+Terry Pratchett was one of the most popular beloved authors of my generation, I grew up with his books in many ways. I read the colour of magic way back in 1984 just because the cover appealed to me as I was browsing the Sci-fi section of my local WH Smiths. I flicked through a few pages, found I was laughing in a bookshop and thought what the hell. At the time it was one of only two Terry Pratchett books on the shelves. Fast forward a few years and the bookshelves of my house, (of which there are many) are full of Discworld novels. Forty-one of them in fact, and it doesn’t stop there. I have copies of just about everything he has written, and importantly I also have copies of lots of books he inspired me to read. If not for Terry I would not have read Good Omens, reading that lead me to read Neil Gaiman, of which there are many books on my shelves, but equally the Robert Rankin’s, the Tom Holt’s, and a lot of others. In short, Terry began my love affair with reading, I liked to read before Terry Pratchett. I Love to read because of him.
I have also read the Discworld based science books, which has lead to me reading more complex science books and expanding my knowledge of the universe and physics, because of Terry Pratchett
Finally, I am a writer because of Terry, many other authors have inspired me, or added to my love of reading, Adams, Banks, Gemmell and many more. But it started with Terry, and because of him, I write. There is no direct line between Discworld and Cider lane, far from it in fact. But without one there would not be the other.
Terry as probably anyone reading this will know, died this year.
I cried when I hear, genuinely broke down a little, and was in grief for a man I had never met who I knew was dying a long time before he did and who I had a connection with only because of his writing. I rang my fiancée to tell her the news and cried again down the phone.
I would like to say my grief was genuinely for him, but I think it was in many ways more for me. Throughout my life, no matter how mixed up it might have been, the highs and the lows. There was always if nothing else a new Terry Pratchett novel to look forward to. While I mourned the passing of the man, I mourned the passing of those moments of joy when I got a new Discworld novel in my hands all the more I suspect. Which may be why it has taken me so long to write about it.
Two events have moved me to write this now. The first is the publication of ‘The Shepard’s Crown.’ the last Discworld novel written by Terry. It’s the last new Discworld I will ever read, and I have to admit it made me cry by the end of chapter two. No spoilers, but it’s written by a man who knew he was going to be leaving soon, and I suspect wanted to say something about dignity in leaving, or the pursuit of it. As well as the value of life. He does, and he does so with a masterful hand.
The second is a Guardian article published last week.
The article which you can find here onathanjonesblog/2015/aug/31/terry-Pratchett-is-not-a-literary-genius by Jonathon Jones makes the claim that Terry was not a genius. Which is fair enough, it’s an opinion. Though I suspect it is an opinion expressed to court controversy.
The article irritated me, angered me even, not because I am offended by people having opinions different from my own. But because the writer says that Terry was not a genius and life is too short to read a Discworld novel.
These two points are what annoyed me, the first because the writer says he has never read a Terry Pratchett book. If he has never read them how can he make a judgement as to their worth? These books have sold millions, brought joy to millions, been read by millions. Yet Mr Jones believes he can judge their worth without ever reading a word. I have read the classics or my fair share of them. If I say Wuthering Heights is a sublime work of fiction, I do so from the position of having read Emily Bronte. If I say 1984 can and does teach you much about the world, and while the nightmarish vision of Orwell is a genius, I do so having read Orwell. Just as if I say 20’000 leagues under the sea is a nautical travel log about fish and best skim read, I do so having read Verne.
If you have not read the books of Terry Pratchett, then your opinion has no weight as to their worth. You may not like them, you may not wish to read them, but at the same time, you can not claim they are rubbish till you have done so.
The second point, ‘Life is too short to read a Discworld novel.’ I dislike this phase simply because my life would have been so much less if I had not. My life would have been so much worse without them. They have brought me joy, they have brought me tears, they have brought me knowledge and informed my worldview. They have made me a more well rounded, better read, wiser individual, Less willing to just accept the world around me. I read politics at university because of Discworld, because Discworld is full of political satire, my social views are much informed by Discworld. In fact, much of my worldview is informed by it.
Sir Terry Pratchett wrote books. Through his humour and intelligence, he explained a flat world travelling through space on the back of a giant turtle. In doing so, he explained the world we live upon better and more deeply than may writers will ever achieve.
So go read one, or if 41 Discworld novels is a scary number, read Nation or Dodger first and fall in love with a way of looking at the world.
If you don’t enjoy them, and you will, then fair enough. But read them, life really is too short not to try.