Friday, March 13, 2015

The Saint of Ankh-Morpork

“It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone's fault. If it was us, what did that make Me? After all, I'm one of Us. I must be. I've certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We're always one of Us. It's Them that do the bad things.”
~ Terry Pratchett, Jingo

My own Terry Pratchett books... that I could find on short notice. 
One of my favorite authors, from the list on the side, passed away on Thursday. I'd just ordered a copy of one of his latest books the night before.

He weaved a magic with words and ideas in such a fashion that in my dreams I could only hope that one day I might be considered a pale imitator. He took broad sweeping concepts and reduced them to their underlying silliness and stupidity in dialogue that should be enshrined for their clarity. If you think of his books as trite fantasy, just goblins and dragons, then you need to read them again.

Like a lot of readers, I found him after Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (which I plucked off a book-stand in a gas station in Santee, SC). It was with Adams I discovered that good writing could be funny, but take grand concepts and boil them down to where even a hick from the backwoods like me could understand them. It was like being ushered into the philosopher’s trust. But you can only re-read him so many times. Maybe. But I was young then, in my teens. I found Pratchett in college.

I look back now and realized I entered his massive Discworld series at the wrong point – Guards, Guards  or Men at Arms would have been a better start, or one involving Granny Weatherwax, but I like a lot of people before me started with Rincewind. And while Adams was good, Pratchett was in my opinion, a master. People laud Tolkien, who wrote his books as travelogues to showcase the languages he invented, but Pratchett weaved a massive world over thirty plus books that you could prop up as a mirror to our own little hunk of dirt in space and give us a chance to see where our seams were showing. And he did it with a laugh.  

Peel back the dwarves and goblins, and you see a short comment on the absurdity of pushing for war while insisting that the government taxes too much, or of the balance of tradition vs new ideas,  or religion for religion’s sake,  or believing in oneself and redemption. Maybe you prefer your lessons dry, but Pratchett served them with a liberal ladling of joy and great heaps of humor, wrapped in an idea that was just sweet enough to follow.

Sir Terry Pratchett. Oh, ye sir, shall be missed.

1 comment:

Big D said...

a great tribute. And he will indeed be missed.