Sir Terry Pratchett, author and campaigner, has died at home aged 66.
We don't usually do obituaries here at Doux Reviews, and yet here we are, producing two in two weeks. But it seemed right to mark the passing of Sir Pterry, author of more than 70 novels including more than 40 set in the Discworld.
Screen adaptations of his work have sadly been few and far between, as, it seems, film and TV producers did not always quite 'get' his creations - for example, one production company wanted to know if it might be possible to do Mort (a story about Death, the skeletal Reaper, taking on an apprentice) without the Death/skeleton bit. There have been animated adaptations of Wyrd Sisters, Soul Music and the non-Discworld Truckers, and live-action adaptations of Hogfather, The Colour of Magic and Going Postal, plus numerous radio and stage productions. Still, it's on the page that Pratchett's work really flourished, and it's for his novels that we'll remember him.
The Discworld, Pratchett's most famous and enduring creation, is as old as I am and, with new books having appeared once or twice a year for most of that time, the idea that soon there will be no more Discworld books is hard to get your head around. I discovered the Discworld during a compulsory 'read-a-book-from-the-library' session at school. At the time I had moved on from The Babysitters' Club and was reading nothing but Sweet Valley High. My dad, desperate as both parents were to get me reading something more worthwhile and knowing how much I liked CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien and Douglas Adams, suggested that Pratchett, with his combination of fantasy and humour, might be an author I could enjoy. I did. The Discworld is such a rich and varied world that I have grown with the books, my favourites changing from the female-centric Witches books and high fantasy Death books that were my favourites as a teenager to morph into my love of the cynical City Watch and its grizzled Commander Vimes above all else as an adult. For younger readers introduced to the world through the later Young Adult books about Tiffany Aching, this effect must be even stronger.
My dad's recommendation of the Discworld certainly had the desired effect of getting me into quality literature, and later it got my brother - now much more of a bookworm than me - into reading anything at all. Pratchett's books are not self-consciously 'literary', nor are they trying to create some grand opus. They are fun and easy to read, their satire sharp and always, most importantly, funny, however serious the underlying point. They are simply good. Pratchett referred to literary criticism of his works as him being "accused of literature", which is why one major collection of essays is called Terry Pratchett: Guilty of Literature - although he sometimes had a point to make, he didn't write for critical acclaim or awards, but for love and to bring pleasure to others. But ultimately, that is what true literature, literature that touches you and makes a lasting impression, really is - something written with care and from the heart.
Sir Pterry and I, had we ever met, would have disagreed on many fundamental things (assisted suicide, the existence of God, the entertainment value of football) but in his public statements he was always unfailingly polite and respectful in disagreement. When he put forth his views - as he did pretty strongly on many occasions - he did so with passion, intelligence, integrity and often with humour. It's an example we can only hope others follow.
When CS Lewis died, Tolkien wrote to his daughter that at his age, he felt like a tree losing its leaves one by one, but that the loss of Lewis was "an axe-blow near the roots". The world of fantasy literature feels the same about Terry Pratchett. But we can only refer to the motto given him by the College of Arms, Noli Timore Messorum - Don't Fear the Reaper - and wish him a safe onward journey to wherever it is he's going next.
Picture from Wikimedia Commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:10TerryPratchett02.jpg