Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Know Nothing About A Subject? Just Talk Louder!

So, I was in my local bookstore today, you know, just browsing when I discovered with an almost untamed glee that they had a modest selection of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.

Let me take a time out to describe these books. They’re witty, intelligent and clever. Most of the time, they’re truly laugh out loud funny, and Terry Pratchett is such a gifted writer that you stop actually reading these books, and just find yourself watching the story.

He’s a genius, pure and simple.

It’s also a sad truth that I had nearly every Discworld book he had ever written, and had to leave them in England when I moved. I’m looking forward to re-establishing my collection. (That’s how good he is, not only have I read all of the Discworld series a few hundred times, I’m willing to pay for them twice.)

So I picked a book up off the shelf, and turned it over in my hands. That’s when I heard the voice next to me:

“Oh, I wouldn’t get that if I where you, he’s terrible!”

Survival Tip #1 : When approaching a Paulius in the wild, it is never a good idea to suddenly force an opinion on it as fact, especially delivered with authority, when you actually have no authority.. A wild Paulius does not suffer fools gladly, in fact, a wild Paulius does not suffer fools at all… and especially does not appreciate being dragged into a conversation without just cause.

“Hmmph.” I said, non-commitally, while still examining the book.

“Yeah, I read one of those a few months back, well…I didn’t finish it, it was terrible.

Survival Tip #2 : Although in this case, the non-commital ‘Hmmph’ actually meant: “Shut up, you complete and utter tool, I have absolutely no interest in anything you have to say, ever…so why don’t you just toddle off back to where ever it is you come from, and let me go about my day.” Most people, people that is, who aren’t as thick as submarine doors ,usually take the non-commital, dis-interested grunt as a statement of not wanting to continue the conversation.

I remained in silence, not making eye contact, using this as an experiment as to how much people will talk when you’re making it obvious you want them to go away.

“Yeah, it made no sense and…”

I tuned out.

Survival Tip #3 : It is not wise to approach a wild Paulius and open up a conversation by attacking something he absolutely adores. This is especially true when you pass judgment on a 30 book series, based on a single book you didn’t finish. For example, the wild Paulius, as a species, while being huge fans of the films, did not enjoy reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy. While the wild Paulius did not enjoy these books, they know that they’re both widely enjoyed and critically acclaimed. He therefore knows that the LoTR Trilogy is not crap…just not his cup of tea.

Meanwhile, the Lesser-but-not-lesser-spotted-enough Fuckwit continued blithering on:

“…all he does is rip-off J.K. Rowling!”

“WHAT!?!?” I exploded. I noticed for the first time that my new found literary critic was holding in her hands, a collection of Harlequin romance books. The ones that are about stable-boys with ‘steely’ eyes and heaving busoms. This is who I was taking literary advice from.

Survival Tip #4 : The wild Paulius, while being almost superhumanly tolerant of most idiots, as long as they provide some mild entertainment, has absolutely no tolerance for complete and total bullshit. It is not wise to, after already annoying a wild Paulius, to come out with a mouthful of pure truthless effluent. This is especially not wise in a book-store, the wild Paulius’ habitat of choice, as it contains many, many heavy hardback books, which he will use to bludgeon you to death.

“I said he rips of J.K. Rowling! That’s why I didn’t finish it.”

“How exactly does he rip her off?” I asked, letting my victim set herself up for my killing stroke. If we where in Analogy or Metaphor World, you would see me standing as the decoy, as my pack-mates Intelligence, Common Sense and Half-A-Fucking-Clue snuck stealthily around the book cases, crouched, claws drawn and ready to pounce.

Survival Tip #5 : When you unleash a ‘bombshell’ on a wild Paulius, and he looks at you like you’ve just grown an extra head, this is not because you have fazed him, or that he doesn’t understand your comment…it is because you are wrong and you are  sounding like a complete fuck-tard. It is best in situations like this to simply make your excuses and walk away.

The Fuckwit continued:

“He does it all the time!” She said, (how she knew this having only read part of a single book was beyond me). “He’s got a magical university, which is a rip-off of Hogwarts, he’s got wizards, ghosts, goblins…it’s all straight out of Harry Potter.”

Survival Tip #6: Implying that Joanne Rowling invented fantasy archetypes like wizards, witches and trolls is a sure fire way to set of a wild Paulius’ bullshit meter, and send him into an almost blind range.

I’d had enough. I looked at the encyclopedia on the shelf across the store. I had visions of walking over there, finding the biggest, heaviest volume, returning…and calmly knocking the dumb bitch out with it. Instead, I had a little fun.

“No, I don’t mean in what way did he rip her off…I mean, how do you think he managed it?” I asked.

“Huh?” She said. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, how do you think he actually did it? How did he manage to copy her work?”

“Well, Duh…” She began.

Survival Tip #7: When you a re a complete retard, do not say “Duh!” to a wild Paulius.

“…he read her books, took out the best bits and put it into his own story!”

“Well, I just find that amazing!” I said.

“Why is that amazing?” She said, with a tone and facial expression that is usually used on those occasions when the person you’re talking to, who up until that point appeared to be normal, suddenly starts doing the ‘chicken dance’ for absolutely no reason… while explaining to you that his large collection of toenail clippings tells him to burn things.

I opened the Discworld Book I was currently holding.

“Because, this Discworld book,” I said, “that features the magical university, wizards, witches and all that other good stuff, the good stuff that you accused him of ripping off, was actually written in 1986.”

I let that sink in for a moment.

“So, what you’re saying is that Terry Pratchett sat down at his writing desk, almost 20 years ago to the day, and completely a totally ripped off a story that wasn’t actually written for about another 15 years. Now that is one hell of a trick! Why didn’t I think of that? In fact, Stephen King is going to be releasing another book in a couple of years! I think when I get home, I’ll rip that off. I’ll be rich!”

Her demeanour changed from that of a person standing on rock, preaching to an adoring crowd, to that of a person standing on a piece of rapidly melting ice, over a piranha tank, while hungry polar bears stalk around the outside of the lake.

“Uhhh, ummm, ahhh…So you’re saying she ripped him off, are you?” She said, going on the defensive.

Now, what I wanted to say was:

“No, you complete and utter tool. No one ripped anyone off! I hate to tell you this, but ole J.K., while being a talented writer, did not actually invent the fantasy genre. Just because it was the first book of that type you read, doesn’t mean it was the first one ever written! We’re talking archetypes here, or if that word is too big for you, we’re talking fantasy wallpaper. Wizards nearly always wear pointy hats and carry a wand or a staff, there’s always an evil Orc, or a Goblin. There’s always a hero with a magic sword. What are you going to say next? That Shakespeare ripped off  the Wachowski Brothers, because Hamlet has a sword fight in it, and so does ‘The Matrix’? Why don’t you pull your foot out of your mouth, your head out your ass, and just fuck off and leave me alone, you complete and total retard!”

What I actually said was:

“Sigh, can you go away now please. I don’t want to waste any more time talking to you.”

In the end, I have to ask myself…am I wrong in beleiveing that people should have at least a passing acquaintance with the things they blather on about? Why do people assume that if they talk loudly and long enough, that’ll make up for complete and total ignorance of whatever it is they’re talking about?

Survival Tip #8 : If you don’t know what you’re talking about. Shut the fuck up. You’ll be doing everyone a favor.


Miz S said...

I would like to point out to everyone that I am not the idiot f-wad that he is describing in this post. I can't get into Terry Prachett books like I can JKRs but
I certainly am not stupid like this cow was.
That being cleared up- I have to go now.

OzzyC said...

Hmmmmm.... interesting that Sunny felt the immediate need to defend herself.

Vicarious Living said...

I've been considering Pratchett for a while now based on recommendations from people I respect. A copy of Going Postal is sitting on my shelf. Not all the story lines appeal to me, however. Do they need to be read in order?

Also, the fact that the woman was holding a stack of Harlequins should not necessarily be held against her. The fact that she forced conversation on an innocent book browser, should. I hate that.

Paulius said...

Each Discworld book is a 'stand-alone' novel, in that you don't HAVE to have read them in sequence to enjoy them. (In other words, reach book has a beginning, middle and end...they're set in a persistent universe, but it's not a series in the sense that you have to read them in order for them to make sense).

On the other hand, I'd recommend reading them in order (except for the first two, I didn't like them very much), because if you don't, there's lots of little 'in-jokes' and references you won't get.

Read Going Postal. That one was fairly good. It's not his best, but saying that about Pratchett is like saying a particular painting wasn't Monet's best. IE, still great.

Kato said...

Well done, sir. I could see that one coming a mile away and you handled it like a pro.

And you're right, no one ripped anyone off (or maybe everyone rips everyone else off). Even Tolkien, who is generally considered the father of modern high-fantasy, created a great deal of his world out of the combined myths and legends of a number of peoples.

If she thinks JKR has been ripped off by Pratchett, she would have been shocked to see that there is a whole section of novels that stole those very same archetypes (wizards, ghosts, goblins.) I believe they are under F, for Fantasy. ;)