That would be Sir Terry Pratchett (28 April 1948 – 12 March 2015).
My tribute is late, and by now I’m certain everyone who is anyone has said everything there is to say about Sir Terry’s life and legacy and how generally smashing he was. But since adding to the noise is what writers do, I’d like to say a few words in honor of the man who gave me more belly laughs than any other writer on God’s green earth. Yes, even Wodehouse.
I read The Color of Magic when I was fifteen and became a fan of the Man in the Awesome Hat instantaneously. Forays into Discworld are now a literary staple for me. It’s a bonkers place – not unlike a Monty Python sketch from the hand of J.R.R. Tolkien, assuming the latter had been smoking something besides tobacco while writing it. (This is where everyone raises an eyebrow and wonders why this blog isn’t rated R for drug references, too. “Mercy!”)
Sir Terry – like his friend Neil Gaiman, like Lewis and Chesterton and Alexander before them – was a reminder to me that the imagination is a terrible thing to waste. Feed it well. Gorge it. Make it fat. “Stories of imagination,” Pratchett observed, “tend to upset those who don’t have one.” For the love of God, don’t be one of those people. It’s a sorry way to think.
Another thing: laughter really is good medicine. I’m not talking about school girl titters, either. I’m talking about busting an almighty gut. I’m talking about dropping the book because your stomach hurts and you can’t read through the tears. Cue howls and labored breathing. People look at you with a mixture of wonder and alarm because, let’s be honest, you appear to be dying and having the time of your life doing it.
Cracking the cover of a Discworld book is a one way ticket to all this and more. Abdominal pain guaranteed. It’s a great feeling. You should try it.
In a day when the only thing one is allowed to be certain of is that one isn’t certain of anything, Chesterton is like a shot of whiskey in a room full of teetotalers:
I have an emotion of joy which lends considerable pleasure to my countenance when somebody tells me that certitude never smiles. For it seems to me that nothing else except certitude can ever really and truly smile. I do not admit that my joy is merely in my doubt or even merely in my change. Joy is in the fact that I’m moving from doubt, which is a weak and undeveloped condition, to conviction, which is a strong and mature condition. I think it is in the fact that doubt is in its nature a process and not a conclusion. Anybody who enjoys doubt for its own sake must prefer a treadmill to a travel or a journey’s end.
Othello by Shakespeare
Whenever I read Shakespeare, I kick myself for not doing it more often. So I’m trying to read at least one of his plays every month of 2015. Very doable, I think. Othello is terrific so far.
Mort by Terry Pratchett
Of all the fantasy worlds you can visit, Discworld is perhaps the funnest, and certainly the most hysterical. In Mort, Death takes an apprentice. It’s a great position – unless you have anything faintly resembling a love life. I haven’t laughed so hard at a book in ages.
How to be Free from Bitterness by Jim Wilson
“The world has two solutions. Keep the bitterness in and make yourself sick, or let it out and spread the sickness around. God’s solution is to dig up the root. Get rid of it.” A wise and helpful little read. I’ll return to it often.
A Passion for Books edited by Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan
A bibliophile’s smorgasbord. Essays, poetry, quotes – all spread out like jam on a supersized piece of toast. If you like books, and you like reading about books (and about other people who like books), then this one is a must.
What’s on your bookshelf right now?
by Christopher Morley
“I give hearty and humble thanks for the safe return of this book, which having endured the perils of my friend’s bookcase and the bookcases of my friend’s friends, now returns to me in reasonably good condition.
I give hearty and humble thanks that my friend did not see fit to give this book to his infant for a plaything, nor use it as an ashtray for his burning cigar, nor as a teething-ring for his mastiff.
When I lent this book I deemed it as lost; I was resigned to the business of the long parting; I never thought to look upon its pages again.
But now that my book has come back to me, I rejoice and am exceedingly glad! Bring hither the fatted morocco and let us rebind the volume and set it on the shelf of honor, for this my book was lent and is returned again.
Presently, therefore, I may return some of the books that I myself have borrowed.”
(taken from A Passion for Books, edited by Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan)