Terry Pratchett passed away this week.
I chronicle my life by the books I read, and few authors hold as prominent a place as Pratchett. His books are funny and cynical, warm and pointed, comforting and probing. I laughed with these books, and grew up with them.
I read Good Omens when I was 13 or so. I couldn’t stop talking about it – I was a wee atheist, then, and had not actually told anyone that I didn’t believe in any god. Good Omens poked fun at religion, alternating between vicious, uproarious criticism and a more gentle, good natured “isn’t this ridiculous” voice. I knew the authors agreed with me, even if they did not say so outright.
My overenthusiastic prattling about this book also led to the first time I was told to censor myself – a relative thought that the storyline I described would be offensive to some born-agains at Thanksgiving. I bristled at that - the same way I do now when it’s suggested I keep my opinions to myself – but I kept the peace. Terry Pratchett’s book affirmed my worldview, and led to the realization that not everyone would tolerate that view.
Soul Music, Hogfather, Mort. Equal Rites, Maskerade, Witches Abroad. Eric, The Truth, Going Postal.
What other fantasy book titles reference a John Knox’s tirade against women leaders (Monstrous Regiment)? Or who models their entire plotline off of a Macbeth joke (Wyrd Sisters)? Who sums up an entire theory of economics and why poor people stay poor with a boot metaphor (Men at Arms)?
Neil Gaiman wrote an eloquent memorial for Terry Pratchett, in anticipation of his passing from Alzeimer’s. You should read it. The fury and anger he describes are there in Pratchett’s writing. These were books that helped me through being a teenager, that shaped my philosophy. But also kept me from being too cynical, too down on humanity. He was humane and hysterical. That’s a rare combination, and the world is a poorer place without him.
And now to go re-read Hogfather and Feet of Clay.