My first brush with Terry Pratchett’s novels was through the covers of his books.
Ironic really, given it was his words which mattered the most.
The ones I remember are those illustrated by Josh Kirby. Full of these vivid characters and the kind of artwork I’d never seen before, I’d spend hours poring over the covers. I pretty much broke the “never judge a book by its cover” rule several times over. I was quite young, so I think I found them a bit frightening at first.
Eventually, I thought I’d give one of those strange looking books a try and fell headlong into this world of witches, wizards, wit and wisdom. Who knew footnotes could be so funny? And who could have imagined a kindlier Grim Reaper?
Since then, Pratchett’s books have been a staple part of my literary diet.
I grew up obsessed with fantasy novels: Harry Potter made me want to be a writer, His Dark Materials marked the beginning of my teenage years but Discworld? Discworld has been constant. Pratchett was so prolific, his works so numerous, I can mark a Discworld novel for most points in my life.
As a teen, at a time when classmates were passing around an email detailing why I was such a loser, it made me feel like less of an oddball. Because, if anything, his characters made you realise we’re all at least a little bit strange. Granny Weatherwax taught me to give less of a shit about what people thought of me.
At university, it provided respite to the dull critics you have to read when you study English Literature. Tired of reading and highlighting their complex theories for hours, I would find a corner and read Wyrd Sisters for a while – a fitting modern tribute to Shakespeare’s work, if you ask me.
When I was a trainee journalist doing my first bout of work experience, I re-read The Truth and felt more connected to journalism than ever before. My first job was at a weekly paper in Guildford. Come deadline day, when all had been filed, I couldn’t help but think of this quote:
“The press waited. It looked now, like a great big beast. Soon he’d throw a lot of words into it. And in a few hours it would be hungry again, as if those words never happened. You could feed it, but you could never fill it up.”
(and sometimes still today: “A lie can run around the world before the truth has got its boots on.” And this was BEFORE Twitter!)
Now, living what feels like a million miles away from where I grew up, it reminds me of home, of the daft jokes my Dad tells around the kitchen table, of the library in my family home with Pratchett’s books strewn between our living room shelves and spots in my old bedroom. More than that, when I’m feeling particularly homesick (yep, it happens even when you’re 25 and have flown the nest), Pratchett makes me laugh.
This is without even talking about the myriad of other books Pratchett produced in his lifetime. But I’d be here all day if I talked about them all. I hope, one day, to have achieved half what Sir Terry did.
Thank you, Terry Pratchett. I hope Death is every bit of the character you imagined him to be.