Friday, 25 April 2014

Terry Pratchett - A Funny Bone Fantasist - An Appreciation

I tend to think that Terry Pratchett was born looking very much as he does now, less the whiskers of course. He does have the look of one of his characters doesn't he? A little bit of the rogue wizard about him. Of course, his poor Mum would have freaked at the site of a bearded baby but still, I think he looked then pretty much as he does now –a little bit mischievous with a degree of impishness thrown in. There may even have been some sparking octarine flying about during the birth in order to make his mother's labour more of a carnival. One cannot be sure as one wasn't there.

Terry Pratchett, or rather Terrence David John Pratchett arrived in this world, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire to be precise, without staff or a pointed wizard’s hat on the 28th April nineteen forty-eight. His father was a David and his Mother an Eileen. Neither of whom were either wizard or witch and the only magic then to be seen, as he grew from infant to child, was his love of reading and his passion for astronomy. He had the kind of mind that could perforate sieves – sharp and pointed. It is easy to see where he cut such words from.

Growing up in England in the fifties after the end of the Second World War, with its rationing cards and its growing love of all things American, gave rise to the boy collecting Brooke Bond tea cards with their images of telescopes. He also grew interested in science fiction reading both British and American authors including H.G. Wells but also crime writers such as Conan Doyle. It was, as he so often has said, the only education he needed.

His books, though, oh what a delight they have proven to be. Would you believe I hadn’t read any of his works until a colleague gave me, on my fifty-third birthday, a copy of “The Colour of Magic.” At first, I had little interest in it as I simply didn’t want to read yet another sword and sorcery book. When I did open that first page I soon discovered it was anything but ‘another sword and sorcery book.’ It was magical, though, very, very magical and incredibly funny. However, you don't have to be a fan of fantasy to enjoy Sir Terry's work. All you need is the ability to appreciate some incredible one-liners  and a sense of humour that suggest when you push peas around a plate the peas might just push back.

Up until the late nineties and the arrival of J.K.Rowling with her Harry Potter series, Terry Pratchett was the UK’s best-selling author. His Discworld novels have sold something like sixty-five million copies worldwide. Nothing perhaps when compared to the lovely Joanne but in fairness where would she be without having the first read of a wizard school or a talking wizard hat in Terry’s books?

For me, the one thing I enjoy, apart from some very witty dialogue, the incredible invention and the sudden and unexpected appearance of Death speaking in his customary FULL CAPS, is the author's talent when it comes to portraying female characters. His girls are better defined than his boys even though his boys are, well....boyish.

ImageIt is hard to say which book is best as there are so many. My personal favourite has to be 'Equal Rites' although it is a close fought thing with 'Wintersmith.' The fact is this; Terry has created a universe with its own bizarre continuum which features some incredible characters, fauna and, yes, a turtle that carries a flat world on its back but also a sentient cheese called Horace. It is at times like these that I am glad to be English.

His legend is a long one and shall be cast forever, or at least as long as we read books in whatever format. Had he a staff, a tall staff it has to be said, it would be one that carries symbols and sigils and runes of a ludicrously humorous nature. Best not touch it, though, not unless you too are the eighth son of an eighth son. (Sorry, no girls may apply for this role, not even those called Hermione.)

Six years ago, December 2007, Terry announced he had the early onset of Alzheimer's disease. It was a terrible shock to hear of someone so good with words, with such a vivid imagination facing such an ignoble and slow deterioration. Terry took it as well as anyone can and perhaps better than expected. Nowadays his works have nearly all been co-authored. I know not if this is due to his condition or just one of those ways of working. I hope against hope, a little selfishly perhaps, that this condition takes a very long while to take hold as I want to read a great many books from him yet.

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

1 comment:

LeeKwo said...

Not being familiar with Terry Pratchetts work I cant enjoy yr pleasure but yr review[as usual very erudite] has me suggesting to my book money keeper that I might be advanced a few extra dollars to buy one/Equal Rites looks the way to go/Regards and affection Lee Kwo

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