In the sixteenth part of Maskerade, I love everything this book chooses to be. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
I’m just gonna jump right into this because I so desperately need to read the next section. I can’t believe that Pratchett found a way to make the adage of “The show must go on” INTO A THEMATIC PLOT POINT. That’s so clever, y’all! But I actually saw it as a joke and a bit of admiration for how tenacious and persistent theater folks can be. I’m basing that mostly on what Granny does for Walter Plinge, which I’ll get to at the end of this review, but I really do get the sense that this is humorous and flattering. They’re not mutually exclusive!
Anyway, I’ll touch on that more in a bit. It’s nice that my suspicion of André turned into something, though I get why never would have guessed that he was actually a secret policeman. I’m very excited to get to the next book about the Watch because I WANT TO KNOW HOW ELSE IT HAS CHANGED. Who else joined? What other policies are new? GIMME IT ALL. But André’s reveal also provides the story with another character who has put together many of the pieces of this mystery. André isn’t a bumbling fool, even if he didn’t figure out that Salzella was behind everything before Nanny did. (!!!!) He sure got close, though. Where he’s a step behind, though, is in refusing to see the Ghost as two separate people. He claims that he was with Walter when Dr. Undershaft was murdered, thus exonerating Walter; yet he was in view of Salzella when the Ghost was seen that night, exonerating him.
“Life isn’t neat! Whoever said there’s only one Ghost?”
I love Granny’s phrasing here. Life isn’t neat. It’s complicated and layered and hard to categorize. And isn’t that a great summary of what we’ve seen here in Maskerade? You can’t simplify characters like Walter or Agnes, or even Mr. Salzella for that matter! The same goes for Henry Slugg or the witches. Life isn’t neat, and ultimately, Pratchett respects that through his story. He does that first with chaos, and y’all, I am still so endlessly amused by the sheer chaotic beauty of the unmasking sequence. That’s not an easy thing to accomplish, but my god, it unfolds so well. I love that after these characters all realize that Salzella is probably onstage and hiding in plain sight, Pratchett jumps to Henry Lawsy’s point of view. This allows us to see the action from a third party, and… Y’ALL.
Bless you, Terry Pratchett, for this:
As the fat ballerina collided with a donkey in evening dress she staggered and grabbed at his mask, which came off…
The dancers, after a moment’s confusion during which Nanny Ogg took the opportunity to decapitate a clown and a phoenix, tried to continue.
The chorus watched in bemusement.
It’s all made even funnier when other audience members think they’ve seen this before. See, this is where Pratchett’s satire hits the hardest. He pokes so much fun at the kind of snobby theatergoer who claims to have seen it all when THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED IN THE HISTORY OF THEATER. (I say that, but then I’m aware of that amazing thread on Tumblr about actual theater mishaps that sounds like a list of impossible urban legends. I wish I could find it!)
Of course, because this book must torment me, we cut away from the reveal that Salzella knocked out Henry Slugg and poorly took his place (IS HE GOING TO SING!!!), but I’m okay with that. There are a number of really, really powerful moments in this book, but holy shit. I’m still reeling from Granny’s Right and Wrong monologue, not only because it shows us the kind of character she is, but because it tells how Pratchett thinks of Walter Plinge.
I know I mentioned this in the last review, but the sympathy and kindness that this text shows this character is simply one of my favorite things about Maskerade. This passage is a good example of that:
Mrs. Plinge had taught him to read using the old programs. That’s how he knew he was part of it all. But he knew that anyway. He’d cut what teeth he had on a helmet with horns on it. The first bed he could remember was the very same trampoline used by Dame Gigli in the infamous Bouncing Gigli incident.
Walter Plinge lived opera. He breathed its songs, painted its scenery, lit its fires, washed its floors and shined its shoes. Opera filled up places in Walter Plinge that might otherwise have been empty.
And now the show had stopped.
Pratchett recognizes that Walter is the life of opera in this book. He’s the character most dedicated to the appreciation of it and the love for it. (Which means he can easily be contrasted with Mr. Bucket, who owns the Opera House but doesn’t always know what to do with it, or with Salzella, who may love opera but is using it to destroy others.) So when he has a breakdown over what must be the first time the show has stopped in his life, Granny does something beautiful for him: headology. I appreciated the distinction that Pratchett made between it and psychiatry:
A psychiatrist, dealing with a man who fears he is being followed by a large and terrible monster, will endeavor to convince him that monsters don’t exist. Granny Weatherwax would simply give him a chair to stand on and a very heavy stick.
So what she does here is empower Walter to do something good. She does this by admitting that Walter might be different and strange, but that does not mean he is Wrong. (“Tangled,” she tells him, but not “twisted.”) That difference is important because Granny knows that Walter has a good heart inside of him. If he didn’t? Well, Salzella’s Ghost is what he might have become. She likens the “twisted” mind to Black Aliss because she was a witch who used her power to be Wrong. It’s a moral judgement, sure, but it’s why she refrains from treating Salzella with cruelty. It might be the easiest solution, but is it Right?
No. So she gives Walter his mask and she validates him. That’s the magic she refers to in this section: the power of belief and confidence. That mask gives Walter the confidence he needs to be himself, and there is nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all.
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