Anti Pseudo Intellectual

So I periodically get emails from Quora which tell me what’s coming across my feed. The emails are about the only interaction I have with the site, except when one of the relatively rare interesting pieces catches my attention and I commit the horrible sin of clicking the link and get sucked in to one of the larger time-sinks known to humanity.

Which happened today.

The culprit: a response to the question “Are Terry Pratchett’s books anti-intellectual?

The answer starts with “No. What they are is anti pseudo-intellectual” and gets better from there. An unusually high proportion of the comments are equally awesome, and pick up even more of the blasted references Sir Pterry makes throughout his books. I’m going to have to reread them all in the hope of catching some of them, because at least half of the ones mentioned in the long, long thread were things I’d completely missed.

Judging by the comments about how many rereads were needed – many of them with dictionary, encyclopedia, and super-Google close to hand – this is not unusual, but I reckon I’ll still miss most of it because I’ll get sucked into the story and surface at the end of the book as usual.

Needless to say, don’t bother with my blather today. Go read the Quora thread.

I’m fine with those who can honestly say that Pratchett doesn’t float their boat. Taste is an individual matter, and people are allowed to dislike something I love. Just don’t try to tell me Sir Pterry is second-rate or lightweight fluff or anything like that. Even on the first read of his books I could tell there was a lot more going on than the story on the surface.

And have a sleepy Westley being adorable and making the work mouse almost impossible to use.

33 comments

    1. Her Royal Lowness, Mistress of all she Sheds Upon, wouldn’t let me get my sneakers this morning unless the tummy was rubbed, cheeks scritched, and scruff scratched. For as long as SHE desired.

      1. But of course! The proper order of the universe is that the kitteh _alway_ gets what he or she wants first.

  1. I tried _The Color of Magic_. It wasn’t my cup of tea. Now, the witch books? Love them! Sir Pterry’s (RIP) characters range all over the map, and seem to love turning sacred faux-intellectual cows into BBQ and shoulder roasts.

    1. The Color of Magic isn’t nearly as polished and is much more slapsticky than his later books. I still kept finding new things to giggle over after three or four reads… But yeah, I get that it leaves a lot of people cold.

      Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg are utterly awesome. The witches and Vimes and the Ankh-Morpork Night Watch are some of the best books, in my opinion.

      He did adore roasting the sacred cows… and usually managed to do it in a way that wasn’t insulting – not to mention slipping _so_ much past the pseudo-intellectuals that some of them actually think the man was simplistic.

    2. The Rincewind books were good when I was a pre-driving teen, can’t read them now; the Witches were good the first time or two, but the Watch books– ? Oh my goodness YES MORE!

      And the Wee Free Men books I loved but can’t read again; it was like having my dad’s mom hang out with me for a few hours. She…was a very INTENSE person.

      1. Rincewind takes a certain mindset, I find, although the later Rincewind books are a bit more general than the early ones. Although, being Aussie by birth I adored and still adore Last Continent. There’s just _so much_ Oz culture stuffed into that book.

      2. Is Carrot naive, stupid, or a cunning genius? Discuss.

        I remember Vimes being astounded at one of Carrot’s solutions to a problem. “That’s just what I would do! But I’m mean, and Carrot’s nice! He’s won awards for it.”

          1. And very, very straightforward. Also capable of lying without saying a single thing that isn’t true.

    3. For once, the opening of a series gives a very poor idea of its arc.

      The opening books are very much more satire of fantasy than the later ones. I have actually read a reader declaring he was going to look up the originals after reading them.

  2. Curse you, strewer of catnip across my path…

    It’s clearly time for me to reread the Pratchett corpus again, and I’m still in the middle of the complete Wheel of Time slog in prep for the movie/serial production (I never finished it the first time, so for my sins… Book 9 of 14 (15, w/Prologue) and counting.

    I stopped last time when I encountered the POV of a rock by the side of the road (I am NOT kidding) and decided that circa 200 POVs was enough. I’m not far from that point now, and watching eagerly for my friend, the POV rock. I’ve thought a lot about him over the years…

    1. I gave up on the Wheel of Time after slogging through the book that spent some ridiculous number of pages and a massive amount of verbiage to move the alleged plot forward by less than a week and a few miles. Wheel of Time? More like wheel of bloody endless bloviating.

      Which is a pity, because the series started well.

      1. When the Game of Thrones phenom came to an end for video, we all knew they’d be looking for the next property. I had hoped they wouldn’t be so insane as to attempt the Wheel of Time — it was so obviously bloated with characters and hideously slow moving — but of course there just aren’t that many candidates and, given its absurd size, you can bet none of the decision makers had read it before choosing.

        Serves them right. Just think of the poor screenwriters who have to read, digest, and somehow simplify/truncate the story to make it filmable. It’s 100 hours of reading alone (as my Kobo ereader is so eager to inform me…).

        There are entire websites (fangroups) dedicated to statistics for the series.
        Statistics: https://wot.fandom.com/wiki/Statistical_analysis (think of the fanhours spent doing this)
        Characters: https://wot.fandom.com/wiki/List_of_Point_of_View_Characters (doesn’t count the inanimate ones)

          1. Heck, if you think about the fact that every description of the women’s dresses will simply be shown on screen with no need for additional time, that’s about half the page count eliminated right there.

        1. So it’s the Wheel that’s getting the Hollywood treatment now? For years they’d been threatening to do Smith’s Lensman series, and then Zelazny’s Amber books. The Lensmen could have been done with CGI, but the motivations would have been completely opaque to modern audiences. I can think of few series *less* suited for the big screen than Amber; the story is mostly Corwin’s internal monologue, which would mean they’d just take some of the names and write something completely different for the screenplay. Which is par for the course for Hollywood, but a waste of an entire ouvre.

          Back in the late 1980s there was talk of a movie based on “Stranger in a Strange Land.” That kicked off a lively thread on BIX’ sf conference, where people were amusing themselves coming up with a cast. Yes, David Bowie would probably do a good job as Valentine Michael Smith, but he’d already done “The Man Who Fell to Earth”, and so forth. But the interesting part was casting for Jubal Harshaw. Ed Asner was mentioned. And then someone said “what about James Earl Jones?” And everyone else said, “well, obviously” and that was the end of that…

      2. I gave up on the Wheel of Time after slogging through the book that spent some ridiculous number of pages and a massive amount of verbiage to move the alleged plot forward by less than a week and a few miles.

        Um, “the one that used a ridiculous amount of pages and a massive amount of verbiage to move the plot forward by less than a week” isn’t actually a unique identifier…

        1. The first one in the series that did that… Since, obviously, I didn’t read any more of them after that.

    2. Now I wonder if my favorite Star Wars EU book was riffing on that when it had a scene from the POV of a fire alarm. (Of course, in Star Wars, it’s not really all that out there for the fire alarm to have a POV.)

  3. Oh my gosh, the HISTORY STUFF!!!

    Argh argh argh, I only catch like a tiny fraction of it and THAT usually only because I read the book, I remember the stuff, and THEN I run into J Random History Bit and do a double take because “hey, wait, don’t I know you….?”

    1. Yes, exactly! I squeed inside for ages when I found out that France actually _had_ a Clacks system, sort of…. It got superseded by telegraphs, but it existed and it worked.

    2. When Pratchett went to the library asking for books like the Lord of the Rings, the librarian pointed him at the mythology shelf — but, on the next shelf, there was a book with a cover showing a man with a helmet on. Maybe there would be RUNES!

      He devoured that shelf.

      it was labeled History.

      Tolkien had opened a whole new world to him. It just happened to be the real one.

  4. For whatever reason whenever I see Wheel of Time, I keep thinking Wrinkle in Time. Different books.

    I have to read those again. I remember reading Arms of the Starfish back when I was 10 or 12 and having absolutely no idea why Adam kept trusting Kali.

    Being older now I do. Turns out there are situations where the ten year old is wiser…

    1. The O’Keefe books (of which Arms of the Starfish is the first, I think) are weird. Despite having the characters from the Wrinkle in Time books, they don’t really fit with those, and they don’t really fit with L’Engle’s realistic fiction either.

  5. In defense of anti-intellectualism: For all the fun of working through something really chewy, it is not something that reliably produces practical results.

    It is possible to waste a great deal of time on fruitless efforts. So, the folks demanding respect because of the ‘thoughts’ they ‘think’ are not correct. On the other hand, if you aren’t collecting rents for it, or using force to inflict your ideas on others, no one is correct to be the fun police and come arrest you for wrong fun.

    I’m also a little skeptical of critiques of pseudo-intellectuals that imply that intellectuals are all okay. Functioning as a generalist is really hard. Very few people can pull it off. So, a lot of the learned, thoughtful, educated people who are well trained and useful at one type of thinking, are specialists, and as bad as almost everyone else when well outside of their specialties. There are people reasonably sound on a few things, who are followers of fashion and indiscriminate in all their other understanding of topics. A pseudo-intellectual may indiscriminately follow fashion in everything, so is that qualitatively different from someone who only chooses their own path in some fields?

    1. I respect those who are actually intellectual. They may never produce anything that’s applicable to the “real world”, but genuinely pursuing an intellectual field is bloody hard work never the less. I will still lament that entirely too many of them tend to forget that they don’t know all that much outside their area of specialty, but that doesn’t make them any less of an intellectual where their specialty is concerned.

      The pseudo-intellectuals are the ones who substitute jargon and the fashion of the day for actual thought and don’t actually do any of the heavy lifting. The likes of whatsisface over at that British rag who likes to claim that some wank book is better than Sir Pterry and because he dresses it all up in fancy language that makes it intellectual.

      That sort deserve to be punctured, although you need either a nice long spear or a lot of agility lest you be hit by the stream of bile they emit.

      1. That respect is a choice you make, it is not compelled of you.

        Genuine pursuit of trades is also difficult, so I expect you also respect those who labor truly there. I’m certainly aware that there is thought in the trades that would be difficult for me, if it was possible at all.

    1. Oh, he’s very much that, too. I’d say pretentious assholes are guaranteed to get poked, but then I’d wonder about what would come out of them and we really, really don’t want to go there.

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