Do you ever have one of those moments when you think you came up something only to realise that it was just lodged away in your brain somewhere and it suddenly popped out? Turns out that the above title to this blog entry was a phrase spoken by Gary oldman’s character in the film Leon. Damn! I wish I’d have thought of it! I was watching Back in Black earlier, a programme about the writer Terry Pratchett who died last year. He was always one for a beautifully turned phrase as was the much missed Douglas Adams. Writers of genre fiction can often be much maligned but I don’t honestly know how anyone can survive in this world without reading something by each. Both Adams and Pratchett were both such wonderful observers of the human condition as was Jonathan Swift a few hundred years ago. Gullivers travels would have been quietly pigeonholed as fantasy back in Swift’s day, if there was such a thing, rather than a savage parody of politics, class and society of the Britain of the time in which it was written.
When I observe the goings on in my community, my mind is rubber banded back to the absurdities of the passengers of the golgafrinchian B ark in Adams’ A Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy and their adherence to completely self destructive doctrines. The description of the volunteers at the Sunshine home for sick dragons in Pratchett’s discword also seems rather apt right now. Terry Pratchett was such a fantastic observer of people and had a wonderful insight into their motivations for doing what they do.
What came across in the programme was that a lot of what propelled Terry to be such a prolific writer was a deep seated anger at the injustice of the world. Being written off from an early age, he was determined to prove a point and used all that fire inside to do it. Those who knew him well said that the character in his universe of characters most like himself was the formidable Granny Weatherwax, someone who would do the right thing rather than the nice thing or the kind thing as both the latter often turn out to be a cruelty in the long term. Perhaps the best known and most loved character in the discworld is that of death itself, who is equally bemused and fascinated by the souls he meets. It is such a cruel irony that Terry met his end much sooner than was fair and in such appalling circumstances where the thing that powered that thriving world of characters disintegrated over the course of a few short years. That righteous fury pushed him to write a further seven books after his diagnosis, a testament to the power of anger used well.
I feel a deep sadness that it will probably take another hundred years or so for the world to get the true significance of what Terry Pratchett achieved, a Dickens for our times really…. I feel sadder still that reading has become so relatively devalued as a pastime. What makes me happy though is that these people ever existed, the writers, the thinkers, the day dreamers, the film makers, those with a singularity of thought to see the world around them and interpret it anew and in some way, beyond the petty dreams of politicians and empires, it is the stories and the pictures that live on. I find that a comforting thought.