An open letter to Jonathan Jones at the Guardian

If you haven’t read it yet, Jonathan Jones published an opinion piece in The Guardian. The tagline and main opinion is “Get real. Terry Pratchett is not a literary genius.”

Dear Mr Jones,

Let’s see…your article combines elitism, snobbery, high-handedness, arrogance, and a tone of absolute self-righteousness that is actually quite impressive. You have never read Terry Pratchett’s work, yet you are happy to dismiss him as ‘trash’?

What is it about Pratchett that means you don’t count him as ‘literature’? The fantasy? The magic? The lack of long words and carefully-obscured opinions? His popularity? His wide and very enthusiastic fanbase? The fact that so many people in so many countries adore his work? Maybe it’s all of that – ‘literature’ and ‘genius’ shouldn’t be popular, well-liked and well-respected.

On that note, your opinions on literature do seem a little strange. You hadn’t read Mansfield Park until recently…so why did you bother? How come that made your ‘literature’ cut, yet Pratchett doesn’t? Jane Austen is women’s fiction, you realise – not suitable for men, or for art writers at the Guardian. I don’t even know that Shakespeare should cut it – he gets quite bawdy, you know. And he writes comedy. So what is it about Gunter Grass that means he gets your approval? What exactly is your criteria for ‘genius’, or ‘literature’?

You are exactly what is wrong with ‘art’ critics – you dismiss something without even having read it, knowing nothing about it! Pratchett’s writing may be ‘mediocre’ to you, his name not suitable to fit into your ‘literature’ category – but not a genius? I disagree. Anyone who can unite so many generations, peoples, points of view and cultures with one world; anyone who can combine so many elements, comedy and fantasy and philosophy and crime; anyone who can make you laugh and cry and jump in the same book, who can be read hundreds of times and you still won’t get everything out of the book…

You are absolutely entitled to your opinion, and absolutely entitled to your assessment of Pratchett and of literature. But to dismiss him as trash on the basis of never reading him, on the basis of hearsay, genre and your own arrogance?

Pratchett’s work, Mr Jones, might not conform to your tastes. But to enchant and delight, capture and tempt, so many people?

Trash? No.

That is genius and literature.

Author: kate

Kate Coe is an editor, book reviewer and writer of fiction & fantasy. She writes the sparkpunk GreenSky series and blogs at When she's not working, she fills her spare time in between writing with web design, gaming, geeky cross-stitch and DIY (which may or may not involve destroying things). She also reads far fewer books that she would like to, but possibly more than she really has time for.