Well, that’s US told.
And that was sarcasm, by the way.
I don’t mind admitting that Sir Terry Pratchett was one of my favourite authors. Sir Terry captured both the absurdities and cruelties of modern life – and managed to do it while retaining a sense of humour that kept his work slipping into the realm of grim-dark Game of Thrones-style brutality. I didn’t like all of his Discworld books, but there were so many of them exploring so many different themes that a reader could like the universe without enjoying each and every book.
Sir Terry was a colossal success. I don’t know if he sold more books than JK Rowling, but he was truly popular among young children, teenagers and adults. The true measure of his brilliance as a writer is two-fold; first, he encouraged children to read by never talking down to them and second, that he enjoyed all-ages market penetration. That is a very rare gift. The Harry Potter books appeal to all ages, but Twilight only truly appeals to a specific demographic.
And so I read the recent hit piece on Sir Terry in The Guardian with disbelief rapidly shading to raw anger.
Like I said, the ability to appeal to all levels of the population is rare. That alone marks Sir Terry as an outright writing genius. But the Discworld books, in particular, open the gateways to many other fields of study. One may contemplate religious hypocrisy while reading Small Gods, explore the strengths and weaknesses of naked capitalism in Going Postal, learn about the problems of racial disharmony and the war on terror in Thud, the follies of pointless wars in Jingo and the impact of new technologies and ideas in Making Money and Raising Steam. There is a strong cast of diverse characters just so that the reader can choose a favourite and use that person as their entry into a wider universe.
And yet the writer of this article has the sheer arrogant nerve to dismiss him as a mediocrity.
People are entitled to their opinions. I will happily admit that there are some of Sir Terry’s books I don’t plan to reread. But at least I’ve read them! The author of the article says, with all sincerity, that he hasn’t read a single one of Sir Terry’s books. Indeed, in his own words, “I did flick through a book by him in a shop, to see what the fuss is about, but the prose seemed very ordinary.” And yet he feels he has the right to judge a man who was one of Britain’s most beloved authors?
The author manages – somehow – to touch on an important point without realising the implications and how they apply to his points. “Actual literature may be harder to get to grips with than a Discworld novel, but it is more worth the effort.” The mental muscles one needs to get to grips, as the author puts it, can only be developed through reading! One can start with The Worst Witch, move on to Harry Potter and finish with Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell. The final book is a piece of brilliant writing – it thoroughly deserved the Hugo Award – but it is very heavy going. I could not have read it if I had not honed my reading muscles through reading lesser works that encouraged me to develop the habit of reading.
You would not start weightlifting by trying to lift a 150KG weight, would you? Why would you ask a child to start reading by giving the poor kid something as weighty as … well, the handful of books the literature elite class as good literature? If you make reading a chore, kids will hate it! The kid will give up, get bored, throw away the book and abandon the world of reading forever.
Sir Terry has a fair claim to being rather more than just one of the most influential and important writers of his generation. He encouraged children and teenagers to read, he enabled them to look at the world with fresh eyes, he mocked the pretentious and skewered the illusions of the elites and he didn’t hesitate to convince people to think for themselves.
He had the common touch. No wonder the literature elite hates him.