One of my favorite authors has passed away. Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books have been among my go-to books whenever I needed a laugh or just wanted a good book to read. His fantasy books are a constant reminder of the glorious adventure of reading and the wonder that can be found in a well-built fictional world, even one teetering on four elephants standing on the back of a giant turtle. These books never fail to make me laugh out loud. Many times, they’ve made me cry. Because of his skill, Pratchett’s books earned him the Carnegie Medal and other awards, honorary degrees, and a knighthood. The elegance of his prose and breadth of vision always challenge me to be a better writer.
I cried when I heard the news of his death. I couldn’t help thinking back to when I saw Sir Terry in person when he popped by Anderson Bookshop in Naperville, Illinois in 2006 to talk about his third Tiffany Aching book, Wintersmith. Believe it or not, the crowd was not as huge as I would have thought it would be with an internationally known author in the house. But the small crowd enabled me to talk with him and tell him how much his books meant to me. (And no, I don’t have a picture of that event, much to my regret.) I later learned, like many others did, that he had early onset Alzheimer’s. What a blow for him and for those of us who admire his rapier wit. It felt like the countdown had begun. Though he lost the ability to type, he continued to write with the help of dictating software and friends and family. And we’re all the richer for having those books.
Pratchett wrote about witches, wizards, politics, police procedures, and many other subjects with equal skill. Among my favorite characters are Granny (Esme) Weatherwax, who considers herself the head witch in Lancre; Tiffany Aching, a young witch in training; and Commander Sam Vimes, the head of the City Watch in Ankh-Morpork, a huge city-state. I love Pratchett’s crackling dialogue, which sharply delineates every character.
Last year he announced that his daughter Rhianna will take over the Discworld series. If you haven’t read any of the Discworld books, I recommend giving them a try. Though the first book is The Color of Magic, I didn’t start there. The first book I read was Equal Rites, about gender politics and wizardry. That’s all I’ll tell you about that hilarious book.
I moved on to Mort, which made me want to read other books Pratchett wrote about another on my list of favorite characters: Death, a Grim Reaper who speaks in ALL CAPITALS. If you’re familiar this character, a recent tweet from Pratchett’s Twitter account with his assistant Rob Wilkins will seem all the more poignant if you imagine Death speaking:
AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.
I’ve read (and reread) most of his books—some more than five times. There is one book in his Discworld wizard miniseries that I haven’t yet read. I’ll get to that soon. There also are some picture books I haven’t yet read.
Terry, I’ll miss you. Thanks for being a mentor, though you didn’t suspect that you had that role in my life. At least I had the opportunity to tell you that when you visited my little neck of the woods. And I can still visit you whenever I open one of your books.
A sweatshirt given to me by friends who also love the Discworld
Terry Pratchett photo from Wikipedia. Book covers from Goodreads. Granny Weatherwax from somewhere on the internet.