I remember sitting in the car, or at home, snorting occasionally with laughter, and reading out the good jokes. There were so many good jokes that my family must have grown sick of my voice suddenly interjecting with a quip about witches, or sheep, or cats. I don’t know that I even checked whether anyone was listening.
I remember that my first Terry Pratchett book was Witches Abroad. My second was Interesting Times, which is the one that hooked me. I read the Discworld books in whatever order I could get my hands on them, from libraries and charity shops. About the time The Truth came out I was catching up, and had to wait for the new ones. Sir Terry (and I don’t mind calling him Sir despite all my socialism, because when they made him a knight he got himself a sword made out of a meteorite, like a proper Knight should) had a line in interviews that people thought his typical reader was “ a fourteen-year-old boy called Kevin”, which struck him as rather an odd piece of snobbery given how difficult it was to get fourteen-year-old boys called Kevin to read. But I wasn’t a Kevin. I read voraciously. I read Sir Terry’s books even more voraciously because they were better than everything else.
I don’t want to give the impression, that some have, that he just told wacky jokes. Or, at least, that the wacky jokes were just wacky jokes. Neil Gaiman wrote a piece not long ago entitled “Terry Pratchett isn’t Jolly. He’s Angry”. To which my first thought was: well, yes. I’m not saying I have any special insight; I’m saying that it’s very apparent, reading any Pratchett novel, that the satire isn’t just there to provide cheap laughs. His novels hate cruelty, hate it with a burning, raging intensity that powers them, that fuels their carnival celebrations of people and creatures and funny noises and nob gags and characters with silly names. If there wasn’t, they would still be very, very funny books. But they’re rather better than that:
And sin, young man, is when you treat people like things.” – Granny Weatherwax, Carpe Jugulum
There’s not many artists – there’s not many people – who change the way you think, the patterns of your thoughts. I genuinely believe my thoughts are affected – improved – by binge-reading Pratchett throughout my adolescence, and returning to him time and time again since. Just yesterday, my flatmate Chris mentioned the “fracas” leading to Jeremy Clarkson’s suspension, and what a non-word it is. But of course:
Words resemble fish in that some specialist ones can survive only in a kind of reef, where their curious shapes and usages are protected from the hurly-burly of the open sea. ‘Rumpus’ and ‘fracas’ are found only in certain newspapers (in much the same way that ‘beverages’ are found only in certain menus). They are never used in normal conversation.” – The Truth
I remember when I was in Australia, stressing out a lot about homesickness and money and getting by a long way from home. I called my parents to vent the whole stressy cluster at them. A new Pratchett book – I Shall Wear Midnight – had just come out. My dad (knowing exactly what to do), told me to go and buy it right away, and he’d transfer me the cost. There’s not too many authors whose books you can do that with.
This has been a little incoherent and a little rambling, but I wanted some sort of thanks out there, with my name on it, to pay tribute to a wonderful writer who made me laugh and made me happy and made me able to start all sorts of paragraphs with the words ‘I remember’ because his books have been woven into my life for, well, for most of my life. I’m very sad that he’s died. I love that he was alive.
Thanks, Sir Terry.