Mark Reads ‘Unseen Academicals’: Part 13

In the thirteenth part of Unseen Academicals, Juliet becomes a hot item; the wizards practice; there is a surprise visitor. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of alcoholism


Pepe and Madame Sharn

I’m maintaining at this point that there is more than meets the eye to this relationship, and I’m intrigued about these characters. How exactly did they meet? How did they develop a relationship like this? As brief as the scene is in the opening of this split, there’s both a chaos and a routine conveyed to me through the action. These people drink a lot, and I noticed this because I once drank a lot, too. It was all in private, it left me riddled with shame, but I found ways to do it. I wonder about the intent here, because I can see a number of things that Pratchett was potentially commenting on or drawing from. Part of me thinks that he was just depicting a certain style of life. These people are caught up in a culture that moves quickly, that’s swimming in substances. It doesn’t meant they don’t work and I believe that we’re also seeing something that’s dependent on the circumstances. This is the morning after one of the biggest shows in Shatta history. There’s nothing wrong with a big celebration! But there’s a sense of familiarity here, in the way Pepe peels himself out from bed with his partner, to how he moves about his home. How often has he done this? How much does he rely on alcohol to get through his day, and when does that reliance become unhealthy for him? It’s relative! I will have been sober for eighteen years this August, and that’s because I reached a point where I knew I had to stop. But I have friends who drink casually most days of the week, and they’re fine. 

So what of Madame Sharn and Pepe? I JUST WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THIS RELATIONSHIP. What are their routines? GIVE ME EVERYTHING, I NEED TO KNOW MORE. I find this just as interesting as Juliet’s rise to possible fame AND Mr. Nutt’s backstory AND the football plot. 


And I love that this plot, which totally surprised me, presents yet another ramification of the choices that Juliet and Glenda have made. Seriously, this was so unexpected, and it was a treat to get a bit of an update after the events of Thud! The Koom Valley Accord is practically complete, and Rhys, Low King of the Dwarfs, is tired: 

‘And I am fed up, gentlemen, with your whining, moaning and endless, endless attempts to re-fight battles that you have already lost.’

Instead, Rhys looks to the future, one that he believes is in the direction of Juliet and Shatta and micromail. Y’all, one of my favorite things about the latter half of the Discworld series is in this section: the continued progression of the city as a whole. Much of it is due to Vetinari’s Undertaking, yes, but the ripple affect has gone far, far away from Ankh-Morpork and affected places that I thought would never change. Does Rhys want to modernize the dwarf community? Is micromail the answer? Seriously, I love that I’m 250 pages into this book, a new subplot was introduced, and I’m already excited about it.


I also did not expect that there would be anyone good at playing football within the university. However, now that I’m thinking about it? It makes perfect sense that the Librarian makes a talented goalie! Otherwise? This went pretty much like I expected. Ridcully expected that there would be a “natural” response to the football being rolled out into the Great Hall, but I think Ridcully forgets that he is often the exception to the rule when it comes to wizards. They’re simply not as physically active as he is, you know? And when he tells them to go form teams and start playing, he severely underestimates how motivated they’ll be to do that. It had to be achieved through shame and terror! Dude, they’re wizards. They’re never gonna just willingly form a team system to compete with someone else in a SPORT. There’s too much anxiety! Too much fear that they’ll be chosen last because they’re ALL basically the person chosen last on a team! And I feel like that’s what Pratchett was making fun of through Ridcully, since Ridcully has some pretty messed up ideas of who is good at picking teams and who should be chosen last. In many ways, I feel like Ridcully is the jock wizard, no? And this is exactly how the jocks in grade school thought and acted. 

I thought that we’d actually get to see the reunion of Ridcully and Dean on the page, but I’m guessing that’s going to appear in the next split. And lord, it’s going to be viciously uncomfortable, isn’t it? Y’all, the Dean is now THE ARCHCHANCELLOR OF BRAZENECK. That doesn’t make this situation any easier for Ridcully! He’s going to have to accept the Dean as a fellow colleague. As an Archchancellor! Something tells me he won’t want to do that? JUST GUESSING. 

But let’s just get to it, because y’all know I am absolutely losing it over how often this book openly teases me about Mister Nutt. Y’ALL!!!

I know what he is, he thought. Does he? Or did they spare him that?

Okay, so, not a surprise that Mr. Nutt’s identity/species/WHATEVER is a significant thing. Obviously, that’s a significant portion of the tension in his arc. But spared it? What the fuck does that mean? Have I been looking at Nutt the wrong way? Is it possible that he actually doesn’t fully remember where he came from or what his origins are? Maybe that’s why he’s never keen to share details about the time he spent chained to an anvil. And about that:

This little man, who actually, when you look at him, is not as little as he appears because he weighs himself down with humility… this little man was born with a name so fearsome some peasants chained him to an anvil because they were too scared to kill him.

HI, WHAT THE FUCK. WHAT NAME??? Why would these peasants be afraid to kill him? Can Nutt revive himself? OH. OH, HE WAS KILLED EARLIER IN THIS BOOK AND HE JUST CAME BACK TO LIFE AND HIS HOURGLASS HAD SAND GOING THE OTHER WAY. What the hell!!! That scene must have been way more important than I thought it was??? Oh my god, so: Nutt is born as something so terrifying that he is chained to an anvil for seven years. Pastor Mightily Oats finds him, frees him, brings him to Lady Margolotta, and she rehabilitates him into the incarnation we see now. (And names him, I assume, since his original name inspired terror in others.)

Who. Is. Mr. Nutt???


She’s changing, y’all. Isn’t she??? She’s viewing life through a new lens, and it has brought her to re-think how she thinks about the world, about fashion, and about her job selling items from Mr. Stronginthearm. Holy shit, y’all. WHAT IS HAPPENING. I love seeing this sort of thing, and none of you are probably surprised that I’m into character arcs that are complex and slow-moving. Glenda saw how Madame Sharn was on the tip of something new and exciting, that could potentially change the world through clothing. And what does Glenda do? Try to change the world for women trolls. She wants to offer them more. She wants them to have options and to feel good with those options!


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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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