Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Back in early December, when my collaboration partner and I sat down to plan what we were going to do second trimester, we started discussing an expedition into the mysterious and macabre, featuring Poe and stories of the afterlife from different cultures.

She mentioned that we should have the kids read Mort. I'd never heard of Mort, but picked it up.

Mort is the title character of the novel, a sort of gangly awkward youth in need of a nudge out the nest. He's thoughtful but dim-witted, and meanders through his chores. Dad's had enough, and hauls him off to an apprentice fair to get him attached to a master so he can learn a skill. The only master interested in Mort is a skeletal figure in a black robe carrying a scythe. Mort ends up apprenticed to Death. He learns the ropes, but as he starts taking on the most dread of duties, he finds himself incapable of sticking to the script, which has potential dire consequences for the Universe.

This is a Terry Pratchett Discworld novel, and my first. There are many laudatory comments on the novel's cover that Pratchett is uproarious and hilarious and outrageous--actually he's more droll or wry. I chuckled now and again. It took me forever to read the book because I wasn't completely won over. But I did finish it, and imagine that middle schoolers might like it. Though I've read comparisons of Pratchett and Douglass Adams, I'd think a more apt comparison would be Pratchett and Piers Anthony's Xanth series: harmless fantasy novels which are cute, full of bad puns and quiet sexual innuendo and authorial asides. In other words, perfect for imaginative middle-schoolers.


earth dragon said...

We have talked before about my love for this level of literature - Harry Potter and others like it.

I've read quite a few of the Discworld books, as well as other offerings from Mr. Pratchett. I find him easy to read and entertaining, which is often exactly what I'm seeking when I sit down to read at the end of the day. Of course, balanced against the other concerns of my adult life, I'm not certain I'm seeking an intellectual challenge at the end of the day. : )

I think it's rather difficult for an author to write a novel and include the correct amounts of entertainment and challenging thinking. Too much of one, and no one takes the work seriously; too much of the other, and few will read it. Striking the balance is the key. And those authors who would attempt to advance literature in the process have set themselves a difficult task.

Nyarlathotep said...

Have you read this one? I always wanted to read Pratchett to "check him out," but I have a feeling this wasn't the best choice. Is there one you recommend which you really liked?

Literary taste, like musical taste, is personal and unique. We use books for a variety of reasons--some to stimulate or challenge ourseleves, some to unwind and be entertained. I read and enjoy much worse stuff than Mort regularly (horror novels galore, or books about aliens, or Penthouse Letters) for the very reasons you list. I'm no snob, and don't intend to slight anyone's taste: Stephen King and J.R.R. Tolkien made me the reader I am today, after all. I just wasn't bowled over by this book.

Many of the smartest people I know read nothing but comic books. That's awesome!

earth dragon said...

I have read Mort. I enjoyed the story - I like that Mort eventually attempts a bit of a coup, and also that "death takes a holiday" for a bit - fun stuff.

the best Pratchett book I've read was a collaboration with another author called "Good Omens." Unless I'm confusing it with another Pratchett offering, it's about a lost - then found - gospel. It is, at moments, quite witty.

As for the discworld stuff, they're all about the same. Perhaps the first one, which features the reluctant wizard Rincewind, is the best, since it introduces the reader to discworld and its inhabitants.

You're no snob, and I wasn't at all offended. The thought never crossed my mind - just adding in my 25 pence worth.