In the third part of Thud!, Fred and Nobby are alerted to a crime that suggests a deeper mystery surrounding Koom Valley Day. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For talk of sex work, particularly the demonization of sex workers
I’m gonna be real honest: I could read Fred Colon and Nobby Nobbs giving art criticism FOREVER. Not only are they hilarious, but they hit to the core of the inherent absurdity of modern art. And I like modern art a lot! I tend to gravitate to more surreal stuff, I love installations, and I know there are a lot of artists I enjoy who create art that is so fucking weird it doesn’t seem like art. But it’s through this conversation in the museum that a few important points are brought up, and I’m curious to see how Pratchett will tie them into the novel as a whole.
However, before we get to that and Mr. Reynolds, let’s talk about Nobby and Tawneee. I think there’s only so much here that I can address without straying out of my lane, but on the surface, it felt obvious that Pratchett was pushing back on the very common and real notions that Fred vocalizes to his friend. Through his words, he makes it clear that he finds Tawneee as less deserving of respect and love because she’s a stripper. Nobby often counters this harmful way of thinking with an almost unintended purity; he literally cannot understand why she should be spoken of this way. They love one another, she has a job, and isn’t it all a little hypocritical?
“Is this a trick question, Sarge?” he said at last. “‘Cos I know for a fact that Haddock has got that picture pinned up in his locker and every time he opens it he goes, ‘Pwaor, will you look at th—‘”
In this, a common line of thinking is addressed, and it’s not just straight men who are like this. Oh no, I can assure y’all that gay men are just as gross about this very thing. In one breath, they’ll claim someone who does sex work is being tacky and gross, but they’re still pleasuring themselves to their photos and videos or participating in active objectification of them. It’s about what Tawneee gets to exist as, right? Fred can’t fathom her being a normal woman who has normal feelings and desires because of what she does for a living. Thus, she is somehow beneath Nobby as a potential romantic partner.
It’s bullshit and misogynist and contributes to the stigma around sex work, and I’m glad that it’s pointed out how even nudity itself has “acceptable” or “classy” uses, and in this case, it’s how men consume that nudity that changes its context.
Anyway, let’s talk about The Battle of Koom Valley. I had so much fun reading this scene aloud, and I am fully aware that the accent I gave Sir Reynold makes no sense at all but IT WAS FUN OKAY. I have a close friend who DESPISES modern art, so much so that once when we were in a museum together and stumbled upon a modern art exhibit, she ran away from me and I didn’t find her again for like half an hour. She is very opposed to modern art, and while Pratchett is certainly poking fun at it here, I think he does touch on how pretentious the medium can be. Well, not just the art itself, but the artists and those who work within the field, like Sir Reynold. I get that most of this is about taste, too, because lord, have I enjoyed some pretentious things. There are so many types of modern art, too, but Pratchett mostly goes for a specific kind here, one that barely feels like a joke. I’ve seen some strange art installations and pieces in museums. There are some wild pieces in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, for instance. That Eve one creeps me out every time I see it.
It’s within this specific museum, though, that another mystery is introduced to us. Who stole The Battle of Koom Valley? And why? Both Fred and Nobby have interesting theories on whether it was a troll or a dwarf given the evidence we have. But what if it was neither? What if that painting was stolen in a way to make the Watch suspect one of those two races? I can’t ignore when this is all happening, too, so it feels like it’s a part of some greater mystery. Perhaps someone wants to take advantage of the volatile state of affairs in Ankh-Morpork, and what better way than with a painting that is alleged to contain a clue to a secret treasure? And somehow, I feel like Pratchett is going to make fun of that trope, too.
Gods, this book just started. How is there already so much going on?
Mark Links Stuff