Tag Archives: Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett – A Life With Footnotes

He was there. All the way. And that makes a difference.

So thank you Rob Wilkins, for writing the biography of Terry Pratchett, and for writing it so well, making it almost as humorous as if Terry himself had had a go at it. But most of all, thank you for being there with Terry, especially towards the end, when it can’t have been much fun.*

It’s been a while since I enjoyed a book quite as much as this one. Even when tears threatened to overwhelm me towards the end of the book, it was still [sort of] funny.

The doubts were there from the beginning. Can Rob really write a book, and can he write this particular book? Well, yes, he can and he did. He had help, from Terry himself, who had begun to gather facts about his life, especially the early years. Convenient, since Rob wasn’t around then. Other people helped, like his UK editor Philippa Dickinson.** (When Philippa once talked to me about editing Terry’s books, it wasn’t at all obvious how much she did. Now I know.)

Setting aside the fame and the money and the ability to write all those lovely books, I discovered I had a lot in common with Terry. He was clearly more right than I was when he suggested this.***

And, I know this is not about me at all. But I could only read A Life With Footnotes by keeping in mind where and when our paths crossed. I was at some of the events mentioned. In other cases I was there before or right after. And it seems I was less wrong than I thought in ‘holding on to’ Terry on that September day in 2010. Also, much of the off the record information I’ve been keeping quiet about has now been revealed.

I’ve said this before; I am so glad I have as many books left to read as I do. Now that Rob has shared what went on backstage, I feel the urge to go and check stuff again.****

If you love Terry Pratchett, this is the book for you.

*That taxi ride in New York, for instance.

** Who is ‘not a cantankerous bat after all.’

***At our second interview in 2010.

****I will need to make lists.

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‘My Favourite Spoon’

I know I’m a witch, but this is slightly silly. For some reason, which I can no longer remember – and it was only yesterday – I was going to take a picture of a spoon and put it on here. ‘I can do that,’ I thought.

Today I started reading one of my Christmas present books, Rob Wilkins’s biography of Terry Pratchett. It’s very good.

Somewhere in the introduction he mentions ‘what Terry referred to as the “My Favourite Spoon” slots in the newspaper supplements.’ I count my lucky stars that I never asked him for one of those!

But, anyway, there I was and I had thought of spoons. And as I thought a bit more, I realised that this was indeed my favourite spoon. Here it is. I have always loved it. And I still get upset if it finds its way into someone else’s hands at the table. You can have Borås, but leave Varberg alone.

Of course, this is the story of my spoon. I’m not asking you to participate in any spoon slots.

Down #2 Memory Lane

It looks quite domestic, doesn’t it? Except for the lurid red upholstery.

But there’s me, the tea tray, the three heads in front of the gold mirror. And Terry Pratchett.

2010 was a double Terry Pratchett interview year. By request. The first time by me. The second time by Terry.

It was, just nice. That’s what I’m looking for just now. A nice past. Something I’d put in my photo album, if I did stuff like that. In fact, that’s an idea! I never considered mixing Bookwitching photographs with private life photos.

I had brought Son along, in case there was coffee to be poured. There was. I always knew he’d turn out to be useful one day.

Audible?

For her current commute, Daughter needs audio books. They will keep her sane and entertained during the 25 minutes on the S-Bahn and the 5 to 10 on the bus. Twice a day, five days a week. I understand that’s about the equivalent of The Hunger Games. (Not that I applaud her choice.)

Now, I have to admit here that I have not studied the finer details of having an Audible membership. Daughter has, and while she’s not thrilled with the cost, she hasn’t come up with anything better. There probably isn’t anything better, i.e. cheaper per hour.

When they were still cassette tapes I used to buy a lot. They were expensive, but I felt the benefits outweighed the cost, and there were four of us who would potentially listen, one at a time. Son wore out our copy of Kim, so bought a more hardwearing version of this Kipling story when he got older but still wanted to re-listen. As for Harry Potter, I winced when paying, but knew it was worth it.

I also frequented the mobile library when it stopped down the road, and borrowed a lot of audio cassettes, mostly for Son. That’s how I discovered children weren’t meant to read Terry Pratchett… Or Agatha Christie.

Thinking back to this time, I remembered that I must have contacted the library service at some point, about audio books for Daughter, who at that time really needed them to access literature at all. Somebody very nice provided her with a library card that allowed her free audio books, and I proceeded to request books from the mobile library, and every time they came, they would wave their latest haul at me. It was great.

Until the time we lost the nice and friendly crew and the replacement librarian got fed up with looking out for my requests, and told me so in no uncertain terms.

So that was that. Daughter learned to read for pleasure, mainly thanks to Nick Sharratt. But on her commute she prefers sound to paper. If only it wasn’t so expensive!

I recalled the event in Edinburgh in August where Sally Gardner ‘suggested to someone in the audience that if they can get a certificate from their GP that their child is dyslexic, then they have the right to access audio books for the blind and partially sighted.’ That’s probably similar to what I arranged for Daughter 15 to 20 years ago. I don’t know what would happen today.

Discovered from one author that the seemingly fair free exchange of a book if you don’t like it, can be abused. Readers listen to one book and then return it and read another for the same cost. Not surprisingly that money doesn’t then benefit either the author of the book or the narrator.

We looked at the audio books in the sale over Christmas, but there wasn’t much to her tastes. I went through my library and suggested really good books, that it would be worth paying for. Most of them weren’t available on audio…

The difficulty of buying books

I went to Waterstones. I even went upstairs, despite me saying I wouldn’t (because of the crazy lift). I walked up. And down again.

It was a choice between spending my money on the High Street or online, so I went to the physical shop, stairs and all. I had about six or seven books on my list.

After trying not to fall over the outstretched legs of the family sitting in the armchairs upstairs, in the children’s department, I eventually found Malorie Blackman’s Crossfire. It had a ‘second book half price’ sticker, so I thought ‘Great!’ Because I was buying several books.

But there was no other book from my list.

I hobbled downstairs again and looked for the adult books on the list. Good Omens is not shelved under Pratchett, and after a bit I discovered it under Gaiman. Then I saw one with a nicer cover on one of the tables.

After which I found no more books [from my list].

I know. I could have ordered them online, to pick up in the shop. I just didn’t think I’d have to. They were all new novels by big names. To be fair, they had every single Skulduggery Pleasant book except for the new one. And that was the one I needed.

My next solution was to look for the books in the Charlotte Square festival bookshop. And three of them were available. I deemed one too expensive. It’s a hardback, which I hadn’t counted on. The other two were also hardbacks and so huge I came to the conclusion there was no way I’d walk round carrying them along with my daily burden.

All this makes online shopping quite attractive. I haven’t decided what I’ll do yet.

Good Omens, again

We’ve started on Good Omens on television again. The Resident IT Consultant and I watched it as soon as it was available, and managed to stretch it out over nine days, or something like that.

When Daughter asked if this was something she’d like – Good Omens, not the stretching – I only paused for a few seconds to run the possibility she might not like this wonderful book, especially on the screen, and especially with David Tennant in it. I could not come up with a reason against.

So now that we are all together in the same house for a few weeks, we’ve downloaded the episodes again and are watching with her. I’m fairly sure I could tolerate watching it with lots of different Offspring, one after the other, but I only have the two.

I’m relieved to discover we are having technical hitches even with someone young in the room. It’s clearly not just us old ones being old that causes it.

And you discover something new when you watch again. One day it might even become totally clear. Except it seems even God admits that the third baby is somewhat unaccounted for.

Witches Abroad

I seem to have chosen the way of the witches in the Discworld books as I work through them. Although that sounds like more of a hardship than this could ever be. I just feel I want to learn more about these esteemed ladies, Granny and Nanny.

Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad

The first time I met Nanny Ogg – and I do not remember in which book – I had a different view of her; thinner, sharper, wiser. Not that she isn’t wise, or a little sharp, while being soft. Thin, not so much. That’s for Granny Weatherwax to be.

Going abroad is never easy, but I’m glad I don’t sit for that long on my broom, and I reckon their idea of some sort of broomline with food served is bound to catch on, especially if the seats aren’t too narrow.

In Witches Abroad Terry Pratchett manages to cover a large number of well known stories, all the way to Emberella herself in Genua, where servant girls have to marry the prince.

In fact, I believe what I liked here was that there were so many female characters, and they were strong, even if they used their abilities to do ‘wrong’ and the more I think about it, there weren’t many men at all, other than weak ones or drunk ones. Even dead ones.

As for the wrongly spelled Magrat and her wrong spell pumpkins, she will be all right. She even stood up to Granny. And who on earth knows when to stop when spelling banananana?

But if you want some of Terry’s clever observations as quotes, then you can read the book yourselves.

Maskerade

It was the witches who decided for me. I knew I was going to choose a Terry Pratchett novel to buy, but which one? Several looked promising, but Granny Weatherwax at the opera sounded especially tempting.

Terry Pratchett, Maskerade

Maskerade is actually a crime novel, I discovered. This made it even more fun, and I was already needing the light Pratchett touch. It improved my week considerably.

Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg travel to the big city for some culture. Well, actually, they go there to see if they can persuade young witch Agnes Nitt, aka Perdita, to join them so they can be three witches together. Three is so much more fun. But Perdita wants to sing opera and might need quite a bit of persuading.

And then people start dropping dead, all over the opera. Even more than the normal operatic death toll, I mean.

You forget – well, I do, anyway – how good Terry was at observing everything in life and making pertinent comments about the ridiculousness of it all. Or is it easier to comment on life at the opera?

The main outcome for me was that I need another dose of Pratchett magic soon. Things went well for Granny and Nanny, but then you’d expect that. They are not the kind of witches who would permit things to not go well. I haven’t yet decided which of them is the cleverest. Most cunning. Whatever.

The danger of libraries

I can’t remember where I borrowed the quote below. Or from whom. But it has to be shared. It’s not hard to understand why they are so frightened of libraries.

Terry Pratchett on libraries

And I seem to have missed what would have been Terry’s 70th birthday a few weeks ago. Not only did I not know the date, but I had the year wrong. I must not have visited libraries often enough.

Thief of Time

I can’t claim to have understood what Terry Pratchett wanted to tell me in Thief of Time. But it’s as fun and entertaining as any other Discworld novel, choc-a-bloc with deep, if obvious, thoughts about life and all the rest. And there are some good quotes.

Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time

I too like to consider myself as ‘one who was slightly intellectual.’ I also practise what Lu-Tze, the Sweeper, does, in becoming invisible because you are just so lowly and boring that no one sees you. I don’t sweep, however. That’s too much work.

There are monks and there is cherry blossom. Chocolate, even when life brings you nougat. I know that feeling.

Terry obviously thought up some deft moves between different times, and some of his characters are, if possible, even odder than usual. Lu-Tze’s apprentice Lobsang is at the more normal end, and I’ve always liked Death’s granddaughter Susan. The character who looks like a ‘society lady who had just had a really bad day in a threshing machine’ is a masterpiece, developing in an interesting way through the book.

When your reading life feels as if something is missing, it’s good to have Terry and his world to go back to.

Actually, I might sweep a little after all.