Tag Archives: Terry Pratchett

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

“It’s Monday! What are you reading?” is a weekly event hosted by Sheila to share with others what you’ve read the past week and planning to read next.

I saw this on Leeswamme’s Blog and since I find myself spending more time indoors lately I thought I would finally take part.

Finished

This week I finished two books:

  • Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett, the 37th Discworld novel which provides a great read about some new and old characters in Ankh Morpork – see review on Suite101
  • The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes which was one more brilliant story by a woman who writes a lot more than just chick lit although that is how she is mainly categorised.

Started

  • The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver. A book by the author of We Need To Talk About Kevin. I have started it many times and although the idea that the main love interest speaks with a cockney accent keeps putting me off, I hope to finally finish it.

Planned

  • Angels by Marian Keyes
  • The Magus by John Fowles
  • Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates

Other News

  • I like the idea of the Princess Bride readalong, which I read about on Leeswammes’ blog, and will be doing that in October. It is hosted by Chris from Book-a-Rama and begins on October 2

Review: Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

Unseen Academicals is the 37th Discworld Novel by Terry Pratchett and is apparently about football although as the blurb states “the important thing about football – is that it is not just about football” (Pratchett 2009). Indeed, this book is not just about the beautiful game but instead takes its time to introduce the new characters of Mr Nutt, who even Mr Nutt does not know about, Glenda Sugarbean the amazing cook and head of the Night Kitchen at the Unseen University, a ‘likely’ lad who has a skill with a tin can and a model who shines but is not so bright.

Read more at Suite101: Book Review – Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

When can you manicure the lawn?

My dad has been a journalist for years. He has written for papers, run his own newspapers, magazine, radio programs and still writes when he has something to say. He is actively political and writes because that’s how he gets his message across. I studied politics, twice, but don’t always have something say. .

On a car journey years ago he was telling me about a young journalist who had written an article about which began: ‘God sat on his throne and smiled at the beauty of the day’ or something similar. ‘Quick’ said his editor, ‘get me a quote from God’.

His point was the same one as Terry McDermott notes in his article ‘A Thousand Cuts’ about the difference between reporting and blogging. McDermott’s word ‘slumbered’, used to describe two political candidates in a meeting, was changed to ‘lumbered’. He was asked if they actually slept through it. The reply was no, that it was meant figuratively, not literally. “We don’t use figurative language here” he was told.

The ‘here’ in the previous paragraph refers to a newspaper and while I have never worked at one, I grew up with many a journalistic word of warning and was raised to ensure that every glance I took, at a piece of writing, was a critical one. I once categorically refused to allow someone to use the phrase ‘manicured lawn’ in a piece they were writing. The word manicure refers specifically to taking care of the hand from the Latin word ‘manus‘ (as in manual, in terms of labour, not an instruction manual), I told them.

Another of my dad’s favourites was the discussion on what is news. Dog bites man is not news but man bites dog… now there you have a story. A common journalistic cliche in any language but one turned on its head in Terry Pratchett‘s book The Truth. The first newspaper in Ankh Morpork is the subject of this tale and the former Western Daily Press journalist manages to turn the cliche into something all the more witty and self-referential. Half way through the book, and probably only a month or so after I was adamant about manicuring the lawn, I saw that he went and used the same phrase. Who was in the wrong?

I started writing this post as I was catching up on last week’s FT Weekend and had just read an article by Chris Giles on George Osborne’s trip to China. The headline is ‘China takes an interest in Osborne’s reading list‘, the emphasised part is ‘Countries with high budget deficits must show the world they can deal with those deficits’. My favourite bit is the Chinese vice premier telling Osborne of his love for Jane Austen, and especially Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. “The Treasury could not confirm last night which were the chancellor’s favourites, nor whether he had read them.” It was a smile of a moment in an otherwise straight report on a visit. FT house style and everything.

McDermott’s article contrasted blogging and reporting and it’s a much agonised distinction on both sides of the writing medium (professional and not). The point may be that, while the medium is the focus of the argument, the conversation will fail to die down. When you have nothing to say then the way you write may be the only thing left to talk about.

As my sister reminds me now and then, Ephemeral Digest is a blog, and I can write what I want. I am privileged to not have to worry about what constitutes news and what makes an article. Now and then I do worry about it but a funny moment in a broadsheet reminds me that there’s always a balance out there.

My dad’s advice wasn’t just a way of discussing writing. He was trying to tell me how to best get my message across. My ambition is to find more ways to do that so I’ll happily stumble along and be creative when necessary. Until grass grows hands, however, I won’t be manicuring any lawns. That’s a promise.