Sunday, August 17, 2008

Let's Try Sandpaper on the Damned Spot

Terry Pratchett has written dozens of novels in his Discworld series. I've meant to read one for quite a while, but I was overwhelmed by sheer number and wasn't sure where to start. The other day Ickie brought home Wyrd Sisters for me, and I've been chuckling gleefully over it ever since. I'm only a little more than halfway through it, but I wanted to go ahead and post about it since I'll probably be busy with other matters of importance for the next week or two.

It's hilarious. It spoofs MacBeth, occasionally playing off the Shakespearean language and featuring three witches, a usurper who washes his hands obsessively, the usurper's overbearing wife, and a ghostly king. The three witches have clashing personality quirks: one is a severe old curmudgeon; the second is a drinking, partying grandmother with a house full of rowdy offspring; and the third is obsessed with romantic, flowery natural remedies (the magical incarnation of Madeline Bassett). The usurper is a bit mad, and his mood isn't helped when the ghostly king stealthily over-salts his meals.

Even if the conclusion of WS is disappointing, it'll be worth it to have laughed so hard at the portions I've read thus far. Here are a few examples of Pratchett's witty writing:

The usurper duke's opinion of his subjects:

"A jolly good riot, now, that would have been more--more appropriate. One could have ridden out and hanged people, there would have been the creative tension so essential to the proper development of the state. Back down on the plains, if you kicked people they kicked back. Up here, when you kicked people they moved away and just waited patiently for your leg to fall off. How could a king go down in history ruling a people like that? You couldn't oppress them any more than you could oppress a mattress."

A conversation between the newly dead king and the grim reaper:

"'Won't anyone be able to see me?'
'Oh, the psychically inclined. Close relatives. And cats, of course.'
'I hate cats.'
Death's face became a little stiffer, if that were possible. The blue glow in his eye sockets flickered red for an instant.
'I see,' he said. The tone suggested that death was too good for cat haters. 'You like great big dogs, I imagine.'"

A description of Nanny Ogg's cauldron:

"The water under the lid was inky black and, according to rumour, bottomless; the Ogg grandchildren were encouraged to believe that monsters from the dawn of time dwelt in its depths, since Nanny believed that a bit of thrilling and pointless terror was an essential ingredient of the magic of childhood.
In the summer she used it as a beer cooler."

And finally, my favorite quote, which I immediately read to Ickie:

"Demons were like genies or philosophy professors--if you didn't word things exactly right, they delighted in giving you absolutely accurate and completely misleading answers."

1 comment:

Jenny said...

Ha! I will HAVE to read this.

Hope your important matters go great! ;)