city. Straight as an arrow and twice as sharp.

      The new generation – Moist von Lipwig, arch-swindler and public servant. The Patrician is teaching him how to be the next Patrician. Twisty as a corkscrew, but also just as straight. (Ever try to use a bent corkscrew?)

      • B. Durbin

        “The Patrician is teaching him how to be the next Patrician.”

        Good gravy, man. I hadn’t realized it, but that’s very astute.

        • Kate Paulk

          And that is part of Pratchett’s genius. These little revelations that show up sometimes years after you first read the books, then when you go back you can see all the foundation pieces.

  17. ha ha ha ha ha ha. Ah, c’mon, Kate. Tell us what you really think. Yeah, my favorites are Guards! Guards! and Night Watch.

  18. As soon as you said “The alleged literature person at the Guardian”, I knew where this blog was going. Entirely apart from the big black letters in the title, of course.

    Sad to say, but the Guardian seems to have taken “pretentious bloviation” as the whole of its editorial bible. Someone recently did a send-up of Guardian headlines and there are far too many which read like short novels in themselves, confusing “headline” with “pitch sheet”. Virtually all of these espouse the notion that they are so amazingly progressive that they live not in the 21st Century but the 37th or thereabouts. The more incomprehensible and anti-populist a social stance or cultural view is, the more likely they are to embrace it as Humanity’ Inevitable Future.

    TL;DR: The Guardian’s become a tabloid, for people who look less-than-figuratively down upon those who live in ivory towers.

  19. Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter

    He has every right to think what he likes. And we have every right to think he is a moron. Which he is, without a doubt.

    I’ve seen several recent articles where folks who think they are smart, have proven the opposite. It seems to be the coming thing.

    And they all get real upset when their literary assassination attempts fail.

    • Kate Paulk

      When one has an opinion of one’s worth that is both unjustified by the facts and has no need of support from others because it’s just that high, this tends to happen.

      • Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter

        Yes, well, a lot of people on both sides (right and left) don’t understand that by opening their mouths, they open themselves to ridicule.

        Me being me, I love it when they say something. It’s so much fun using the Axe of Public Criticism on them.

  20. What is it about literary types and their obsession with masturbation?
    And why do they seem to think that the entirety of the ‘real world’ generally involves people with complexities, contradictions and masturbation? Their definition of ‘real world’ seems ‘real limited’

    Sure having hormones and endorphins surge through your veins is fun and all, but nothing really comes of it. And most people prefer not to document the process.

    And what’s with the obsession with prose?
    Dictionary time.
    Prose
    Noun
    1.the ordinary form of spoken or written language, without metrical structure, as distinguished from poetry or verse.
    2.matter-of-fact, commonplace, or dull expression, quality, discourse, etc.

    adjective
    4.of, in, or pertaining to prose.
    5.commonplace; dull; prosaic.

    They complain that someone’s prose is ordinary. That’s what PROSE MEANS you idiot!

    What they mean is literary

    Literary
    Adjective
    1.characterized by an excessive or affected display of learning; stilted; pedantic.

    You know literary, as in pretentious crap about pompous posers and their masturbatory masturbation of both the written and spoken word that they demand you declaim with joy and jubilation like a toddling tike proud of their first potty.

    (I do alliterative, not literary)

    • Either masturbation or rape. I was just thinking about the preponderance of sexual abuse in literary fiction–in many novels the only sexuality expressed by any of the characters is through violence.

      But your comment made something click for me, because masturbation, usually combined with one or more esoteric fetishes, also shows up as a form of sexual expression frequently.

      It seems that a mutually enjoyable sexual experience between two people is incomprehensible to them. The choice seems to be between either and unwilling partner or none (or some sort of voyeurism that combines the concepts.)

      I think there’s something significant there, a basic self-absorption that is incapable of sharing pleasure, being aware of a partner’s sensations as well as your own. Or, it seems, even to imagine other people doing that.

      • I suspect you are onto something, Misha. I wonder if the control aspect, as well as the self-centered pleasure (literally, self-centered in the case of masturbation), is part of the attraction. They do not “have to worry” about their partner’s pleasure and responses, and they are in control of every aspect of the experience (and can not be hurt or have demands made upon them.) Which sounds like a dreadfully empty way to live, in my opinion.

        • Empty, yes, but safe, and the Left’s standard bearers are usually people who live in fear. The whole focus on trigger warnings and safe spaces and needing government protection from anyone who disagrees with them.

          Despite their claims to embrace sexuality (and efforts to paint their adversaries as sex-hating prudes) someone who has to be protected from words on a page is not likely to be able to deal emotionally with the vulnerability that lovers share.

          Bit of a digression, I realize, but it’s not like I’m the first person to run off on a tangent in MGC thread.

        • Kate Paulk

          Obviously we should all be grateful this specimen didn’t sample any of the Discworld books involving Mrs Palm. He might not have survived the shock.

        • Actually, masturbation is an even more apt metaphor for litera-choor. Regular books engage the reader and ensure that he or she enjoys the ride and finish; literary works, on the other hand, are writing for the pleasure of the author, who doesn’t seem to give a damn about how it was for the reader …

          • Kate Paulk

            Personally, I’m not a fan of public masturbation be it literary or otherwise. It scares the cats.

            • Wandering Wankers are also the most hated people in BDSM dungeons…. Other people aren’t real to them, just doing what they’re doing as if to put on a show for their pleasure. It’s a kind of Solipsism that I’m sure the author of that piece can sympathize with.

  21. Tolkien is not the fantasy writer I’d recommend for his prose.

    Bloody hell, I would. And have done.

    • Kate Paulk

      For Tolkien I’d recommend the breadth and depth of his world-building because to me that’s the strongest piece.

      • Tolkien’s prose is lovely and cannily devised with an eye to linguistics and poetry; but it is always a servant to his story, characters, themes, and worldbuilding. And even so, it is true that it fails to be transparent enough for some readers. (This is either a fault, or an unavoidable artistic difference.)

        In general, all fantastic literature has to tread a line between gorgeous spiels and just getting the story intelligible. The more fantastic the events, the simpler the prose tends to be, unless you get to a bit where you can let loose and elaborate.

        • Kate Paulk

          Pretty much, yes. Plus what works for one person can be someone else’s turn-off because everyone is different.

  22. Bjorn Hasseler

    c4c

  23. Orgell

    I noticed that the Gormless Git waited until Sir Terry was safely in the ground before regurgitating this review…

  24. Well, he wants things that rub against his real world. It would appear his real world involves a bunch of rubbing and not much else given what he says reflects it and what doesn’t.

  25. Arwen

    People will still be reading Pratchett long after this nitwit is utterly forgotten.

  26. Haters gonna hate. Wankers gonna wank.