Tag Archives: Terry Pratchett

(No) more trains

While I’m going on about trains, and seemingly finding it so easy telling you about what I’ve not done, I might as well go on.

Yesterday I didn’t travel on a steam train with Terry Pratchett.

I’m almost ashamed to admit that as soon as I heard Terry was writing a novel about trains on Discworld, my imagination started thinking ahead to what sort of launch party they could come up with for a book on trains. Even if I wasn’t invited.

But I was. Trouble was, I couldn’t go. As you may have gathered, I travelled in a northerly direction the day before, so was completely unable to attend afternoon tea on the Watercress Line, which is down south. Where most of the action is.

I adore trains. I quite like afternoon tea. And Terry Pratchett is not a bad sort. I’m hoping they had a great afternoon. (Although, no Watercress Line can be a patch on my darling Iron Girder.)

Raising Steam

I’m in love with a locomotive. Iron Girder, you are the most terrific girl!

All Terry Pratchett’s books are loveable in their own way, but I have a special fondness for ones about my kind of topics. Writing. Post Office-ing. And now trains. Raising Steam has let me experience the birth of railways, and what a wonderful feeling that is! (Death to that Beeching person. Actually, Death is too good for him.)

Instead of closing lines and getting rid of stations and services, here we have the complete and utter opposite, starting with young Dick Simnel, who knows about the sliding rule, and who saw his father die in some unexpected pink steam. He builds himself a prototype steam engine – the train kind – and goes off to Ankh-Morpork in search of, not so much his fortune, but a welcome for his beloved Iron Girder.

Terry Pratchett, Raising Steam

I’m guessing Dick is Discworld’s Yorkshireman, judging by his speech and the way he dresses. He’s lovely. Very straight. Even a scoundrel like Moist von Lipwig has to admire his honest ways. (Though I’m not sure about that smooth-talking Moist.) Eventually, seemingly all men are seduced by the steam engines Dick builds. It’s pathetic. Or would be, were they not such great things to be seduced by.

Early trainspotters are the kind who can write a 1 in their little books. The goblins totally come into themselves. I’m now dreadfully fond of these supposedly smelly little creatures. Golems. Gnomes. They all have something.

The one thing we never quite find out is how long it takes to build all these rail ways, and the engines (with facilities), branch lines and stations and towers for water and coal, and food and beds and guidebooks and everything else. It’s a wonderful world and I don’t know how anyone in their right mind could close railways!!

Not everything is fine, however. There is rebellion afoot, and there are corpses – body parts, even – and double-crossings, and if Moist doesn’t sort things out yesterday, he shouldn’t expect Vetinari to let him live.

But there are goblins, and there is Iron Girder. She knows who loves her. She’s a lady who looks after those who do. I’m very glad Terry has written a train book. I hope you are too.

Bookwitch bites #116

I am really grateful to the kind people of Wexford, Ireland, for arranging somewhere I could park my broom the other night. (Not that I have actually been to Wexford, but its proximity to Eoin Colfer makes it seem like a very nice place. That, and the broom parking.)

Broom parking

So, I’m resting a little. No flying while it’s windy. Besides, you can’t trust people not to be setting off fireworks at the moment. And that is very dangerous for witches on brooms. For others, too, but I am mostly looking after me.

We can’t all be like that lovely man, Terry Pratchett, who is a wee bit more modest than he needs to be.

Terry Pratchett

And so was the poor woman in Ystad who was locked into the library. 91-year-old Dagmar sat comfortably reading something, as you do, when it was time to close and staff claim to have ‘looked’ but seem to have missed Dagmar, so set the alarm, locked up and went home for the weekend. (It was Friday the 13th.) When eventually Dagmar moved, she set off the alarm, and someone came to find her, and even let her out. And being 91 and polite, she apologised for having caused trouble…

But you already knew that Ystad is a dangerous town. Just ask Wallander. Bet he’s never been locked in a library, though.

Locked in, is something we connect with Al Capone, among other things. Gennifer Choldenko’s third Alcatraz book Al Capone Does My Homework, is already out in the US, but the rest of us have to wait a while. Sob.

Gennifer Choldenko, Al Capone Does My Homework

And I can just sense that you like being told about books you can’t buy yet, so I’ll show you the cover of Ruth Eastham’s to-be-published third novel, Arrowhead. Like Al Capone, it will come. One day.

Ruth Eastham, Arrowhead

As I go to pick up my broom, I will leave you in the capable hands of Meg Rosoff. Although, considering what she can do to a piece of paper with a pair of scissors, I’m not so sure about those hands. If I think about it.

Wheee!!!

Fortunately, the… whatever

Guinea pig?! I felt more like a cow. (No, don’t say it.)

Unfortunately I had been reading about cows on my way in to Manchester, on a most unwitch-like train, i.e. one that didn’t leave hours in advance. I felt so little inclination to go and hear Neil Gaiman yesterday afternoon, that I cut it finer than one should with British style rail travel.

Unfortunately, that was totally fine. I arrived at the Dancehouse theatre with 15 minutes to spare and thought it was going swimmingly. After which thought we ended up penned in rather like cattle, waiting forever to be allowed in. Stairs and reception and café filled up with eager Gaiman fans, plus a few small children (whose event this really was).

I decided that if things got any worse I’d just go home again, wondering why I’d come in the first place. I like Neil Gaiman. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like crowds, and he collects them. But I can put up with crowds if treated humanely. I wasn’t alone in waiting it out on the other side of the doors, near the toilets. Fortunately, once we were allowed up the stairs, my number seat was the right number seat and so I was allowed in. (But we still had to wait for everyone to be seated, and the whole event was train-like in running half an hour late.)

Why was I not keen? Everything about this book has gone not to plan. Publisher didn’t send me a copy. I had to buy my own when that became evident. The complimentary ticket for the event didn’t materialise, so I had to buy my own at the 11th hour. The crowds, as I said. The fact that there is no way I’ll stand in a queue for three hours to have a book signed. The fact that I’m old and grumpy. And a cow.

You could say that the whole thing was threatening to curdle. I decided not to get my camera out. I’d just sit there and ‘not be on duty.’

But, you know, once Neil came on stage he worked his usual magic. He is a born entertainer, and he does events so effortlessly that even I started to feel all calm and relaxed and almost happy. His voice is nice to listen to.

Neil Gaiman

(This is a photo of Neil. Try to imagine a red curtain in the background, and that his hair doesn’t hang down across his eyes quite so much. In which case he almost looked like this.)

He said we’d be guinea pigs. He wanted to test read a longer piece from Fortunately, the Milk… than he usually does. Lying in training for Westminster on Tuesday, when he has to read it all.

As for himself he is obviously a goldfish. Or two. He’s the dad who was exchanged for two goldfish. In a way the milk book is simply a continuation of the goldfish book, and an attempt to come up with a positive book for dads.

Neil talked about his very young book, Chu’s Day. Cute pandas who sneeze, apparently. Only, I didn’t hear – didn’t know – the title, so when he asked what we thought the next book would be called, I felt Wednesday seemed appropriate.

Btw, I didn’t take notes.

He recounted how it came about that Chris Riddell would illustrate Fortunately, the Milk…, this the shiniest book in history. And Neil is about the only one who doesn’t find the charicature of himself all that amusing.

Then it was question time. Say what you want about his fans, but they ask good questions. Not all of them were fans, however, so a pattern developed where the person doing the asking qualified how fan-like they considered themselves to be.

One question was about Terry Pratchett, and in the end we all felt we were privy to some personal secret (and I don’t mean ‘when Terry slept with Neil,’ which he did, when they were both younger and poorer and didn’t buy the hotel first if they had to stay somewhere), and that’s a great skill to have. Neil even made the last rather pedestrian question sound exciting, because he was able to make the answer really special.

At the end of all that, ‘we will do some signing.’ Though Neil reckoned it would be best if he signed, until his head fell off, and the rest of us waited patiently in line.

Well, I didn’t do that, so I have no idea how long his head stayed put. Here is a photo someone took earlier, showing what Neil looks like when signing.

Neil Gaiman

‘Did you enjoy that?’ said the adult to the small child behind me. Small child said nothing. This was not a small child event, whatever the organisers say.

Now me, I did enjoy it. In the end. Neil always delivers. But I’d be happier without the crowds.

Bookwitch bites #113

The train will be late. Actually, the whole railway is running late. Perhaps it’s the wrong kind of leaves. If they have leaves in Discworld. I don’t know. Anyway, that perfect publication date (24th October) for Terry Pratchett’s Raising Steam has been moved to the 7th of November. But I suppose that will be all right, too.

Terry Pratchett, Raising Steam

To make up for it – or so it seems – the film of How I Live Now has moved in the other direction, and I understand it will be with us on the 4th of October. I just hope I will be ready in time. What am I saying? It’s the film of my favourite book. I’ll be ready. The trailer is looking good. Saoirse Ronan is not a bad Daisy, as far as I can see. (And Edmund has grown older. I suppose he had to.)

Another film on the horizon – although a more distant kind of horizon – is the one about Artemis Fowl. It will be a Disney production, and I hope that doesn’t mean they will make a hash of our favourite juvenile Irish master criminal. Or pick the wrong Butler, or worse still, don’t understand Holly has to be a pixie. A real pixie.

Eoin Colfer is one of the big names coming to the Manchester Literature Festival this October. The programme has just gone public, and I almost had to stop myself from gasping with delight. I obviously didn’t gasp at all, because I am a professional bookwitch, but you know, that’s a pretty good programme.

It’s almost as if you don’t have to go to Edinburgh to see certain authors. I’m supposed to have overseas visitors the weekend before MLF. I’m going to have to get rid of them really swiftly.

Meanwhile I am practising daily on getting the pronunciation of Saoirse right.

Bookwitch bites #111

Stephen Booth returns to Reading Matters in Chapel-en-le-Frith tomorrow, at 10.30. I’m guessing to sign books in general (mainly his own) and to promote his new Cooper & Fry novel Already Dead. According to Stephen himself, he is not, and never has been, J K Rowling. (I can see these jokes going on for some time.)

Although, to me it’s not so much of a joke that people yet again mind so awfully about J K, that they find it hard to accept that she still writes books, gets them published, and sells some copies on the strength of the young wizard. And some of us just happen to believe she might be worth reading anyway. We can’t simply magic Harry Potter away. He exists. We like him. Some of us will like what comes after Harry because of what it is, and not because it’s got her name on the books. Or not her name, as the case may be.

Another big name, Terry Pratchett, will soon have a new book out, and I can’t help but think he had our family in mind. It’s about trains, and it will be published on somebody’s birthday. Raising Steam arrives on October 24th (unless there are leaves on the track, I suppose). While you wait, there is some kind of iPad map of Ankh-Morpork to be had at half price until the end of the month.

Since I seem interested in making you spend money, let me introduce the Nicola Morgan online shop! Yes, a dream come true for Nicola, where she can play shopkeeper to her heart’s content. So far it’s bags and books, but I’ve been led to understand there could be even more exciting stuff available later. Keep checking in, and keep Nicola in shoes and baked beans.

Letterbox

Meanwhile, I’ve received yet another book in my temporary jiffy receptacle. I’m guessing the postperson doesn’t know how lucky he/she is not to be carting them hither every day or every week. Let’s just hope the senders know when to stop.

Lots of new books

And some old ones, too. You can never re-issue certain books too many times.

It’s understandable that the publishing world would pick a day like today to publish lots of books. 6th of June has a lovely ring to it. It’s sort of made for books, I’d say.

Originally I was going to review something today, just because it had a 6/6 publishing date. But then I discovered it’d be almost impossible to choose which one. (And I sort of ran out of time, too. I kept working on the May books for longer than I should have. They were good, too. Don’t misunderstand me. But June beats everything.) So I’ll let you have a June book tomorrow. And later.

Terry Pratchett’s publishers have really gone to town today. I’d like to think they had me in mind. But maybe not. Anyway; Terry’s Johnny trilogy is out again, and it is such a fantastic set of stories. I think I sometimes say stupid things such as I like Johnny and the Bomb best, but then I remember that I don’t necessarily, because they are all great, so I won’t say that. At all.

And, Maurice and the rodents are also back, and you just can’t not read it, if you haven’t already.

Theresa Breslin’s Queen Mary book is out in paperback, and Sam Hepburn’s Chasing the Dark is also available now. Andy Mulligan has a new book today (thank you!) and so does Elen Caldecott.

Kate Maryon and Margo Lanagan, likewise. Nicholas Allan. Sean Stockdale, Alexandra Strick and Ros Asquith.

So perhaps it becomes clear why I don’t read all of the books, however excellent and marvellous they are, or seem to be. I will read some, and some I will put in my ‘house arrest’ box. They will be most welcome when the time comes.

Actually, I will leave you today with an almost review. Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart have a new picture book, Just Imagine. It has many very lovely pictures. Naturally. The kind you could sit for hours finding new details in. It has words, too, including the word ‘bewitching.’ Despite that, and despite the fact that there is a witch in the book, I don’t think they have covered just what I’d want; the time to read all the books I would like to read.

Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart, Just Imagine

Just Imagine shows the reader a lot of different scenarios for what or who they could be. Since the book-reading-time thing isn’t on offer, I’ll go for ‘parent-frightening’ which actually sounds quite fun.

Grrrr! (Although that is only if you don’t go out and read one of the books I’ve mentioned. One of the very special 6th June books.)

Margo Lanagan, Yellow Cake

(Or I could scare you with Yellow Cake by Margo Lanagan. It’s a great title. I’m just a little scared of Margo, whose writing is not exactly run of the mill.

The other titles I’ve not mentioned yet are Theresa Breslin – Spy for the Queen of Scots, Kate Maryon – Invisible Girl, Nicholas Allan – The Royal Nappy, Stockdale, Strick and Asquith – Max the Champion, Elen Caldecott – The Great Ice-Cream Heist, Andy Mulligan – The Boy with 2 Heads, Terry Pratchett – The Johnny Maxwell Trilogy, and The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents.)

Moving tales #2 – the books

The books. Some will simply have to go. About half would be good.

So, one question: Does it make more sense to hang on to old books already read and thoroughly enjoyed, or those not yet read at all? I’m beginning to think that some used ones ought to go, and some new ones should stay, in the hopes they will come into favour at some point. But not too many.

Some books have moved around with me before. A lot. I used to be of the opinion that if I’d liked something, I’d hang on to it. Part of the family and all that. Now that this looks like an impossible ambition, I suspect I can chuck out quite a few books. I look at them and ask myself if I’m at all likely to re-read, even were I not so blessed with new incoming books on a daily basis.

More often than you’d think, the answer is no. And for every 19 books successfully Oxfammed, there is bound to be a 20th I will regret. But there are libraries and secondhand bookshops, and even firsthand bookshops, whence mistakes might be rectified.

Books

Libraries. I must have imagined I actually am a library in the past. Thoughts like ‘that could be handy to have if …’ have confused me. I have hung on to books because I am a snob. It would look impressive – or at least marginally good – to have certain books on my shelves.

And, it’s so useful to have a nice selection if visitors want to read while staying with us. Pah! I don’t like lending books, and we don’t exactly run a hotel here. The only people impressed by our books have been Son’s reception teacher and our former GP. The Grandmother sometimes finds something she will read (which she then takes home with her to finish).

I have been known to feel that if I adore a writer, I must keep all of his or her books, when a few of the best will do. Now that I own a lot of signed books I have felt I can’t part with any of those. But I’ll just have to. (The embarrassing fact is that anything signed to Bookwitch will be rather obvious. Please don’t hate me.)

I can’t get rid of books written by the very nice people I am now reasonably acquainted with. But I will have to. You are still absolutely lovely people. So are your books. Lovely, I mean, not that they are people.

Several copies of the ‘same’ book makes little sense. So does keeping [all of] Offspring’s books. Unless they at least spring clean a little, so we don’t keep every single one. Son could prune his multiple copies of Terry Pratchett and Eoin Colfer. Daughter could decide she won’t bl**dy re-read Cathy Hopkins, again. Actually, no, perhaps she couldn’t.

Some of my fiction is quite easy to decide on. But what about Shakespeare? One collected works is enough, which means the other can go. But the plays we also have separately? What will we want to return to at some point? Which Tom Stoppard play do I like best? Shaw? Do we need two Swedish hymn books?*

*This backfired a little. When the Resident IT Consultant was reminded of Shaw, for instance, he promptly sat down and read one of the plays. He told me off for wanting to deprive him of the poetry of Dylan Thomas. Oh, dear. He claimed the Zen motorbike book was his, and not mine to chuck out. And so it went.

But some books went.

Sweet and refreshing

After reading Terry Pratchett’s Dodger, I know so much more. Having ‘met’ that Peel chap in Terry’s book, I now understand what and who he was, and also why his men were peelers. Before, I only knew they were the police, just like the Bow Street Runners.

But still.

The Resident IT Consultant brought home some peelers the other day. They are (or at least were decribed as) seedless and easy. Also refreshing and sweet. Lovely policemen, in other words, and not in the slightest seedy – unlike their customers – and easy (perhaps like some of their clientele).

They came from Waitrose. Can you tell what was on my shopping list yet? Because it doesn’t actually say on the numerous labels of these peelers what they are. They are described, but they are sweet and easy whatsits?

Nadorcott, to be precise. Size 64 to 69 mm, class 1. And they taste fine.

My shopping list had the word clementines on it. I needed to google to see whether that’s what the Resident IT Consultant brought home.

According to one, he did: ‘A high quality, mid to late-maturing Clementine. Easy- peeling with great depth of flavour and sweetness, with a good acidity balance.’ The next entry offers a slight difference of opinion: ‘A new variety of Mandarin Tangerine, … the fruit is easy peeling with a superior rind and juice color.’

So, a clementine. Or possibly a mandarin. Or tangerine. One of those orangey things.

Why not say so on the label? It feels weird to tell myself I’m eating a peeler, however sweet and seedless. The label even mentions love life. Whose?

(As for the small print, ‘all care is taken but on rare occasions fruit may contain seeds.’ Meaning someone was meant to de-seed and might have missed a few? Also ‘wash before use.’ I’m generally clean. And I peel the peelers. So what wants washing?)

Deary me, how terryble

If you haven’t got money you won’t want to read books. In fact, you shouldn’t have the right to read them, because (other) taxpayers shouldn’t have to fund your free reading. Rather like education. Why should those with no children pay to put other people’s kids through school?

Those pesky children might of course turn out to be the surgeon who saves your life 25 years later, but never mind that. Let’s live for today.

The Resident IT Consultant felt I was being strangely insincere in wanting to hang on to libraries, seeing as I don’t – currently – use them. That’s mainly because I already have access to all I can read. I used libraries until I moved to Britain, even after I discovered I could afford to buy English paperbacks. I read more than I bought.

Then I must have fallen foul of the ‘I am new here and I don’t quite know what to do in someone else’s library’ law, so didn’t. When Offspring arrived they had the school library, and before that there were all the book parties. Usborne and Red House parties were de rigueur in my neighbourhood.

And after that the mobile library parked in our street and I went every time it came. I stopped because I helped in Offspring’s secondary school library and there were so many books there I was in heaven. Once I stopped at the school, the mobile library had gone to park elsewhere (was it my fault..?) and I spent a year or two buying books again, since we could afford to, until Bookwitch was born and soon after her, the TBR piles arrived on the scene.

So that’s me. I have very little against libraries. I think we should hang on to the ones we have. Occasionally people with no money want to read books. Quite often people with money read nothing at all. The reading/not reading is not connected to the wallet, unless it has to be.

The well-off middle class children Offspring used to play with in the mid 1990s were delighted to discover libraries when they came along one day. They were readers already, but knew nothing about libraries. I blame the parents.

For obvious reasons, the mobile library had limited shelf space. But I found good stuff there. It’s the place I was introduced to Malorie Blackman and Gillian Cross, and which allowed me to work my way through ‘all’ of theirs. I found Tim Bowler, too, and the lovely and murderous Kate Ellis. They all went on to become firm book friends of the whole family.

Would I have discovered them without the library? I might have been waylaid by something garish and pink in some shop. Who knows?

And as for what authors get from libraries. They acquire readers. As someone pointed out in the Guardian; you can get ideas in the library, and then you go out and buy books. Another thing I’ve noticed authors are ridiculously fond of is the PLR money. So many of them aren’t dreadfully wealthy, and they are happy when that PLR cheque arrives every year. I know, because facebook is awash with PLR happiness for a day or two.

Then there is the greater good. J K Rowling is always saying how grateful she was for benefits, back when she wasn’t rich. She doesn’t need PLR, but I doubt she begrudges others that money. J K wasn’t uneducated, just a bit short of funds. Perhaps she even went to libraries.

Sometimes intelligence and the wish to read doesn’t increase with the bank balance. Actually, it could even be the reverse.

If and when my supply of review copies dries up, I’ll be down at the library too. If it’s still there.