Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Truth

Terry Pratchett
Fiction, Fantasy/Satire

Terry Pratchett spent many years as a journalist, so it inevitable that newspapers would make their way into Discworld eventually. The focus in this novel is on the spread of movable type, which has been banned before, but far be it for Lord Vetinari to stand in the way of a tsunami. William deWorde, estranged scion of a noble family, quickly turns his monthly notice to several people of esteem (engraved, of course) to a daily paper to the masses. He has difficulties when a tabloidish competitor pops up, though, because he really believes there is a Truth.

And when Lord Vetinari is accused of attempted murder, he will not stop until he gets to the bottom of it, even though it might mean his life.

This book is invaluable for the picture it presents of how journalism works. Near the end, William thinks of the press as a huge vampire, needing to be fed stories on a daily basis, and as an almost-accident occurs and he reports on it instead of offering to help, he realizes the hold that journalism has on him. Anyone who has ever worked in the news understands; the notebook (or the camera) creates its own reality, a detachment that is hard to shake. (I had at least one professor speak of leaving a news program because the detachment she developed scared her.)

There are also observations about the difference between power and prestige, and of family ties that bind and strangle. William deWorde believes in the Truth that his father taught him, even though his father believes the Truth is too precious for mere peons, and, in fact, should be actively subverted when necessary. William's pursuit of journalism finally allows him to break his father's grip on him, an important lesson to all those laboring in the shadow of an overbearing past.


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