In the eighth part ofÂ Soul Music, Susan confronts Death, and the band plays on. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to readÂ Discworld.Â
Susan Meets Deathâ€¦ Again
Simply put, I don’t know that anyone has ever stood up to Death quite like Susan Sto Helit has. There is an unwavering stubbornness to her that’s admirable all by itself, but given the context of this conversation, it’s empowering. I had to remind myself that Pratchett was pulling me back to a version of Death that had not experienced much development beyond the emotionless we met early in the series. He does that by portraying Death as far more cutthroat and cynical that he usually is. That’s not to suggest he’sÂ neverÂ like this or that his personality here is a far stretch from his current state.
Plus, I acknowledge that Susan sees Death, Mort, and Ysabell during a particularly vulnerable moment. Death wants nothing more than to wash his hands of all stains of humanity, and thus, I think his words to Susan are that much more harsh. Perhaps in a less hostile environment, he might have said something different, but this was the scene that Susan was dropped into. Does she even get the information that she wants? Not really! I keep re-reading their conversation, and after Susan explains her problem, I see Death distracting Susan. Deflecting concerns. Jumping from one topic to the next. Asking about cats and chocolate! When they finallyÂ doÂ talk about Buddy, Death makes a few puns, and their conversation spirals into an argument.
Well, okay, I shouldn’t discount that there’sÂ sortÂ of an answer here. Death claims that Buddy has rhythm in his soul:
HE HAS NO LIFE. HE HAS MUSIC.
“Music’s taken him over?”
YOU COULD PUT IT LIKE THAT.
“Making his life longer?”
LIFE IS EXTENSIBLE. IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME AMONG HUMANS. NOT OFTEN. USUALLY TRAGICALLY. IN A THEATRICAL KIND OF WAY. BUT THIS ISN’T ANOTHER HUMAN. THIS IS MUSIC.
I mean, I figured as much, but it’s still a fairly vague statement, isn’t it? Is music a spirit? A magical force? Why hasn’t it taken ahold of someone in a long time? WhyÂ Buddy?
It’s hard to focus on this issue, though, when what feels most memorable about this exchange is Death’s insistence that most humans waste their lives and it’s futile to ever try to change that. Now, we understand part of the reason that Death has this reaction; he had a hard time adjusting to Ysabell and Mort. While I can’t claim to know whatÂ thisÂ argument was about, Death is clearly in a mood. Yet that’s not the sole reason he believes what he does. After spending all of existence ferrying souls to their afterlife, wouldn’t he naturally develop a cynicism towards the whole thing?
This is aÂ DiscworldÂ book, though, and time and time again, one character has changed the world. (Even if it was just changing the worldÂ backÂ to how it was.) Death may believe at that moment that change is worthless, but we’re looking at a snapshot from seventeen years prior. I don’t know that the Death of theÂ currentÂ time would even agree with him. I do know that Susan absolutely does not, and I’m fascinated to see what she’s going to do next.
The Band with the Rocks In
I’d be lying if I didn’t imagine success and fame as a musician. Truthfully, there’s still a part of me that wants it, that wants to stand on stage in a giant stadium or arena with my guitar strapped to me, experiencing the rush of energy that comes from live music. I got little tastes of that when I was in a hardcore band, and it was addicting. I nearly wanted to quit my job at Buzznet at one point and tour permanently. That’s how powerful that urge was. (Seriously, though, I really want to start a posi-core wizard wrock band at some point. I need it.) Suffice to say, that’s not the path I ended up on. I turned to live music photography andÂ finallyÂ got to tour the United States, which got the bug in my system to travel, and it’s been ongoing since then.
But there’s a part of the satire here in “Soul Music” that actually touches on a real phenomenon. From naming your band (thankfully, I’ve never had to) to imagining your pile of riches (we never got any, but once we made $300 from a show and were so floored by it that we immediately spent half of it on laser tag, which I do not regret) to figuring out your style (never had one, but there are photos that exist in this fine universe of when IÂ didÂ experiment with my looks back in 2003/2004, and I wore a lot of black nail polish and eyeliner), Pratchett draws from something true to tellÂ thisÂ story.
So why aren’t certain people affected by the music? Ridcully , Satchelmouth, and his associates seem to avoid the trance-like pull of the music created by The Band with the Rocks In. Music, mind you, that Ridcully realizes isÂ alive. ALIVE HOW? What the hell did Buddy unleash onto Ankh-Morpork?
The original text contains use of the words “crazy” and “stupid.”
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