December 27th, 2008

Join the Masses

The Wonder of Pratchett

From the time I can remember, I could never for the world of me understand why 'Introductions' are at the begnning of books.

Introductions are an authors way of telling the reader exactly what is inside the book - and usually in very boring terms. Sometimes (horror!) they actually quote from the book explaining the why and the wherefore of the quote.
As a self imposed rule, since the time I have read books with Introductions in them, by many prestigious authors, I have kept them for the last. To be masticated in peace when the fire to finish the book and learn whats in it has been doused. The portion to be read by someone who knows what the book has in store - and develop their own thought process - and therefore a person in a state to agree or disagree with the points noted in the Introduction.

It was with considerable glee then, that I noted that Terry Pratchett had, true to form obeyed my very wish. His latest book 'Making Money' has an introduction written by him (which has nothing -mostly, or at least directly - to do with the contents of the book) after the book ends. That made so much sense. Because when I read his introduction, I knew why he was talking about what he was talking about. And his freind who has written a co-introduction obviously did not expect that. Her introduction is custom made to begin the book - but ah! and the skill of the Author shows - hers also gives away a little bit of the story. But I can tell because I read the book1.

All in all, reading Making Money has made me remember Pratchett once again in all his glory, renewed, so to speak. And his small quirks of taking on the established rules. I have always liked the way he has made the England of legends live on for a few more legendary years by making them larger than life. What Neil Gaiman can never do, Pratchett's books do - they emit a pride of his country and his country's traditions, in a subtle tongue-in-cheek manner that only Pratchett can.

I can understand his penchant for jumbling up the stories - how else does one solve a jigsaw of events? And isnt life a jigsaw of events that we look back on and understand?
I understand his footnotes - how else does one dispense short stories and anecdotes in one fell sweep without cluttering up the page with parenthseses? (psst - this blog post has footnotes!)
And I so totally understand his need of the larger than life characters who are not evil, but are not good either, yet are only one of the above. And so I wait for their one liner thoughts.

It was surprising to read of a book so engrossed in money, in economy and their meltdowns and their revivals, in debates about banks with no money to back up their money and setting of new standards for currency, at a time like this. It was like a culmination of the real and the fantasy world. Only, the fantasy world seemed to make the real world clearer. With the exaggerated, twisted, multi- but strangely uni-dimensional characters of the Discworld, the real world economy seems to have become clearer and a hope for the future seems to have emerged.

I have introduced many to the fandom of Terry Pratchett's wonderful Discworld (My Mom, atanarjuat, rexzilla, kaddu10 to name just four in order) and with his books still coming out thick and fast, and me still reading something new by him often enough (Ive read all Discworld), I expect many more converts.

I became a fan sometime in my early graduation days.

I remain a fan still.

Its been almost a decade. And it all (coincidentally) started with Interesting Times2.

1 Usually he just writes a paragraph about himself at the beginning of a book. Something like how people ask him where he got the idea of Discworld from, and how he would have exactly 1 Pound, 5 Shillings for being paid 1 shilling per question. No, Im not as elegant an explainer as him. Go read his Introduction from somewhere to find out, will you?

2 Which I picked up because someone had written 'the most awesome book ever' on it - on a British Council Library book. And somehow, for once, I did not mind that a library book had notes on it - perhaps because they were arbit praises in pencil to make someone read the book. I later added my own. The only time in my life. Ever.