Mark Reads ‘Unseen Academicals’: Part 22

In the twenty-second part of Unseen Academicals, Trev learns just how bad things are going to be. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

Trigger Warning: For discussion of bullying.

I am full of dread, and it’s because I didn’t really consider what will happen if Unseen Academicals loses. I mean… I’m still not sure that’s actually going to happen, as I think the main characters are going to be very instrumental in all this working out. And Vetinari has always had a knack for choosing the right people to be involved in his… I don’t know. Schemes? Citywide manipulations? So he has to know what he’s doing…


That’s the question asked of us by the end of this split, but prior to that, Trev goes on a JOURNEY. Trev fascinates me because I don’t see him as cynical as someone like Glenda, but he does know what the world expects of him, particularly in light of the reputation of his father. And he’s very, very aware of the world of Andy Shank. Or the Faces, for that matter. He knows exactly what he’s up against, but only to an extent. That’s why his conversation at the open of this split with Pepe was so interesting to me. I don’t know that I’d say that Pepe is jaded, but there’s a roughness around the edges in his characterization, and I’d say he’s got an air that’s much tougher than Glenda. (For comparison.) So, Trev knows something has gone wrong, but his focus is more on the immediate concern: there’s an odd feel to the streets. 

It’s Pepe who widens Trev’s perception of this. It’s not just the vibe in the city; an entire framework might collapse. This is the first time—if I recall correctly—that anyone has mentioned that a failure of Unseen Academicals means a failure for Vetinari. Like I said, I also hadn’t viewed this struggle through that lens! But Pepe makes a great point:

‘It’s not like the Thieves’ Guild, see. He had it easy with the Thieves’ Guild. That’s because the Thieves’ Guild is organized. Football aint organized. Just because he’s won over the captains don’t mean that everyone’s going to meekly get into line after them.’

And what we see after this is exactly what Pepe is referring to! But before we get to that chaos, there’s one particular line here that flattened me to the ground, and I really, really want to talk about it.

‘If you want to learn athletics very quickly, be born around here with a talent for design and maybe a few other little preferences.’

Hi, this means what I think it means, right??? I find it easy to read Pepe as queer, not just because of the persona he puts on, but because there’s so much in his character that textually and sub-textually represents much of the experience. He’s someone who absolutely did not fit into the world he was born into, and he found community and meaning in an underground (SORRY, HAD TO MAKE THAT PUN) subculture. And when he says this? Holy shit, it’s my whole childhood! It wasn’t design for me, but reading, and it was not a popular thing to be into when I was growing up. Y’all, I was literally the quiet bookworm as a kid who HID IN THE LIBRARY. And you better believe that I got real good at running! I was excellent at it! (And, I might add, I’ve been very consistent with my long distance running lately; if you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw how much my time has improved since the start of the year!!!) But that last bit—“maybe a few other little preferences”—just feels like the biggest wink-wink, nudge-nudge. Even if that’s not what was intended, I like that you can fill in the blank here: what preferences would make a person be perceived as so different that bullies would target them?

Anyway, prediction: Pepe is making some sort of micromail thing that Trev can wear under his jersey and it’s gonna save his life. WATCH.

From here, Pratchett takes Trev to the next character who helps shape Trev’s view of the oncoming disaster. I said this on video, but I appreciated that Pratchett wrote this so that we see how Trev offers empathy to Carter. Despite that he is Very Unlikeable! Because being unlikable does not mean you deserve to be treated as he was treated by Andy. And Carter’s sin in Andy’s eyes? Simply disagreeing with him. That’s it! He got a beating for DISAGREEING with someone. 

It’s just the tip of the iceberg, though. When Trev does see Andy shortly after this, it’s clear that there is a large contingent of the football community that does not stand behind the captains. They want to send a message to Vetinari and the wizards, and I’m pretty certain that Andy and his people are real happy that both Mr. Nutt and Trev will be at the game, too. They’re all seen as collateral damage in this war. It is a war to them, isn’t it? Or at least a battle for the identity of football. Andy absolutely hinges his identity on this subculture and his ability to move through it with power and violence. What’s going to happen if that’s all taken away from him? What life does Andy lead if he can’t use football to bully people?

So this is indeed a battle of sorts, which is why I was so damn amused when Trev tried to explain it all to Mr. Nutt, and Glenda’s response was just, “Hey, we should go tell Vetinari.” First of all: I totally get why Mr. Nutt didn’t understand this! He is often the most optimistic character when it comes to things that aren’t himself or being an orc. Plus, I feel like Pratchett was contrasting book smarts with street smarts here. Mr. Nutt certainly learns by observation, and I don’t want to discredit that part of him, but Trev has lived this culture for years. He knows it in a way that Mr. Nutt can’t!

So, I guess they’re all off to talk to Vetinari, which makes me happy because we’ve gotten SO much Vetinari in this book. Also, I really want to end this by acknowledging how sincere and beautiful Mr. Nutt’s responses to Roz were. HE MEANS EVERYTHING HE SAYS, IT’S SO GREAT.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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