“There’s this part,” I say, “this part where she has this...”
Less than 18 hours ago, I’d heard that Terry Pratchett had died and after reading my post on Facebook, a member of the library has come in to ask which book she should begin with. I am holding A Hat Full of Sky, the book I love the most, but I can’t find that part in it. That part that was so powerful and taught me what believing in oneself is all about.
In fact, I can’t find anything, I am clutching at straws, trying to say something to this reader that will make her want to take this book home and fall in love with Pratchett, but all that comes to mind is where I was when I first read the book. The way it had healed a pain I never knew I had been carrying. The cathartic effect of reading an ordinary girl tackle demons, rings of nightmares and seeing how it could be done. And then to feel that rush of confidence, that sense of power that comes with knowing your own old fears are gone for good. And now you can do anything and never feel small again.
Terry Pratchett did that for me, I am proud to say. His words were literary fireworks, he punned like nobody I had ever read and he invented crazy worlds and characters and winked me out of myself. Just reading him was enough to make my thoughts feel more agile. He was able to make you feel like he was drawing you beside him and you were reading (or writing) the book together. His books were more than all clever wordplay and chuckling at stereotypes. There was this overwhelming sense of raw emotion at the heart of every book. There was his deep calm anger against those who were corrupt, an even deeper belief that people could be so much better and so much simpler, and above everything else, there was this reassuring connection with the sky, the land, the trees and your dreams. What is real, what is magic? I guess, each reader finds something for himself or herself in the Discworld.
I first met Pratchett in ‘Turntables of the Night’, a short story in an anthology called Hidden Turnings. Suffice to say, I had read nothing like DEATH ever before. Only You Can Save Mankind came next. From then on, I would live inside Discworld on most days, way before Potter and his friends were born.
I read faster than my sister, and both of us were in awe of Terry Pratchett. Back then, there were no online sites to order books from, and the stores in our suburb didn’t know how to spell Pratchett. But we had raddiwalas. I built my collection like this, in no particular order. Book after book, there was so much new material, vampires who taught themselves to like garlic and the sunlight, an enterprising if extremely unhygienic food vendor, a soul-less and overall interesting bad guy Vetinari, and Vimes, the best cop I have ever read. DEATH. Just that right amount of humour and gravitas. The Death of Rats who SQUEAKED. How did he do that? How did he think up all this?
And then it happened. In the middle of Nation, I snapped the book shut and told my husband, there’s something wrong with him, why isn’t he funny anymore, something is missing.
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