Punishment from the gods

Apologies for lack of posting, I’ve been struck down by something resembling the flu. I was lucky as it wasn’t quite as full-on I WANT TO DIE as it’s been described by some (although there were a few hours like that), but deeply unpleasant and not recommended nonetheless.

Anway, I’ve not been blogging much during this time as:
1) it hurt to open my eyes
2) it hurt to focus on things
3) I wasn’t in a particularly temperate mood about things
4) in some kind of properly-ridiculous instilled-Protestant-values stylee, I felt guilty about doing something that involved writing words on a computer while too ill to be at work writing words on a computer.

(yes, I know the latter is silly: the words I write at work are much more boring, based on spreadsheets, and told to people who actually need to listen to them, whereas blogging is just about writing what I want to write and that I hope will be interesting. This is why I’m very jealous of columnists, both the ones who are better writers than me and the ones who are much worse.)

Before everything went properly wrong – although I was feeling distinctly foul which may explain its belligerent tone and/or incoherence – I wrote an article on comedy for Liberal Conspiracy. My comment #7 telling everyone who didn’t like the piece to fuck off was written with screwed-open eyes the day after the piece, which was the worst day of the fluidity; apologies.

I did manage to discover, on finally prising myself out of bed, the excellent-if-you’re-ill-and-your-brain-isn’t-working-properly Swiss Railway Journeys. This isn’t your average travel show, or even your average trainspotter show. Swiss trains are electric, modern and identical to each other. Swiss railway lines vary between slightly hilly and very hilly, as does Swiss countryside. The programme is narrated by the world’s most boring man, in the same tone as the football scores. Occasionally they take a five-minute digression to visit a cheese factory, which is modern, automated and spotlessly clean. The whole thing is set to non-stop elevator music. It’s somewhere between Buddhism, Last Of The Summer Wine and hell.

I also read Terry Pratchett’s Nation; I figured something actively marketed as a children’s book, by a man who normally writes children’s books marketed as adults’ books [*], would be at about the right level of taxing for my mental state. I was right… and it was moving and sweet and well-written and it’s definitely a book you should give to children. Particularly ones who happen to have right-wing parents.

However, I couldn’t quite get away from its resemblance to something else. According to an online review (although I haven’t seen the quote elsewhere), Pratchett has said:

To summarize Nation is quite impossible

This is lies, I can do it in four words: “shorter His Dark Materials”.

[*] this isn’t a criticism of Pratchett. It’s a criticism of people who think he’s in a different category of writer from Philip Pullman, Roald Dahl and other writers of clever children’s books.

5 thoughts on “Punishment from the gods

  1. Not sure about your take on Pratchett – I see where you're coming from, and this isn't meant as a Pointless Attempt To Stick Up For Someone Who Doesn't Need Sticking Up For – but I'm not sure the Discworld books are any more children-y than H2G2.

    Besides: I'm not sure there are categories of writer. There are categories of *writing*, of course, but that's a function of paying the bills, getting the publicity, and finding a comfortable rut.

    Could Pratchett write something like Dahl's non-children's stuff? Interesting thought.

    Oh, and Small Gods > His Dark Materials > what I've heard/skimmed of The God Delusion. IMHO, YMMV, and all those other hand-wavy acronyms.

  2. Sorry to hear you were ill.

    I thought the LC post was a very good 'blog post, and should have said so in the comments. I didn't agree with most of it, but that's not the point, or the point, if you see what I mean.

  3. Swiss railway journeys, meanwhile; actual Swiss railways are incredibly great. It really is a case of the ticket agent looking at you strangely if you ask when the next train to Bern is – you don't need to know, they come every 134 seconds!

    And they have WLAN and power, and coat rails at the end of each carriage; just the thing if you're preparing n hundred ppt slides on the run.

    Just a pity that they're…in Switzerland.

  4. @Matt, thanks on both.

    @Alex, indeed so. When negativist-UK-infrastructure bores go on about railways on the Continent (and they do, usually, say 'on the Continent'), they're normally wrong: SNCF outside TGVs is notably worse than anything comparable in the UK; DB and NS are no better than UK rail now (although they are slightly better than UK rail in 2001, which is a bit like being higher ranked than the UK at baseball); and Spanish railways veer crazily between absolutely excellent and absolutely excerable. But Swiss railways are always excellent. It's a shame the foreign railways that own UK TOCs are DB, NS and SNCF (Keolis), rather than SBB…

  5. Hope you're feeling better, John.

    Re:Nation. I enjoyed it, but thought the epilogue a bit didactic (a quality it shares IMHO with 2 and 3 of Pullman's trilogy). It marks something of a return to form, far better than the Watch sequels. I enjoyed "Making Money", too.

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