13 March 2015

On Terry Pratchett's passing...

Thanks to my father being an avid reader (I certainly derived my love of books from him), our house was filled with books... paperbacks, hardbacks, even the occasional first edition (my grandma was something of a book dealer - she adored reading, too). 
These books spanned all genres, but many, many of them were Terry Pratchett books. Especially his Discworld series. I think my Dad had the whole set, as well as some books in duplicate thanks to non-readers giving him those as gifts.

They all seemed too science-fictiony to me; the covers, with their garish, brightly coloured cartoons and the weird titles - as I myself progressed from Enid Blyton to Dickens, to Jilly Cooper, Judy Bloom, Brian Jacques, Stephen King, James Patterson and others, I picked up any and all books from our many shelves (and the library) to read but I always passed those Pratchetts by. I was interested in horror, thriller, romance, memoir, history; the idea of a world on the back of a turtle and a bunch of people with funny names just never grabbed me.

My Dad worked a lot. A huge amount. Not just in his office, but at home as well. I'm talking 14 hour days. We were lucky to see him for a couple of hours at weekends or on summer holidays. And on those rare occasions he was home, he had his nose in a book... be it on the sofa, in the kitchen or in the bathroom. 
And when he read any of the Discworld books, he laughed. Really, really laughed, which was rare. I distinctly remember that. I remember thinking: "I wish we could make him laugh like that." The second, less petulant part of me also thought, "That Terry Pratchett guy must be really clever to write so many books which make Dad laugh so hard."

Fast forward a few years and I was an adult. I got sent a Discworld novel to read by someone with whom I'd discussed the phenomenon - when I argued that I was a girl and not into science fiction (apart from Red Dwarf), he said I would love the books if I only gave them a try. He sent me Mort.

And from the first page, I was hooked. It WAS funny. It was also poignant and creative and clever. Really fucking clever. My childhood assumptions about this author had been right. 

I must admit that I still haven't had the time to read all 70 of the books Sir Pratchett has written, but the ones I have, I thoroughly enjoyed. A part of me wishes I had discovered this sooner - perhaps I'd have had something to discuss with my Dad over dinner apart from what my latest grades were.

Not long ago, I watched a documentary made by this author about assisted dying, or Euthanasia. It was called "Choosing To Die" and he made it shortly after he discovered that he had Alzheimer's. 
I cried watching it. I wept and wept and wept, and after that I thought, long and hard, about the moral questions that documentary forced me to ask myself. 

And yet, one of the things he said in that film really resonated with me. "I don't think I want to live if I can no longer write." (Sorry, might be paraphrasing that somewhat but you get my meaning).

Selfishly, I thought this man would still be writing for a long time to come. I thought it would be years and years before his 'embuggerance' got so bad that he could no longer put pen to paper. And it turns out I was wrong. This amazing, prolific, wonderfully eccentric author has now gone to meet one of his own best characters. And I adore how he did it, especially his last words.

Thank you, Sir Terry, for sharing your talents and passion with the world. I will end this blog entry with one of your own amazing quotes...

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