I’m no stranger to being censored on the Guardian’s ironically named Comment Is Free but usually it’s for such heretical thinking as disagreeing with something they say or correcting one of their many, many mistakes, not for criticising an arts critic.
Guardian arts critic, Jonathan Jones, has written what I will generously call a worthless piece of substandard literary diarrhoea describing Sir Terry Pratchett as a “mediocre” writer publishing “ordinary potboilers”. He bases this opinion on never having read any of Terry Pratchett’s books and never intending to read any of them even if he lived to be a million years old.
Let’s just examine the facts shall we? Prior to the release of his final book, Shepherds Crown, this week Terry Pratchett had sold over 85m books in 37 different languages. He was given the OBE for services to literature in 1998 and knighted in 2009 for the same. He was the number one best selling fantasy/sci fi writer in the 1990s, won a huge list of awards, was awarded 10 honorary doctorates, was made an adjunct professor of Trinity College Dublin and big budget films were made out of four of his Discworld novels. The plays of his books have been performed the world over and a large number of his books have been recorded for radio and broadcast around the world. The books have spawned calendars, diaries, figurines, board games, computer games and other merchandise. Sir Terry Pratchett had a net worth of £42m according to the 2012 Sunday Times Rich List. He has been credited with inadvertently inventing the genre of comic fantasy. When he died, people around the world mourned his death and inspired by a quote from one of his books, Going Postal – “A man is not dead while his name is still spoken” – thousands of websites and internet servers gained a “GNU Terry Pratchett” header in the ultimate geek tribute. Even the Guardian website did it.
Jonathan Jones has written two books. You won’t have heard of them and you won’t have read them. He’s an art critic for the morally and financially bankrupt Guardian newspaper. He presented an TV series on art for BBC2 and although he has presented two prestigious arts awards, he has never won any award himself.
Jones isn’t even a has-been, he’s a never-was. He’s a literary snob exploiting the release of the last ever Discworld novel to gain some notoriety. He says that he’s never read a Pratchett book and that they’re so far down his list of books to read that he “would have to live a million years before getting round to them”. He says that he once flicked through a Discworld book in a bookshop “but his prose seemed very ordinary”. Ordinary!
Because he’s never read the Discworld novels he hasn’t watched the characters evolve over three or four decades until you know them so well that reading the next book is like catching up with old friends. He hasn’t experienced the hairs on the back of his neck prickling at spotting a strand of continuity in the latest Discworld novel that goes back 30 years or the pleasure in reading a book for the tenth time and still spotting something that you didn’t notice the first nine times. He can’t empathise with Commander Vimes’ struggle to reconcile his working class, republican man on the street background with marrying into the aristocracy and becoming a Duke or Granny Weatherwax’s constant battle to contain the “black” in her, knowing that if she stops fighting it a lot of people will get hurt (or have their heads messed with so they believe they’re frogs in a human body which is a lot worse then being turned into an actual frog). He won’t know that that Sir Terry (or Pterry as he’s known to fans) tackled such complex subjects as poverty, equality, bigotry and religious extremism whilst making people laugh. If that isn’t -ing genius then I don’t know what is.
I picked up my copy of the Shepherds Crown on Saturday (well, two copies actually – one to read and a slipcase edition to keep) but I haven’t started it yet. I’m reading another book at the moment that my wife ordered me to read and I don’t like leaving a book half read. I’m sure Pterry would have understood. I’m in no hurry to get through the Shepherds Crown because it means I’m at the end of the Discworld series. Once I’ve read it, the Discworld will be frozen in time and that saddens me. Throughout all the trials and tribulations of trying to survive as a hormonal teenager, through the traumatic loss of close family members, meeting my wife and having a family, through depression and dark times and the best days of my life Terry Pratchett has been there for me, providing a means of escape from reality and even a moral compass at times. We could all benefit from being a bit more Terry. For me he was the greatest author that humanity has produced and he will be without equal, at least in my lifetime. And Jonathan Jones? How many people he’s never even met will still be mourning his passing 6 months after he’s gone?
If you are thinking of commenting on Jonathan Jones’ article then just these three words will suffice …
GNU Terry Pratchett