Resting on Elephants: The Discworld

The world is a flat disk, resting on the backs of four elephants, who stand on the Great A’tuin, a very, very big turtle.  Don’t ask what the turtle stands on; it’s like asking what sound the color yellow makes.

Unfortunately, I didn’t hear enough about Terry Pratchett to seek out his books until after his death.  In recent months, however, I’ve been slowly but surely making my way through as many Discworld books as I can get my hands on, and this is why.

The Discworld is utterly absurd, runs on the strangest kinds of laws, and yet is clearly and undeniably a reflection of our own Earth, and its inhabitants are, in a way, us.  From the incompetent wizard Rincewind, who thinks the world ought to run on something other than magic, to the persistent salesman Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler (and all his various incarnations), to the Night Watch’s cynical Captain Vimes, to the powerful Lord Vetinari, all the characters are hilarious and yet somehow absolutely accurate to human nature.

Everything is mocked and parodied in the Discworld books.  Shopping malls, government, the postal system, the afterlife, Shakespeare, religion, gender roles, romance, time, science, computers, Hollywood, and anything else Pratchett could think of.  And it’s generally all intelligent and clean humor, which are both rarities these days.  We truly lost a treasure when he died.

The thing about humor is, it’s generally looked down on in literature.  We’re supposed to read about things that bring to light the absolute suffering of human existence or some such thing.  But to just read those books, the ones about sadness and loss and trauma, is to ignore an entire side of the emotional spectrum.  There are already so many things to be sad about in the world.  It’s better to seek out the good, the humor, the things that remind us that life can be wonderful as well as terrible.  That’s what Pratchett did with Discworld.

Maybe at some point I’ll try to write like him.  Maybe not.  Either way, I am going to read the Discworld books until there aren’t any more to read, and then I’m going to reread them all.


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