Saturday, 31 January 2009

The Colour of Memory

You will see from previous posts that I have long been a fan of Terry Pratchett, and believe (in common with some other luminaries) that his Discworld novels have evolved over time to become significantly more than the sum of their parts. The earlier books were amusing, if a little lightweight, but were definitely appreciated more by, shall we say, devotees of the fantasy genre.

Since the development of Vetinari and Vimes, I feel that a darker edge has appeared and the books are more allegorical than they were. Despite the almost square-jawed hero cliche, and the sometimes slightly cloying relationship details (not that I'm scoffing at girly romance you understand...) Sam Vimes is a character I have greatly enjoyed following.

Then, along came Moist von Lipwig, rescued from the hangman's hemp in order to do the bidding of Vetinari in setting up the Discworld mail service in Going Postal. And a fine novel it was, I would hazard, a complex and still darkly humorous adventure containing some excellent parallels with the communications industry on our own spherical floating rock.

So I eagerly awaited the next installment in the Lipwig series - Making Money. Apropos of nothing, perhaps, this was TP's first novel since he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. I have a slight problem (and I stress slight. This is a purely comparative criticism...) with the book, I must confess, though it has been hard to put my finger on the reasons why. So I was glad to be presented with the challenge of critiquing it by my good friend from long ago and far away. I had forgotten, however, what a time-intensive and difficult task literary criticism can be. Add to this the slight indifference I feel towards Making Money (I mean the book of course, not the activity. Although...) and the huge amount of reading and writing there is to do, and I admit that I have struggled. After all, I ain't no Frank Rich.  But, what the hell, here goes.

Where Making Money suffers most is that it follows the highly entertaining Going Postal, and - to rap on one of Terry's themes - it cannot match this gold standard.  At times, it feels as if Pratchett is trying too hard, while at others it feels as if he isn't trying hard enough.  I sense a little creative fatigue, an element of formula creeping in. As always, the cheesy old gags are tossed off in such a way as to endear rather than infuriate, but there is still a slight shifting in the chair; a sense of unease that so many don't quite come off as well as we all know they can.

Additionally, there are only so many ways to say that Vetinari is a devious political player, only so much mileage in references to his raised eyebrow, and it is, I feel past time to retire him. I have read that this move is on the cards in any case, but I think perhaps it hasn't been - to use a very Vetinari word - executed soon enough.  Finally, to return to the girly kissy stuff mentioned above. What does Adora Belle Dearheart actually bring to the party?  I think it says it all that she is conveniently shipped off for the first two-thirds of the book, and only returns towards the end to assist in a little lazy tidying-up of loose ends.

I must stress again that it is not my intention to be beastly, because the book is still good enough to rank in the higher reaches of TP's oeuvre. It is far and away (out beyond the Circle Sea) better writing than I could ever hope to achieve, and I will not be ceasing my subscription to the Ankh-Morpork club any time soon.  Long may the man live and continue to gift us with his wonderfully dark and funny characters, but for now, let's just roll out a trite, glib cliche and say:

"Could do better."

4 comments:

EP said...

I'm ALMOST certain I was behind him in the queue to pay for parking at Reading station.

He had the hat and everything.

Um, that's it.

Myeral said...

Good enough for me!

Prof. labradoodle said...

Myersal,

Not content with sliding this essay under my door as deadline approached, you then have the brass neck to suggest that this 'issue' in some way required effort on your part. According to Matron, efforts on your part are usually confined to lights-out jolly-time so it is of no surprise that your critique of the set text is, shall we say, self-indulgent.
To start, in order to successfully critique, one must remove one's ego from the equation. But all that I see here is the mirror-image of your own personal peccadilloes. You "sense"
you "feel" like some refugee from an MKULTRA program. You refer to "cheesy gags" yet offer NO examples to support your opinion. BE SPECIFIC, young man, or else we may as well consign the learning curve of Western thought to the dustbin of history. On the Moon, with all those scientists from Alternative 3.
There is also a dreary tendency to use modern idioms that add nothing to your work other than a "beatnik" tendency to want to look good in the "discotheque". Really young man, when you "rap" and talk of "kissy girly stuff" do you expect your readers to follow you? This is pure gobbledeygook and I have half a mind to simply fail you.
However. I am nothing if not fair, so I will give you a chance, a Viva Voce, with which you may turn me around like a smitten lover. Write me another critique with depth and with feeling and all shall be well.
I shall be in my office on Thursdays apart from the 23rd.

Dr T Leary said...

Hey, don't listen to that square, man. He only has half a mind, and freely admits t. You know what you have to do...