People of the Books: Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett

Sorry this is a bit later this week than usual, Reader; it’s been quite the week (month, year, life) and I’ve had a morning of a lot of doors closing/windows opening type things.  Not necessarily conducive to blog-writing, yet very conducive in a much different way….

So I bring to you the world of Terry Pratchett, a man with satire rather than blood in his veins.  He invented Discworld, which is a flat planet carried through space on the backs of four elephants perched on top of a giant turtle.  And it goes from there; the whole series is a send-up of everything from opera to women in combat to Macbeth.  It’s fantastic, is what it is, and I am forever indebted to an elfin friend of mine for introducing me to it.

What place does all of this have in a spirituality-centered blog?  One just left of center, as most of Pratchett’s books are.  Carpe Jugulum isn’t really about religion, primarily; it’s about vampires, uppity vampires, at that, vampires that want to spell it vampyres to be fashionable and hip.  And there are witches, kings, a very particular Igor, and a cat that’s not totally a cat, but most importantly, there is a priest.

The Quite Reverend Mightily Oats of the Religion of Om is never explicitly Christian, of course, because there is no Christianity in Discworld—and it would be quite out of place, considering the squabbling greed of the other gods at the center of the Disc.  But the gentle (sometimes less so) ribbing of organized religion presented here is nothing short of wonderful.  The services, the books, the jewelry, the prayers, the outfits; sure, it’s more poking fun at Puritans than modern Christians, but there’s just enough ambiguity for everyone of any organized religion to recognize a piece of themselves in the bumbling nervous doubt of Reverend Oats.  The book, surprisingly, deals with what happens when you realize that religion has to have some faith attached to it.  This is a pretty serious thing.

One of the doors closing (although it’s less that it closed and more that it sort of swung halfway and got stuck on its own expanded wood frame) this morning was talking with my old pastor about finally switching my membership to my church up here in my new city.  This is a big deal for me on a number of levels, and it’s interesting to talk with him about how that church and its people will always be my family, no matter whether my name is on a roster or not.  Likewise, with this book, Oats has to find out whether Om, his god, is there when the amulets, writings, hymns and sects just don’t cut it anymore.

One of the things I really like about Discworld is that it’s sneakily smart; you never quite realize how deep it is if you look right at it because you’re distracted by the sheer silliness of it.  But then you look away and out of the corner of your eye you see the optical illusion it was; it’s not flat and ridiculous (well, it is, but that’s not all of it), but it’s sharp, sly, and incredibly good at baring the bits of society and humanity that we don’t particularly like to talk about when we’re not in buildings that were specifically built for Very Important Meetings of various kinds.

I won’t spoil the ending for you, but I’ll give you this quote to get to what I’m trying to say:

“‘The world is…different.’  Oats’s gaze went out across the haze, and the forests, and the purple mountains.  ‘Everywhere I look I see something holy.’  For the first time since he’d met her, he saw Granny Weatherwax smile properly.  Normally her mouth went up at the corners just before something unpleasant was going to happen to someone who deserved it, but this time she appeared to be pleased with what she’d heard.  ‘That’s a start, then,’ she said.”

Rating:  5/5 stars          

3 thoughts on “People of the Books: Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett

  1. Thank you to both of you! Ron–I must thank you for your blogs of the last month or so; I just finished writing my class for tomorrow morning (why yes, it is 11:30 at night, why do you ask?) and I think a lot of the stuff that you’ve been expanding was percolating as I was working on it.

    Sheila–I hope to continue to learn how to see things in this way from you. I’m still a bit of a rookie at it, often.


  2. Ron Johnson says:

    Sounds like an interesting series. Thanks for introducing us to it. And I wish you the very best in that “closing doors/opening windows” thing.


  3. Sheila Bigelow says:

    And a fine start it is. So often it is what keeps me going.


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