Great satire

Satire, as this site declares, “Satire is the form of humor that holds people, or society in general, up for examination, and ridicules the follies revealed.”

I think this is a good thumbnail definition.

The post — by LORDZB at Listverse — then goes on to list the ten greatest satirists of all time: Aristophanes, Plato, Juvenal, Chaucer, Erasmus, Jonathan Swift, Voltaire, Ambrose Bierce, George Orwell, and . . . I can’t comment on this, never having watched the show . . . Matt Stone and Trey Parker, who write “South Park.”

Well, not to take anything from any of the satirists mentioned, but seriously, one of the leading satirists of the modern era, if not THE leading satirist, was clearly Terry Pratchett.

Terry Pratchett and a pig at Hay Festival 2012

Terry Pratchett’s first books were light fantasy, and I didn’t care for them. But somewhere around MORT, he found his true niche as a writer of satire, and after that he only got better — more incisive and biting, more insightful and laugh-out-loud funny. I’m not sure there’s ever been a satirist to top Pratchett, but I’m sure I can’t take any list of satirists seriously if it leaves him off.

I’m sorry he died so young, but grateful he had time to write upwards of forty books.

My favorites, hands down, were the later Sam Vimes titles. I don’t think GUARDS! GUARDS! was his best — but I think many of his best are in this set, especially NIGHT WATCH.

I love GOING POSTAL and MAKING MONEY; I love the Tiffany series; I love REAPER MAN.

I’m glad I still have quite a few of Terry Pratchett’s titles that I haven’t read, and sorry that from now on when I read one of his books, I’ll know there won’t be any more.

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8 thoughts on “Great satire”

  1. thinko in the 4th paragraph, you wrote the wrong surname.

    Did you see the tweets his family sent to announce it? I teared up, because they used his Death character.

    i tend to avoid thinking of him as a satirist because every other one on the list (except maybe Aristophanes, where it is hard to tell due to translations) doesn’t seem to like people – their satires writing comes across as nasty. Pratchett always comes across as caring and enjoying the foibles of people.

  2. Ouch, Elaine, thanks for pointing that out. Fixed now.

    Yes, I did. I also teared up.

    I think Terry Pratchett was a particularly successful satirist because his books were so enjoyable and did not come across as bitter.

  3. I love Tiffany’s books, but I think my favorite Discworld is Small Gods. His take on organized religion is terrific. Also a big fan of Nation, a standalone non-Discworld book of his. Less zany, but still very enjoyable and of course very insightful.

    Terry Pratchett’s books were how I got my husband reading fiction again, after a decade of just reading technical books. Started him on Good Omens, and he connected more with Pratchett than Gaiman.

  4. It’s so hard to pick a favorite Pratchett book, but Thief of Time has always been near the top for me. Quantum physics, time-slicing monk warriors, and a literal chocolate war (as in, actually throwing chocolates at the invading nasties to take them down)? YES. (Also literal death by chocolate.) He’s skewering genres and tropes that I love left and right and it’s a riot.

  5. Elaine, does Chaucer come across as nasty to you? He doesn’t to me. I’m told Erasmus isn’t bitter, either, but I’ve never read him.

    (And Plato as a satirist? Really? There are satirical elements in the dialogues, I suppose, but that’s *so* not what he thought he was doing.)

    If pressed, I would probably single out NIGHT WATCH as my favorite Pratchett and the best of his I’ve read; my special fondness for time travel may influence that.

    I got a copy of NATION as a gift several years ago, but never got around to reading it.

  6. NATION is wonderful. Terry’s books have always made me laugh, but NATION is the first one that brought me to tears as well. It was his first non-Discworld book for a very long time, and I think the lack of restrictions allowed him to try some new things.

  7. I’ve never read NATION, but it’s certainly at the top of my list. A whole lot of people are mentioning it as a particular favorite.

  8. rescans the list of satirists, oops, Chaucer IS there. No, Craig, he’s like Pratchett, he comes across as enjoying people and their foibles. ERasmus I did read a bit of in college and didn’t care for, even if he did have the right ideas about books and food.

    I’ve never read NATION. Favorite Discworlds are – aside from whatever I’ve reread most recently – SMALL GODS, THIEF OF TIME, NIGHTWATCH, CARPE JUGULUM, HOGFATHER (there’s a really good video of that one, too).

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