Well, That’s Us Told: Sir Terry And The Cultural Elite

31 Aug

Well, that’s US  told.

And that was sarcasm, by the way.

I don’t mind admitting that Sir Terry Pratchett was one of my favourite authors. Sir Terry captured both the absurdities and cruelties of modern life – and managed to do it while retaining a sense of humour that kept his work slipping into the realm of grim-dark Game of Thrones-style brutality. I didn’t like all of his Discworld books, but there were so many of them exploring so many different themes that a reader could like the universe without enjoying each and every book.

Sir Terry was a colossal success. I don’t know if he sold more books than JK Rowling, but he was truly popular among young children, teenagers and adults. The true measure of his brilliance as a writer is two-fold; first, he encouraged children to read by never talking down to them and second, that he enjoyed all-ages market penetration. That is a very rare gift. The Harry Potter books appeal to all ages, but Twilight only truly appeals to a specific demographic.

And so I read the recent hit piece on Sir Terry in The Guardian with disbelief rapidly shading to raw anger.

Like I said, the ability to appeal to all levels of the population is rare. That alone marks Sir Terry as an outright writing genius. But the Discworld books, in particular, open the gateways to many other fields of study. One may contemplate religious hypocrisy while reading Small Gods, explore the strengths and weaknesses of naked capitalism in Going Postal, learn about the problems of racial disharmony and the war on terror in Thud, the follies of pointless wars in Jingo and the impact of new technologies and ideas in Making Money and Raising Steam. There is a strong cast of diverse characters just so that the reader can choose a favourite and use that person as their entry into a wider universe.

And yet the writer of this article has the sheer arrogant nerve to dismiss him as a mediocrity.

People are entitled to their opinions. I will happily admit that there are some of Sir Terry’s books I don’t plan to reread. But at least I’ve read them! The author of the article says, with all sincerity, that he hasn’t read a single one of Sir Terry’s books. Indeed, in his own words, “I did flick through a book by him in a shop, to see what the fuss is about, but the prose seemed very ordinary.” And yet he feels he has the right to judge a man who was one of Britain’s most beloved authors?

The author manages – somehow – to touch on an important point without realising the implications and how they apply to his points. “Actual literature may be harder to get to grips with than a Discworld novel, but it is more worth the effort.” The mental muscles one needs to get to grips, as the author puts it, can only be developed through reading! One can start with The Worst Witch, move on to Harry Potter and finish with Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell. The final book is a piece of brilliant writing – it thoroughly deserved the Hugo Award – but it is very heavy going. I could not have read it if I had not honed my reading muscles through reading lesser works that encouraged me to develop the habit of reading.

You would not start weightlifting by trying to lift a 150KG weight, would you? Why would you ask a child to start reading by giving the poor kid something as weighty as … well, the handful of books the literature elite class as good literature? If you make reading a chore, kids will hate it! The kid will give up, get bored, throw away the book and abandon the world of reading forever.

Sir Terry has a fair claim to being rather more than just one of the most influential and important writers of his generation. He encouraged children and teenagers to read, he enabled them to look at the world with fresh eyes, he mocked the pretentious and skewered the illusions of the elites and he didn’t hesitate to convince people to think for themselves.

He had the common touch. No wonder the literature elite hates him.

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20 Responses to “Well, That’s Us Told: Sir Terry And The Cultural Elite”

  1. patdailey August 31, 2015 at 6:02 pm #

    Well said.

    Pat Dailey 970-402-1221

  2. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard August 31, 2015 at 6:04 pm #

    Amen.

    For some reason, I was not able to “get into” the one Pratchett book that I tried to start *but* that means nothing compared to the thousands of readers (including many that I admire and are friends of mine) who have enjoyed his work.

    That “writer” is both small-minded and arrogant.

    Oh, when I clicked on the link, I got a “message” that it was “rated as nonsense”. [Very Big Evil Grin]

  3. Walt.Dunn August 31, 2015 at 6:14 pm #

    Amen, Chris. I am amazed at the demonstrated insular idiocy of some who brag of their “elite” cultural judgement. Perhaps they will fade away and dribble back down to the scuppers – but probably not!

  4. Don Miller August 31, 2015 at 6:16 pm #

    I love how the writer of this hatchet job said “I have never read any of his books”.

    Books are here to be read and loved by everyone. When I was 20 years old, my Aunt cried when I left a Terry Pratchett book at her house and my cousin read it. He was a 17 year old high school dropout, not because he wasn’t smart, but because he had ADHD and found school boring and too slow for how fast he wanted to learn. Why did my Aunt cry, because it was the first book my cousin had ever read all the way through.

    My cousin grew up to own a Framing Company. He employs 30 people. He has read many books in his life, none of them are literature. But it all started with a Terry Pratchett book his cousin accidently left behind after a visit.

  5. Nicholas August 31, 2015 at 8:09 pm #

    What? Who dares mock my favourite author (sorry Chris, though you’re close)? I’ve read all the discworld series and though some are better than others they are all brilliant. I love the way you have to actually think to get the jokes and when you do they crack you up big tlme. Loved his other work too, except maybe the long world stuf with Baxter. I can’t believe someone would call his work mediocre. Thanks for this post. Put my thoughts into words.

  6. Duncan Cairncross August 31, 2015 at 11:20 pm #

    Was that review for real?
    How can somebody criticize a writer and say
    “I have never read a single one of his books and I never plan to.”

    Surely that was some kind of sick joke

    • Dennis the Menace September 1, 2015 at 10:38 pm #

      ““I have never read a single one of his books and I never plan to.”

      Surely that was some kind of sick joke”

      Apparently, you haven’t seen the ‘reviews’ placed on Amazon against various authors. Reviews that are One Star…filled with all kinds of vile and unsubstantiated crap…oh, and were by people who did not read the book at all. My favs are the sub-set of these by people who post them BEFORE the damn book is even released, but just available for pre-order…sometimes as long out as six months.

      They are all hit pieces by the SJWs. Just like this Guardian piece.

  7. Austin September 1, 2015 at 2:12 am #

    >Their books, like all great books, can change your life, your beliefs, your perceptions.

    Well, if your last post hadn’t been about Vox’s new book, I would have brought it up. By his own definition, SJW’s Always Lie is a Great Book.

    Also, I’ll point out that David Weber’s Honor Harrington series changed my life and perceptions. So did books by people like Flint, Ringo, Kratman, and Correia. Some of your own books, too, Chris. But Jones would say all of you write “ordinary potboilers” writing for the “middlebrow cult of the popular”. And as for Ray Bradbury and Terry Pratchett? I can only assume this person takes more pride in seeing his own drivel on screen than writing a legitimate story with an actual point.

  8. Ian Staley September 1, 2015 at 6:10 am #

    That critic gives critics a bad name…which makes you step back and say WOW.

  9. Damian Stawiński September 1, 2015 at 9:12 am #

    Author of that article is arrogant idiot. Well said Chris.

  10. Anarchymedes September 1, 2015 at 9:38 am #

    Literature elite. Who on earth are they? People whose opinion is better than everyone else’s? Animals who are more equal than others? When i hear the word ‘elite’ I think of the festival in Cannes that brings together the cinematographists whose movies no one wants to watch except those who make them, so they could share their work and call themselves elite: after all, no one understands them. And indeed no one does. Having spent a whole week slaving away just to keep yourself employed, no one wants to see ‘reality as it is’. We pay for books and movies exactly because they give us a chance to see what we want to see – so that we could stomach another week of what ‘really is,’ hopefully without resorting to chemicals too much. Everyone wants to see different things: hence, different genres. But ‘elite…?’ What does it mean? ‘Those who managed to live their lives in a bubble?’
    There are authors whose works can pull you out of depression, and those whose works push you deeper into it. Maybe some ‘elite’ mental masochists prefer the latter, because their lives are too sheltered to be true. I, for one, will take anyone of the former over everyone if the latter.

  11. Dennis the Menace September 1, 2015 at 10:34 pm #

    “And so I read the recent hit piece on Sir Terry in The Guardian with disbelief rapidly shading to raw anger.”

    Why the disbelief? You know that the Left has no qualms about attacking dead people who can’t defend themselves. Or at least, I assume you did.

    🙂

  12. Bob September 4, 2015 at 10:02 pm #

    I’ve read a book a day for the past 22 years, and have never heard of these ‘titans of literature’ or any of their books. I looked it up. One was a Nazi. ~fin

  13. Dustin September 5, 2015 at 11:35 am #

    I don’t think I have the words to describe the sheer idiocy of that article. I think I have to take a break after reading that.

  14. James Smy September 6, 2015 at 9:37 am #

    I agree while the reviewer may read and review books for a living I believe that just because he may prefer books such as Ulysses by James Joyce does not mean that you should be so dismissive of Sir Terry Pratchett who like Chris said so nicely “he had a appeal that reached out to all ages” and that is definately rare to find in a author. He will be dearly missed.

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