Mark Reads ‘Soul Music’: Part 16

In the sixteenth part of Soul Music, IT’S ALL GETTING TOO REAL. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld



Given that memory plays such a huge part in the stories of Susan and Death, I thought it was really powerful that Pratchett gave us this scene at the opening of this section. Susan’s life has been irrevocably changed by the events of Soul Music, but I’m fascinated by the idea that this is because she’s remembering things she already experienced. Yes, her role as the new Death is a significant and new moment in her life, but she had an entire history with Death that she’s just now discovering. The irony is that while she’s coming to appreciate these glimpses into that life, Death is out in the world, trying to forget.

I can’t ignore that the specific memory that Susan recalls is one of love. It is! It’s also one of the best depictions of Death as a whole because it shows us that he tries. His development over the course of this series is still one of my favorite things in the Discworld books, and I’LL FIGHT SOMEONE OVER THAT. So much of Death’s house is an approximation of human life, and while it’s a running joke most of the time, it’s applied here in a different context. It made me kind of sad, specifically starting at this point:

A dressing table held a jug-and-basin set with a motif of skulls and omegas, and a variety of bottles and other items.

She picked them up, one by one. After-shave lotion. Pomade. Breath freshener. A pair of silver-backed hairbrushes.

It was all rather sad. Death clearly had picked up an idea of what a gentleman should have on his dressing table, without confronting one of two fundamental questions.

But it’s the fact that he doesn’t address these questions that kind of breaks my heart. His curiosity is so sincere, and once Mort and Ysabell and especially Susan become a part of his life, he changes. Sometimes in small ways, sometimes in huge ways. The swing, however, just shatters me. Death’s approximation of humanity might be flawed, but it’s real. In trying to entertain and amuse his granddaughter, he completely fucks up a tree swing, so much so that it looks like something out of an alternate universe. But that doesn’t make it less meaningful, and it doesn’t make it less loving. As Susan points out, this is what Death does:

He never understood exactly what he was doing. He’d do something, and it would turn out wrong. Her mother: suddenly he had a grown woman on his hands and didn’t know what to do next. So he did something else to make it right, which made it more wrong. Her father. Death’s apprentice! And then when that went wrong, and its potential wrongness was built right into it, he did something else to make it right.

That’s Death. That’s why Susan’s journey matters, too.

The Search

So, Albert’s first stop on his trip to locate Death takes him to the Klatchian Foreign Legion, where Death apparently GAVE LIFE TO A BUNCH OF DEAD SOLDIERS TO DEFEND THE FORT AGAINST THE D’REGS. What the hell??? At a glance, that seemed so uncharacteristically unlike him. He avoids messing with life and death as much as possible, so why do that? But I’m wondering if this is meant as a sign. What exactly is Death trying to do? Has he given up on his quest to forget? We saw him in Ankh-Morpork earlier, pretending to be a beggar. Why? Why that? What is Albert going to say to him when he does find him?

The Tour Continues

Well, the Band with Rocks In is a success! In their wake, they leave… well, that’s hard to say. Destruction, maybe. They’re not causing damage themselves, per se, but every single City Watch hates the band, and Queens hate the band, and the Mayor of Quirm especially hates the band. They’re evil! They’re causing damage! They inspire terrible things in the people who listen to their music! Actually, let me just quote the mayor of Quirm himself:

“Music With Rocks In represents a public nuisance, is proven to be injurious to health and morals and causes unnatural gyrations of the body,” said the man, pulling the scroll back.

Well, none of that is new to me. I grew up in an age where we still heard that kind of shit all the time. In the late 80s, it was the horrors of metal. Then there was Manson in the 90s. There was my mother’s own personal declaration that everything I listened to was Satanic and evil, too, no matter how far from the truth this actually was. But popular music has long been associated with immorality, and that’s what Pratchett is invoking here. It’s not anything new, you know?

I’m wondering, then, what sort of story might come of Glod and Cliff discovering just how much money they’ve made from their band. There’s a very real-life component to this, since many labels and managers and agencies exploit artists and make far more money than the people who are actually creating whatever it is that’s generating so much revenue. Glod, Cliff, and Asphalt all cleverly get the mayor to change his mind by offering up a pre-paid, $250 tax to him. What next? They’re making hundreds of dollars per night, and yet, their current contract only allows them $10 per performance. TOTAL. They can’t deny that Dibbler is cheating them out of a LOT of money. What are they gonna do when they return home to Ankh-Morpork for the festival?


Mark Links Stuff

– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be Death Note and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
– Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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