Tuesday, 4 August 2015

A Collegiate Casting-Out of Devilish Devices by Terry Pratchett Review

It’s Thursday afternoon in the Unseen University and the College Council are meeting. Chairing the meeting, Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully is faced with a list of queries from the recently appointed Inspector of Universities, Mr A. E. Pessimal, which are addressed through Ponder Stibbons, Head of Inadvisably Applied Magic and the university’s Praelector. The Inspector wants to know: what exactly do the wizards do? The wizards want to know: when will the tea and chocolate biscuits arrive?

A Collegiate Casting-Out of Devilish Devices is a superb short story showcasing the sparkling brilliance of Terry Pratchett’s humour and sharp satiric sensibilities as he gleefully lampoons academia and higher education bureaucracy (lot of unintentional alliteration in that sssssssssentence!).

Unseen University and the wizards are among Sir Terry Pratchett’s finest creations in the Discworld. Get Ridcully, Ponder Stibbons, the Librarian (ook!), the Lecturer in Recent Runes, the Senior Wrangler, the Chair of Indefinite Studies and the incomparable Dean together and watch them come up with first class comedic dialogue. Among my favourites:

“His job, I suspect, is to drag us kicking and no doubt screamin’ into the Century of the Fruitbat.”
“That was, in fact, the last century, Archchancellor,” said Stibbons.
“Well, we are hard to drag and very good at kicking,” said Ridcully.

When Stibbons is informed that the wizards teach, he questions the notion and is told:

“Of course, if no alternative presents itself,” said the Dean. “We show ‘em where the library is, give ‘em a few chats and graduate the survivors. If they run into any problems, my door is always metaphorically open.”
“Metaphorically, sir?” said Stibbons.
“Yes,” said the Dean. “But technically, of course, it’s locked. Good grief, you don’t want ‘em just turning up.”
“Explain to him that we don’t do things, Stibbons,” said the Lecturer in Recent Runes. “We are academics.”

I read A Collegiate Casting-Out grinning ear to ear, laughing several times. It’s Sir Terry at his funniest and most quotable and reminded me of everything I love about the Discworld: the brilliant wit, the fierce intelligence, and the liveliness Sir Terry gave his characters even when they’re just sat around a table talking. It’s such a perfect example of the series in general I’d say it’s a fine acid test for newcomers: if you read this and don’t enjoy it, Discworld’s probably not for you.

Recommended to everyone looking for some laughs to brighten up their day!

Read it for free online here: https://www.timeshighereducation.co.u... or find it in the collection A Blink of the Screen.

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