Released: September 2014
The warm weather might be fooling us into thinking that we aren’t firmly into autumn and heading towards Christmas, but the shops certainly aren’t. Christmas cards and mince pies have been decorating the shelves for weeks now and there has recently been an arrival of autobiographical tomes in every booksellers in town. Some of these really aren’t autobiographies strictly speaking as they’ve been penned by ghost writers, or like this latest offering from Terry Pratchett, are more collations of works.
With forty fictional books to his credit, it’s easy to forget that Terry was once just a journalist. Reading some of the essays and articles he has written compiled in this book, reminds you that he wasn’t any ordinary journalist and writer; he was and still is an outstanding one as this collection of selected speeches, open letters to newspapers, articles, and general musings on everything from casting insects in gold to picking mushrooms can testify.
The book is split into four sections, oh, and a foreword from Neil Gaiman, which gives another insight into the working, mind of the prolific writer. The first and largest section of the book, ‘A Scribbling Intruder’, focuses a lot on writing. In fact there are some really helpful tips in here for any aspiring writers. The next, ‘A Twit and a Dreamer’, is on early memories and general writings, whilst the penultimate chapter focuses on his work with the orang-utan society and promoting the work and research that needs to be done around all forms of dementia but especially Alzheimer’s. The final section is just two short pages of his famous footnotes to life.
It is an eclectic mix and if you’re reading it in a hurry – as I usually am for a review, some of the extracts can seem a little repetitive at times, mainly in the penultimate section where each letter or speech usually opens with a contextualisation of his standpoint on Alzheimer’s. Nonetheless this collection of works provides a fascinating insight into the way the author’s mind worked when he started the Discworld novels, and how he has created that rich other world merely by observing the machinations of this one.
The thing that comes across most of all through this collection of writing is Terry’s heart and vibrancy and his passion – for Discworld, for science fiction, for writing, for nuclear power, for research, for better education, for justice, and for the freedom for everyone to live and die in a dignified manner. I might not agree with his standpoint on nuclear fuel but I cannot deny he puts forward a strong and comprehensive argument in its favour. The book really did challenge my thinking at times and that is always a good thing in reading.