A literary snob pisses on Terry Pratchett’s grave

A couple of days ago, Toni Weisskopf posted a link to this letter from Edgar Rice Burroughs to a young Forrest J. Ackerman. It’s a pithy letter, shorter than most blog posts, but is a prescient rebuttal to this hot mess of a Guardian article appearing almost exactly 84 years later.

The Guardian:

Life is too short to waste on ordinary potboilers.


No fiction is worth reading except for entertainment… If it forms the habit of reading, in people who might not read otherwise, it is the best literature.

The Guardian:

By dissolving the difference between serious and light reading, our culture is justifying mental laziness and robbing readers of the true delights of ambitious fiction.


That, however, seems to be a universal pedagogical complex: to make the acquiring of knowledge a punishment, rather than a pleasure.

Our critic at the Guardian seems to be of a piece with Forrest J. Ackerman’s long forgotten teacher. Great literature must require effort! If something is accessible, one need not apply. . . Not like anyone from the canon of English literature ever wrote for the masses *cough*Dickens*cough*. And while our critic sings the praises of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, somehow I suspect he might contemplate seppuku before deigning to touch a modern regency romance.

So while our arbiter of taste at the Guardian says “I am not saying this as a complacent book snob” I may just invoke the words of that author of 16th Century potboilers and say he “doth protest too much.” After all, who but a snob would open a critique of an author by saying “I have never read a single one of his books and I never plan to. Life’s too short… Pratchett is so low on my list of books to read before I die that I would have to live a million years before getting round to him.”

If you wanted to efficiently display literary bigotry, mean-spiritedness, close-mindedness, and pretention all wrapped in a bundle of industrial strength smug, and do it in as few words as possible, you couldn’t do better than emulating this opening. Of course, our “critic” does let us know that he “did flick through a book by him in a shop, to see what the fuss is about, but the prose seemed very ordinary.”

I guess this guy isn’t a Hemingway fan either.

But, I think, the worst part of this vile literary emetic is its apparent genesis. Our “critic” was upset at “the huge fuss attending and following [Pratchett’s] death this year.” Read that again. Our purveyor of literary light, our guide to the right and good in the fictive universe, is upset that people made a fuss when Terry Pratchett died. I know there’s this British thing about reserve and overt displays of emotion, but really… can someone’s heart be so black to object to people’s sorrow over the man’s death? Oh, and just when you couldn’t think less of his argument, he throws a swift kick at Ray Bradbury’s corpse as well.

So, in conclusion, I suggest if you want to critique the ovure of a recently deceased author and want to be taken seriously you avoid the following pitfalls:

  1. Don’t admit you never read the their work, or intend to in the future.
  2. Don’t call the readers of their work lazy.
  3. Don’t say no one should have made such a big fuss when they died.

2 Replies to “A literary snob pisses on Terry Pratchett’s grave”

  1. Firstly it must be considered that our economy rests solely on the basis of interactions, if you cannot prove your worth to society by motivating them through some means to interact with you or your works, thou shalt not e suffered to live. In this context such take on their own value as what is known as ‘clickbait.’

    Humanity is a supremely social creature, the evidence and the result of that is compound learning: What one learns they may impart to another without forcing each individual to self-discover, the good teacher is required to find means to impart method and/or fact in such a way that others may progress from their own state with less effort than it would take without the intervention of social means.

    Anything less is an appeal to primitivism.

    Pratchett succeeded in this, but also rewards effort, both in the recognition & the future employ. His use of oblique humour asks the reader to analyse their own conclusions & certainties and how they arrived at them.

    Self-mockery is an essential tool to the rational…the ability to not just understand but internalise implicit fallibility & such works as Pratchett’s are essential to the maintenance of such. I wonder, even, if it might not be a good method of testing for sociopathic tendency, to scan a brain whilst it’s reading pratchett :-p

    The article truly qualifies as trash itself, clearly,being based on no evidence, no relevant experience whatsoever.

  2. I don’t believe he’s dead. Where is he buried exactly ? Where was he cremated? How exactly do you die from alzheimers? Saw him in Kings Lynn two days ago.

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