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Reaping What You Didn't Sow Wednesday

What I've Finished Reading

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett. Death is fired for imprudently developing a personality, and his functions are put on hold until a suitable replacement can be found. This naturally leads to a lot of confusion and mess, but for a little while Death is able to enjoy his new job as a farm laborer and his new friends down at the pub. Children and wizards can see his true form, but it doesn't cause as much trouble as you might expect.

[Hallo, skelington.]

"Hallo, skelington."

He swiveled around.

The small child of the house was watching him with the most penetrating gaze he had ever seen.

"You are a skelington, aren't you," she said. "I can tell because of the bones."

[. . .]


She regarded the old men at the other end of the bench.

"They're nearly skelingtons anyway," she said. "I shouldn't think they'd want to see another one."

He gave in.


"Why don't you fall to bits?"


"I've seen skelingtons of birds and things and they all fall to bits."


"I can tell because of the bones." <3 I enjoyed this book almost as much as Mort. Every scene involving Death settling in to village life was pure gold, and the rest was a mix of good, great, not-so-great, and amazing, with a little confusion and some clunkiness scattered in for good measure. Will Death save the day? Do you even have to ask? I'm delighted with Terry Pratchett for making the Grim Reaper such an unexpectedly (and hilariously) sympathetic protagonist.

What I'm Reading Now

Time of Hope has the strongest start of any C. P. Snow book yet! Or maybe I just like stories about kids having to deal with their parents' problems. Lewis Eliot is the narrator we've had all along, with the same transparent style. The different threads are beginning to meet each other here: we've got George Passant, who was the central figure of Strangers and Brothers, and another reference to Roy's youthful infatuation with Jack and the scandal it causes when his parents find out.

I liked the scene when Lewis' father takes him to a cricket match, the first sports game they have gone to together, in order to break the news that he is about to file for bankruptcy. As Mr. Eliot watches the players, he begins to daydream about a new career:

"Lewis," he said, "do they have to be very strong to play this game?"

"Some batsmen," I said confidently, having read a lot of misleading books, "score all their runs by wristwork." I demonstrated the principle of the leg-glance.

"Just turn their wrists, do they?" said my father. He studied the players in the field. "But they seem to be pretty big chaps, most of these? Do they have to be big chaps?"

"Quaife is ever such a little man. Quaife of Warwickshire."

"How little is he? Is he shorter than me?"

"Oh yes."

I was not sure of the facts, but I knew that somehow the answer would please my father. He received it with obvious satisfaction.

He pursued his chain of thought.

"How old do they go on playing?"

"Very old," I said.

"Older than me?"

My father was forty-five. I assured him that W. G. Grace went on playing till he was fifty-eight. My father smiled reflectively.

"How old can they be when they play for the first time? Who is the oldest man to play here for the first time?"

For all my Wisden, it was beyond me to tell him the record age of a first appearance in first-class cricket. I could only give my father general encouragement.

He was given to romantic day-dreams, and that morning he was indulging in one of them. He was dreaming that all of a sudden he had become miraculously skilled at cricket; he was brought into the middle, everyone acclaimed him, he won instantaneous fame. It would not have done for the dream to be absolutely fantastic. It had to take him as he was, forty-five years old and five feet four in height. He would not imagine himself taken back to youth and transformed into a man strong, tall and glorious. No, he accepted himself in the flesh. He grinned at himself -- and then dreamed about all that could happen.

Lady Chatterly's Lover is chattering along. I'm a little bored with the endless references to "the bitch-goddess, Success" and her hapless hound-prostitute-acolytes. I get it! Success is a bitch-goddess! This imagery is theoretically pungent but strangely unspecific. The multiple significant glares of Mellors the Gamekeeper are also boring - in both senses, I guess. But I'm a sucker for earnest early twentieth-century cocktail-party sex talk, and LCL is almost nothing but. DID YOU KNOW that our civilization is about to fall into a bottomless chasm of malaise? Did you know that when that happens, the only bridge across the chasm will be the phallus? It's true! Or, maybe not true in a strict sense, but you have to admit it sounded pretty smart for a second there! Or if not smart, exactly, at least mildly titillating, and isn't that what this broken-backed eunuch of a country needs? No offence, Clifford :(.

Also, real men and real women are in alarmingly short supply in these rootless times! What makes men and women real? No one knows for sure, but it's clear what real men and women don't do: they don't lounge around in the Chatterlys' drawing room quipping about sex taxonomy over brandy like these jokers.

I thought Connie's experience with the needy playwright Michaelis and his humiliating criticism of her was very well drawn, and maybe a good metonomy for Connie's sense of betrayal and confusion in general - not just by sex, but by all the ideals of adulthood that seem to have dissolved at close range, like walking into a cloud. Connie has finally hired a nurse for Clifford and started taking long walks in her free time, which means that D. H. Lawrence has the chance to do some of that seasonal description he's good at.

What I Plan to Read Next

The further adventures of Death? And when I finish Time of Hope I'll be up to 1950 in my 99 Novels chronology, which means Scenes from Provincial Life by William Cooper and The Disenchanted by Budd Sculberg, two books I know nothing about!


( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 11th, 2016 01:29 pm (UTC)
DEATH is probably my favorite Discworld character. He's so strangely poignant! He just wants to hang out with people and have a nice time, only the grim reaper thing keeps calling him back.

Hahaha, yes, the phallus as the bridge over the chasm of the future certainly is an arresting image, although upon further thought, who knows quite what it means? But I guess they're all a bit sloshed on brandy, so it doesn't need to mean anything really. And probably this just contributes to Connie's sense of malaise: she looks back at all that scintillating cocktail talk and sees more nothingness beneath it.

I'm hoping that as we get to know Mellors better he will develop a bit more character than the constant glaring. Also a bit puzzled by Lawrence's decision to have Mellors make his daughter cry as one of the earliest acts we see him commit. "Makes children weep" is just not high on my list of romantic qualities.

And yes, D. H. Lawrence's seasonal descriptions! He's so good at that. Just let the bitch-goddess Sucess rest and tell me more about flowers, Lawrence.
May. 11th, 2016 02:11 pm (UTC)
I am very, very, very fond of DEATH and his work ethic and his necessarily interrupted holidays.

I am too literal-minded, because my first reaction to the phallus proclamation was, "That's a terrible bridge! Just use a plank! Something with a flat surface! I don't want to walk on that >:("

I could be very wrong at this point, but I don't think Mellors is supposed to be romantic so much as REAL. REAL LIFE makes children weep; REAL LIFE is sometimes cruel, or maybe violent without moral judgments; Connie lives in a fog of abstractions and is seeking something REAL (which is part of the reason why the seasonal descriptions have gotten so good, maybe?).

(It's an interesting choice to have Connie judge/dislike the child as she tries to comfort her - to agree with Mellors' assessment of her as a "false female.")
May. 11th, 2016 03:58 pm (UTC)
I think you have a point about Mellors being the avatar is all that is REAL. He is a fresh breath of physical reality that will blow away the fog that surrounds Connie.

There's a definite theme about children going on in this book - not just Mellors' crying little girl, but Clifford's desire for an heir, and Connie's for a child (and Connie's dismay at the difference between wanting an heir and a child). Maybe that will be the ending? Connie will have a child.

It's unusual for a book to leave me so out to sea as to how it might end.

What the Chatterleys really need is for Flora Post to come visit and sort everything out. She would pack Connie off for a holiday in Italy (and with Flora at the helm, Connie wouldn't be able to slip out of it like she does in the book) and, uh, well, IDK what she'd do with Clifford. But doubtless she would come up with something.
May. 11th, 2016 04:14 pm (UTC)
What the Chatterleys really need is for Flora Post to come visit and sort everything out.

I haven't ever even read Lady Chatterley, but this is so clearly perfect and true and hilarious. It should be a Yuletide request.

ETA!! Oh! Leave it as a prompt at the commentfest!! Please!

Edited at 2016-05-11 04:19 pm (UTC)
May. 11th, 2016 09:58 pm (UTC)
May. 12th, 2016 12:31 pm (UTC)

Also, I'm sorry, I don't know where all those !!s came from.
May. 11th, 2016 08:12 pm (UTC)
What the Chatterleys really need is for Flora Post to come visit and sort everything out.

AGREED. The sooner the better.
May. 11th, 2016 03:00 pm (UTC)
LCL was a little yawmy for my taste - but it has been a long, long time since I have read it!

May. 11th, 2016 08:31 pm (UTC)
I don't think it's going to become my favorite book of all time, but I'm enjoying it so far. DHL has some to-me irritating tendencies but he also writes so well about nature and animals, and especially right now about the kind of ugly, sloppy early springs I grew up with (the kind that make April the cruelest month). His metaphorical dogs are not my speed but his literal hens are perfect. I don't know yet if I can recommend it overall, but the man knows his chickens.

May. 11th, 2016 04:18 pm (UTC)
Death is excellent, and the good thing about him is that he can at least cameo in all the books, because Death is always present. (My favourite is... well, I don't know, but probably Granny Weatherwax, because Granny Weatherwax and I like all the witches books most consistently. My favourite Discworld book though is The Truth & sadly I can now say that that won't change. :-/)
May. 11th, 2016 08:41 pm (UTC)
I don't think I've encountered Granny Weatherwax yet! Maybe I should read The Truth next? What book would you suggest?
May. 11th, 2016 09:16 pm (UTC)
Granny Weatherwax first appears in Equal Rites, although her first book proper is Wyrd Sisters, which is sort of a Macbeth parody. Wyrd Sisters is therefore a good place to start, and if you like them, you can follow the witches through Witches Abroad (fairy tales), Lords and Ladies (A Midsummer Night's Dream & actual fairies), Maskerade (opera and Phantom of the Opera) and Carpe Jugulum (vampires/Dracula). Granny Weatherwax and some of the other witches characters also turn up in the YA Tiffany Aching books (including the final Pratchett, which I haven't read yet, though I have Heard Things).

I feel confident you will like Granny Weatherwax, but only you can tell. And Nanny Ogg, who has got through many husbands and can make an innuendo out of anything.

Much as I like Death, my favourite strands within Discworld is the witches, then the City Watch. (I don't know if you have read Guards! Guards! but as it parodies every detective noir thingy known to humankind, given your current reading, you ought to get a kick out of the references at least if you ever get around to it.) The Truth is one of the standalones, but it's a later one and is probably more fun if you already know who the background Ankh-Morpork people are, like the Patrician and Vimes and things. (Who mostly turn up in the City Watch books).
May. 14th, 2016 01:11 am (UTC)
I don't know if you have read Guards! Guards! but as it parodies every detective noir thingy known to humankind

Looks like we've solved the problem of which one I should read next!

(I promise to check out the witches, too)
May. 14th, 2016 07:57 pm (UTC)
It is a noir detective parody with dragons. *nods*
May. 11th, 2016 10:01 pm (UTC)
The Truth is my favorite Discworld book too! Unless it's Going Postal. Or Monstrous Regiment. So many fun books in that series!
May. 12th, 2016 12:32 pm (UTC)
There are! I often tend to love the ones where I know the thing that's being parodied, so Maskerade and Moving Pictures and some others are favourites, but The Truth wins out. I do like Going Postal very much, too though. (I need to re-read Monstrous Regiment, because it seems to be a huge favourite with so many people, but it's one of the few I actively disliked on my first reading.)
May. 11th, 2016 07:41 pm (UTC)
Reaper Man is so good. I reread it recently and still loved it. And Death! He is the best.
May. 11th, 2016 08:51 pm (UTC)
Death is a masterpiece.

I guess the only Death-centric book left is Soul Music? Is that right? Not that I can't read books about other things, but. . . I <3 Death.
May. 11th, 2016 08:55 pm (UTC)
He (and Susan!) have a fairly big role in Thief of Time also. And Death technically appears in every single Discworld novel, even though sometimes it's only for a single line. The Death in Good Omens is pretty much the same character also, although that's not a Discworld book - though again, it's just a minor role. (More than one line, though! He, and the other Horsemen of the Apocalypse, have several scenes.)
May. 12th, 2016 05:53 pm (UTC)
Death is a love:)

Fear not for as everyone else says he pops up in the other Discworld books. It was interesting re-reading 'The Colour of Magic' as Death is nastier in it and he's determined to get Rincewind. He starts to change in 'The Light Fantastic'. I'm currently in the middle of LF and it's def more Prachetty than the first discworld novel. For your next TP book I'd say 'Guards, Guards' or 'Wyrd Sisters' although I prefer 'Witches Abroad' (my first TP book) to WS, but WA has mild spoilers for WS so it's up to you.

Yeah, but it's not gonna be a very long bridge is it, cocktail dudes?
May. 14th, 2016 02:22 am (UTC)
I mean, I assume we're dealing with mythical proportions rather than human ones for this imagery, but still. I think the cocktail dudes just say things without thinking sometimes.

Guards! Guards! being a noir detective parody has sealed the deal in its favor!
May. 14th, 2016 03:13 pm (UTC)
Hurrah! For GG, not giant phalluses;p
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )


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