The first Terry Pratchett book I ever read was a frayed-at-the-edges second hand copy of Only You Can Save Mankind. I finished that one only twice.
Soon after, I picked up the Discworld novels and never looked back. I read The Fifth Elephant, once, twice, three, four times before resting at the pleasantly symmetrical fifth reading. By this time, I knew the book almost off by heart; knew which joke followed which set up and which word was where to describe Corporal Carrot’s soapy smell. I still remember the sulphuric smell of cat urine in the Museum that sets the novel in motion. I then read it a sixth , seventh, eighth time.
The fantastical world of the child seems to slip away with each passing year. Every year, my bed became less and less like a race track able to keep me up far past my bedtime and more like a white sheet, a duvet and one pillow far too large to sleep on and another far too stale to prop my head on. Yet Pratchett’s imaginative novels and the ideas therein never receded for me. They continued to ripple. There was the time when, sitting in the theatre one night, a decade later, it made more sense than ever that three sisters have “Uncle Vanya’s trousers”. In Pratchett’s Making Money, I learned, without knowing it, about the subjectivity of power. When reading Borges’ The Library of Babel, a sense of familiarity washed over me: I had been in that magical, multi-dimensional library before; except in Pratchett’s imagination, I vaguely recall – and it certainly seems too fantastical to be true – I was guided by an Orangutan.
Pratchett was everything to me. A fact my English teacher probably heard one too many times. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dickens, Steinbeck – yes, but have you read Pratchett?
Everyone should read Pratchett.
Just as his books never left me, I hope the ripples of his warmth, his humour, his work, his memory and his admirable fight against Alzheimer’s will never die. May he rest in peace.