Mark Reads ‘Unseen Academicals’: Part 5

In the fifth part of Unseen Academicals, everyone prepares to attend the football game. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

Oh, I am becoming DEEPLY OBSESSED with Nutt, and I’m reminded of Mr. Bent from Making Money here, only because there’s such an intriguing and mysterious backstory for Mr. Nutt in this book. They’re completely different characters, mind you, but I crave more information on Mr. Nutt just like I did for Mavolio Bent during that novel. 

AND LORD, DO I EVER GET MORE INFORMATION HERE. I have a better grasp on what Nutt’s process is because of this section. When Nutt is curious about something—or when something confuses him—he seeks out knowledge. He does that by either asking a question or heading straight to the library to read about it. Then, he puts that knowledge into practice. How does it actually work? This test provides him with additional context that he’s often missing, and there’s a fantastic example of that within the opening scene of this split. And I really, really like that Nutt is being allowed to test these things out. In particular, Glenda’s response to him saying something that we all recognize to be super gross and rude isn’t to lash out and scold him. She recognizes that he is coming from a place of good will and good intent, but that someone just needs to tell him that he’s slipped up, that his context is wrong, that something is just considered inappropriate. (And now I’m thinking about how you might even be able to read Nutt through the lens of being neuroatypical, too, and how this way of setting boundaries and gently correcting behavior is way less cruel than how lots of people do it.) Because this is what Glenda does! She runs off to the library because she doesn’t know if “fecundity” is an offensive word, and when she returns, this is what she says: 

‘Um, it was kind of you to say that about me,’ she said, ‘but you should have used more appropriate language.’

‘Ah, yes, I’m so sorry,’ said Nutt.

Of course, there’s additional context that Glenda gets from Nutt: Trev is the one who is mostly trying to help him learn how to communicate with others, and while Trev also has good intentions, he’s not exactly the best person to learn from. But he’s certainly not the worst! He knows that Nutt is perceived harshly by others, and he’s at least trying to keep him safe as he dresses Nutt for the game. On top of it all, I also understood that to Trev, Nutt wouldn’t make sense even if he was human. At the end of the day, though, Trev isn’t trying to ostracize his friend; he isn’t trying to make him just like himself; he wants Nutt to be a part of this. Does Trev even have other friends he can count on? 

I just really love culture clash stories and I get that this isn’t necessarily that exactly. But so much of the dynamic between Trev and Nutt in this section feels like that kind of story, and it’s a delight. Trev has to teach him about friendly punches! And I’m certain that Nutt punched Trev way too hard, and IT’S ALL SO ADORABLE. 

So, let’s also talk about Glenda and her side gig. I don’t know what the big pyramid-scheme beauty supply company Pratchett is referencing with her, but here in the States, this reminded me of Avon, something my mom was briefly involved with when I was younger, but thankfully, she got out of it early. We had family members who were Avon affiliates for most of my childhood and stayed them well into adulthood. There’s some clever riffing on capitalism here, too:

There had always been trolls around, doing the heavy lifting and generally being there in the background if not being the actual background itself. But now they were raising families and running businesses, moving on up and buying things, and that made them people at last.

LORD. That’s… oh, that’s just biting. 

Anyway, I feel like something huge is going to happen at this game. Glenda is there; Trev and Nutt are there; the wizards are there; it’s the first “sanctioned” match, so to speak, at least in the sense that the Watch isn’t really going to crack down on it existing. Hell, even the Librarian is there! Why are they all converging on one spot? PLOT REASONS, right? I’m scared!!!

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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