Friday, 8 February 2002

Equal rites

Listening to:

Haydn, string quartet op. 50, No. 5 in F major. This recording is by the Kodály Quartet on Naxos. I believe they have recorded all of Haydn’s quartets. I don’t know quite how many CDs this comes to, but I only have three so far, so I’m confident that there are still lots more out there.

Just read:

Terry Pratchett, Equal rites.

I bought this to read on the plane trips I made to and from Portland last month. I believe it’s the third Discworld novel published, and there are a variety of clues to this in the style and plotting of the novel. For example, it’s Granny Weatherwax’s first appearance, and I think you can see how she’s still not the fully-formed character of the later books. In particular, she is less competent, feeling unsure about urban life. In my opinion, that makes her rather more likable.

The plot is all about a young girl wanting to become a wizard, despite the fact that the Unseen University only accepts men. This is the source of the most of the humour, and the journey from the small village in Lancre to the bustling metropolis of Ankh-Morpork is also a good source of jokes. There are the inevitable monsters threatening the stability of the universe from the Dungeon Dimensions and there’s even a chance for wizards and witches to display their complementary skills. In later books, the wizards become rather more bumbling and pathetic, while Weatherwax turns into an all-defeating super-witch.

Of course, the characterisation of female and male attitudes to, and versions of, magic are right out of Sexist Stereotyping 101, which make things a little dull. There doesn’t seem to be any room for the analytic woman, nor the “in-touch-with-Nature” man. It’s also too easy for Pratchett to praise the “intuitive, female approach” and mock the male worldview. There's nothing wrong with doing these things per se, but it does become predictable.

Finally, as for style, I don’t think that later novels would have included a line mentioning Steven Spielberg; here Pratchett is reaching outside of his Universe in a way that I think becomes rarer later.

An amusing response to the "axis of evil" speech.