Details Matter

Okay, I bought a lot of Art Deco china for Fast Women, and I own all of Liz’s t-shirts and all of Nita’s socks, and . . . the POINT is that I understand getting the details right. But even I never wrote an anthem for an imaginary city state. Hat’s off to Terry Pratchett for “We Can Rule You Wholesale,” the anthem of Ankh-Morpork.

(I particularly like the second verse, which (Pratchett explains) was written by a non-Ankh-Morporkian vampire who had noticed that the world over, people faked the second verse off their anthems because they couldn’t remember the words (I have no idea what the second verse of the Star-Spangled Banner” is) and therefore tend to sing “ner, ner, hner” until they hit a bit they remember. The soprano singing this does a really good job on the “ner”s.)

26 thoughts on “Details Matter

  1. Your attention to the right details is great. I like the number of steps up to Min’s apartment; the crazy artistry on bedspreads and walls that Alice creates; Davey’s use of Clark Kent glasses before sliding out of the diner leaving Tilda with the bill; the zillions of food details that surround Agnes.

  2. Just went down the Ankh-Morepork rabbit hole.

    And, IMHO, the second through fourth verses of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ are best forgotten.

    Love Pratchett’s footnotes.

  3. Pratchett had a mind like no other, and he used it so beautifully. Thank you for this, Jenny. And I adore the second verse. No one in Australia knows the words to the second verse of our national anthem. Many of us are a bit dodgy on the first verse too.

    1. I know the second verse of the Australian anthem (I’ve sat through enough school assemblies at my sons’ primary school that it stuck). I just have my own, somewhat more accurate, version of it, which I don’t sing at the assemblies for diplomatic reasons.

      1. My mother felt that there wasn’t any song she couldn’t humorize and passed the talent(?) down to her eldest son and eldest daughter. The difference is between them is that Kitty’s efforts can be sung in mixed company.

  4. Talking of detail, have you read some of the words of some anthems? I’d be pleased not to know them!

    I know multiple verses of our anthem, and the first verse in Te Reo Maori. When I was a kid and there weren’t infomercials all night, when TV transmission started in the morning, it was always with the national anthem, and a film of New Zealand places and people that could have doubled as a tourism promo video. So Saturday mornings when we got up for cartoons always started with all the verses. Eventually we learned. So devout, those kiwi anthem writers of old.

  5. Speaking of Fast Women … A movie is being made about Clarice Cliff! I saw this yesterday & thought of Suze. I can’t remember if she was Team Clarice or Team Suzie…

  6. Let me add the fun fact that the German National Anthem is the third verse of the original poem. The first cites waterways as borders that would inflate Germany from Denmark to Italy and from Belgium to way beyond Poland, so this one can’t be used any more. The second is a rather cheesy advertising list of German women, German wine and so on, so that’s also out. The third one, however, talks about unity and justice and freedom being the things that we all should try to achieve together, so I’m fine with that.

    It’s just the soccer players at the international tournaments who can’t remember the words when the anthem is played. But they don’t even do the “ner, ner, ner” thing.

    1. Yep, and those football players who can’t remember the text or don’t want to sing always display intelligent frf (footballer resting faces) 😉

  7. The dutch anthem has 15 verses, only the 1st and 6th are sung regularly – the 6th as a hymn in church. The first letters spell Willem van Nassou, who is known to be the first William of Orange. Absolutely nobody knows all verses (apart from Google). It is also the oldest song sung as National Anthem. All of it is a very long story, though intriguing.
    I love how in The Nightwatch Reg Shoe sings the anthem, waves the flag and nearly causes the barricade to be stormed by soldiers, who almost not recognise their own anthem, because ‘only foreigners sing the anthem and wave the flag’..

  8. Details definitely matter and that’s one of the many reasons I love your books. You always develop your people and places so well. It’s the same for Larry McMurtry books, being from Texas, I swear I’ve met some of the characters in his stories.
    And a wonderful anthem! Back in the days when I sang in my church’s choir, we always joked if we lost the lyrics, we just mouthed watermelon, watermelon, watermelon (no sound) but lots of vowels and consonants! Thanks Jenny for the post, it’s a lovely way to wind down my day – well that and sipping a Negroni.

  9. I memorized the verses of the US anthem when I was a teenager because I was anti-war and anti-authoritarian, as one should be as a teenager. Plus it made me mad.

    “And thus be it e’er when free men shall stand
    Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation
    Blessed with vict’ry and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
    Thank the powers that have made, and preserved us our nation.
    Then conquer we must — when our cause it is just,
    And this be our motto: in God is our trust!
    And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

    This is exactly the sort of “Go Team Go!” idiocy that schoolboys would vote for as an anthem because it made them feel victorious and muscle-y. And then join the army or the Proud Boys, whichever they happened to run across first. Oh, and that word “free” is as ironic as all the other paraphernalia of US exceptionalism. With the whole 3/5 bonus in voting rights that came with it for half the country at the time.

    But it’s not as fascinating as the second verse of the British anthem, though. That’s the one that goes:
    “Oh lord our God arise, scatter her enemies, and make them fall….
    Confound their politics, frustrate their knavish tricks,
    On thee our hopes we fix, God save us all.”

    The Trumpishness of both anthems never ceases to amaze me. I just thank my personal god for the Terry Pratchetts of the world.

  10. I once read an account, by a woman who was present, that when, at the end of the Civil War, the Union army re-took Fort Sumpter, where it officially began, they raised the Stars and Stripes and sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.” All normal so far. The diarist mentioned that almost no one remembered the words (at this time it was well-known, but didn’t become the national anthem until the 1930’s), so the singing petered out until people remembered the last few lines.

    The event was promptly lost to history as later that evening Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theater.

  11. As a bloodthirsty child, I quite liked the chorus of La Marseillaise, the French national anthem, in which the impure blood of our enemies would water our fields’ furrows.

    1. My parents used to sing it in French (my father taught French among many other subjects, and my mother minored in French) so I, a Spanish-studying child, learned to sing it in French, too. This came in handy when watching Casablanca in art movie houses in the 80s and 90s. Most of the audience would trail off after the first two lines.

  12. I very much like our Bavarian anthem. We learn it at primary school, usually only the first verse although the second and third are nothing to be ashamed of: it wishes God’s blessing on our country, that he shall keep safe our land.
    The 2nd and third continue to wish for his blessing regarding peace and unity not only within Bavaria but with the sibling German countries (the anthem was created 1860 before the war with Prussia in 1866 and the unification in 1870).

    The melody is rather similar to the German anthem.

    1. However, daughter and I really enjoyed the belching dragon anthem of Ankh Morpork, great start into the day!

  13. Well, I couldn’t understand a word of that, but I’m sure it’s glorious. And I watched Nightwatch and loved it. Does anyone know if they’re going to do more?

    I don’t remember much of the small details of books, but I remember that pottery clearly. So you must have done something right.

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