When I was a small kid two of my biggest heroes were Freddie Mercury and Roald Dahl. They both died almost exactly within a year of each other, when I was eight or nine, in 1990 and 1991. I remember being vaguely sad at both moments, but it was a child-like version of sadness. It was years later when I realised the loss of those wonderful cultural giants, one way too early from a now-treatable disease, and the other after a long, productive life of spinning memories for kids.
Last year Ireland lost Seamus Heaney, one of our greatest storytellers. A man who could spin a country and a culture out of words. I felt his death, not as sadness, but as the end of an era; not a bad or good thing, but just as the end of something for Irish literature. Also, if I’m honest, there are very few poets who I can read consistently and enjoy as much as I did Heaney.
Today I lost another hero. Terry Pratchett. Pratchett, the unparalleled, brilliant, absorbing… I’m running through adjectives in my head but one of the many PTerry quotes in my head is “use adjectives as if they cost you a toenail.” So I’ll stop there. I need all my toenails.
You know when you hear stories about those awful yoga classes where the teacher says “go to your happy place”. Well those classes don’t exist, yoga is actually awesome. But, that happy place, that does exist. Pratchett is my happy place. I can open any of his books at any page and immediately fall into a world where mine doesn’t exist. The only other place I can find that feeling of nothingness, of non-existence, is going to see a movie. I love Pratchett for giving me an escape. To fall is the right verb. The first few lines of his books are like that feeling you get when you’re falling asleep. Tumbling, falling, sinking into something totally absorbing.
I really enjoyed the books when I was a teenager, but I think I only really realised Pratchett’s own magic after I saw his profile photo on the back of a book. Check it out. He created this world of comic fantasy writing and then lived this world. His appearance at ComicCons, his playful attitude to profile pics in his books, his autobiographical writing… He had fun. And the fun characterised his writing. Pratchett predicted the internet’s obsession with cats long before any generic meme generator: “In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.” He could also make me laugh out loud more than any other author. “Build a man a fire, and he’ll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.”
My favourites are his books on the Discworld witches. These witches are powerful women, some of the strongest female characters in any genre. Pick up Equal Rites, Wyrd Sisters or Witches Abroad and have a laugh, fly through an easy read and lose yourself in another world.
PTerry. The End.