Thursday, December 13, 2007

An Embuggeration.

As most people will have read by now, Terry Pratchett has just revealed that he is suffering form early onset Alzheimer's.

I am a huge fan of TP who along with Margaret Atwood (for different reasons) is my favourite living author, so I was really dismayed to hear this. He seems tragically young to be afflicted by this vile disease, but in true TP style points out he isn't dead yet, and is planning several more books while he still can. I wish him the opportunity to write many more as Chrimbo in my household won't be the same without a Pratchett Tome being passed round the family. In fact on Spouse's side we're all such fans that more then one usually gets bought.

I haven't got much time to do a lengthy discourse, but I fell in love with Terry Pratchett one holiday years ago. A friend was reading Reaper Man and sat giggling by the poolside. When he'd finished, he passed it onto Spouse who was also soon roaring with laughter. So I grabbed it after him, and was completely hooked. Reaper Man remains one of my favourite Pratchetts. It tells the story of how Death, who always speaks in capital letters and though affected by humans never quite understands them, gets bored of collecting souls, and decides to take a holiday. He goes off to work on a farm, where no one can cope with the fact that they are looking at a skeleton, so they just think he is a skinny farm hand (except of course for children who aren't so daft). In the meantime all the undead, the zombies, the vampires etc come back to life, and as Death is also responsible for animals, each animal gets its own Death, in his absence. After much mayhem and hilarity, Death realises he's needed and goes to put everything right. He takes on all the animals again, apart from rats, who get to keep their death, complete with his little black cloak and scythe. The Death of Rats squeaks at his victims in capital letters.

From there I went back and read Pratchett's earlier books like The Colour of Magic, where Rincewind the cowardly wizard pursued round the Discworld (Pratchett's insane world - which is a flat disc balanced on four elephants who stand on top of a giant turtle swimming through space. Believe me, it makes perfect sense when you read it), and Witches Abroad (another favourite) where I encountered the wonderful creations that are Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg for the first time. One glorious brilliant thing about Terry Pratchett is that he gets women in a way I have never seen another male novelist do. There's a line in Monstrous Regiment about ironing which is so true I really couldn't believe it had been written by a man.

Another thing about him, that many people in the literary world at least, seem to miss is that he isn't just writing comic fantasy novels, but he is holding up a mirror to our world in every story he writes. So in Moving Pictures he satirises Hollywood, in The Word, it's the press who come in for a bashing and in Monstrous Regiment it is war and armies (but not, I think solidiers who get a sympathetic hearing). He is always on the side of the common man against overbearing authority, for colour and life and imagination against greyness and dullness, and common sense and decency against wrongheadedness and cruelty.

I haven't read a single book of his that hasn't made me roar with laughter and want to WRITE LIKE THAT. I hope he has the opportunity to write many more. And above all I hope he keeps his sense of humour and courage through the trials that are to come. Somehow, I think he will.


Juliette M said...

Not only do you say exactly what needs saying about Auschwitz, you manage to say exactly what I would want to say about the great TP himself.

It is indeed as he says an 'embuggerance' (and how many more people will be using that word from now on? I know I will...) but his spirit and his strength come across in everything he has said about it. Yesterday, a la Granny Weatherwax, he posted on Paul Kidby's website to say 'I still aten't dead'. You have to admire someone as positive as that.

I do wonder if, like Geoffrey Hughes did when he got prostate cancer, TP will start or contribute to some kind of 'Alzheimers awareness' campaign which will help people learn more and raise funds for everyone with Alzheimer's disease. I dont know if he will, but I'm sure it would be interesting if he did. He is so clever, he can say something as simple as 'happy birthday to you' and the whole room will stop and listen.

My favourite of his books? I honestly dont have one. I love so many of them equally that it would be unfair to choose. Ones that come to mind are 'Guards! Guards!', 'Monstrous Regiment', 'Maskerade' and 'Feet of Clay', but there are so many more. My favourite character group is the Watch - Vimes is just wonderfully written, and I am a huge fan of Lady Sybil. I also really enjoy the recent 'Moist von Lipwig' books and anything with the witches. Especially Agnes. Anyone who knows me can clearly see why I have an affinity for Agnes Nitt. ;)

TP (or 'Pterry' to some of his fans, after the joke in 'Pyramids') is a great author and has the most amazingly imaginative brain. I hope that he has many more years to write and enjoy and spend time with his family yet. He deserves every minute of it.

There ain't no justice.

Jane Henry said...

No there ain't Juliette. And of course your post reminded me of all those brilliant characters I had forgotten to mention. I like Vimes and Lady Sybil too, and Carrot, and Nobby Clarke... The Guards are great. I'm fond of the wizards too, especially the librarian.

And of his children's books I love the Tiffany Aching stories. I meant to mention it in my post, but one of my favourite lines in (I think it's Wintersmith) is when the witch Tiffany is apprenticed to dies, she cries for her "because that needed doing" - and then dries her eyes and goes to milk the cows, "because that needed doing to." It's the way that he perfectly mixes practicality with high emotion that I love.

I'd forgotten I ent dead yet was a Granny W remark. The thing about TP is he is so quotable, you kind of forget how much good stuff there is!

Anonymous said...

Reaper Man is probably my favourite, too. It took me a long time to get into the Colour of Magic, at least two aborted attempts, but I perservered, thankfully. I love Granny Weatherwax, Pratchett really does do women well. His ability to reflect society's mores is priceless. Sadly I fell out of being able to read him when I returned to teaching and I am now several behind. However, I feel the need to return and start again from the start and then catch up (I'm that kind of girl)

BTW, I loved Pstures New, I couldn't put it down and finished at silly o'clock one morning a couple of days after starting it. Thank you.

Nic from

Jane Henry said...

Nic sorry not to get back to you. TP is so enjoyable you'll have a great time catching up!

And thanks so much for your kind words about PN. It means such a lot to me that you like it!