Mort Q1. Quality

1

As I said at the pitch for this, I read this first when I was probably 12-14 years old, and considered it (as a precocious teen) an absolute masterpiece, and I'd quote Pratchett's rant about genre fiction at anyone who doubted me. Is it any good, or rather, is it anything more than a fun fantasy romp through a coming-of-age story? Does it offer any more food for thought than that?

Comments

  • 1

    Well, I think it's mostly a fun fantasy romp through a coming-of-age story, but it does have a little more to offer because it's also a satire. And as a satire, it asks us to examine a few things about our society, about the fantasy genre, and I suppose about our place in all of this as readers. Death's struggles to experience 'fun', for example. It similarly examines generic fantasy by offering us fantasy tropes, but it turning them on their heads and is a good lesson to thinking outside the box. It's got loads of little insights about life, cleverly tucked into the setting or uttered by its characters - like how the sturm and drang of a magical rite has more to do with the vanity of the practitioner than with anything else.

  • 0

    I agree - laced through the story are little witty pokes at a whole variety of topics - vanity about work practice for one, as @Apocryphal says (and evidently going well beyond that to embrace work in general), but also religion, social structure, and so on. Indeed, his satirical aim is so wide that it's not always easy to tell what is in view! Perhaps human pomposity, and our tendency to ascribe profundity to all manner of rather trivial things.

    For me, it was these touches which made the story memorable, especially the ones which had to be introduced to keep the Discworld operational - like the way the speed of light and darkness changed, or the place which had built a wall at the perimeter because it extended over the edge.

  • 1

    The satire is something that permeates Pratchett's work, like the word "Blackpool" runs through a stick of rock. There's a warmth to it as well: most people are generally decent and trying to do the right thing, even if the structures and traditions around them may push them into unreasonable acts. I think it's those gently satirical takes on a lot of life that give some depth to Pratchett's work, even the earlier novels like this that are more played for laughs.

  • 1

    I think there’s enough here to say that _Mort_is more than just a romp. Except for “and they all lived happily ever after,” Pritchett is playing with and often overturning fantasy tropes. Keli wants to be, demands to be regal, but she still just the princess who can pee through twelve mattresses.

    Pratchett’s parody of those fantasy tropes, though, isn’t simply parasitic, as parody often is. He is not simply milking those tropes for comedy; he sometimes uses the subverted tropes as bricks in his own world-building. But not always; sometimes his jokes are one-time throwaways (or at least they seem to me that they are).Yet, even as I write this, I question my last assertion. Maybe what I’ve described as one-the throwaways aren’t sturdy enough to be bricks, but maybe they are threads that can be made into a fabric. The pompous are ridiculed. Institutions are questioned. The jokes and wordplay create a point of view, not just about the events in the fiction of the book but in its meta-fiction, too. (Lots for me to think about here, and I don’t even know to what extent I fully agree with what I’m writing.)

    There’s also an interesting dynamic about the relationship between a story of someone’s life (in this case the story) and their actual life. Keli’s story ends in the official biography in Death’s library, but she doesn’t end, initially because of Mott’s ineptitude but ultimately because of his persistence. We all live in some measure according to the dictates of (a) story; we create a narrative of our own lives and if the lives of others (if we know and care enough about them to do so). Those narratives give us meaning but also constrain us. How do we break out of the constraints of the narrative structure without devolving into chaos where all meaning is gone, particularly when we don’t have the power to create a pocket universe in which to hide the inevitabilities of that narrative?

  • 1

    @WildCard said:
    There’s also an interesting dynamic about the relationship between a story of someone’s life (in this case the story) and their actual life.

    Ooh. (Or should I say "Ook"?)

    There's an interesting idea. It's also interesting that the veracity of the written stories, in Death's library, is never questioned or shown to be inaccurate. I wonder if an older Pratchett would have left that alone, or would have explored how we edit the stories of our lives, even in what we tell ourselves let alone others.

    (And I take it everyone knows of Pratchett's journey from the author who used "the librarian turned into an orang-utang" as a half-liner joke into the active advocate of the apes and their protection.)

  • 0
    > @WildCard said:
    > There’s also an interesting dynamic about the relationship between a story of someone’s life (in this case the story) and their actual life. ...We all live in some measure according to the dictates of (a) story; we create a narrative of our own lives and if the lives of others (if we know and care enough about them to do so). Those narratives give us meaning but also constrain us. How do we break out of the constraints of the narrative structure without devolving into chaos where all meaning is gone, particularly when we don’t have the power to create a pocket universe in which to hide the inevitabilities of that narrative?

    This made a connection for me with the whole issue of dementia, a matter I get in contact with through my mother who now has essentially no narrative of her life, either present day or continuously back to her own past. The whole lockdown experience with its inevitable isolation from the normal range of meetings and experiences has certainly worsened this, and it has totally brought home to me how important one's internal narrative is.
  • 1

    I am sitting here guiltily staring at the paperback I failed to read.

  • 1

    @RichardAbbott said:

    This made a connection for me with the whole issue of dementia, a matter I get in contact with through my mother who now has essentially no narrative of her life, either present day or continuously back to her own past. The whole lockdown experience with its inevitable isolation from the normal range of meetings and experiences has certainly worsened this, and it has totally brought home to me how important one's internal narrative is.

    I'm sorry to hear about that.

    As for the book, the gaining and losing of the internal narrative is an interesting idea that could have been explored.

  • 1
    I never thought about dementia in these terms before, so thanks for sharing.
  • 1

    Picked it up and read a few pages this morning. My gawd Terry Pratchett can write when he wants to.

Sign In or Register to comment.