Tuesday, 4 August 2009

"I'll die before the endgame"

Book-related, I guess: I'll die before the endgame, says Terry Pratchett in call for law to allow assisted suicides in UK.

The author Sir Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2007, and he wants the option of out, at a time of his own choosing before he's incapable of making that choice.

Now, however, I live in hope - hope that before the disease in my brain finally wipes it clean, I can jump before I am pushed and drag my evil Nemesis to its doom, like Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty locked in combat as they go over the waterfall.
'I intend, before the endgame looms, to die sitting in a chair in my own garden with a glass of brandy in my hand and Thomas Tallis on the iPod.

I normally abhor the Daily Mail, where this piece appeared, but this powerful article presents a strong argument for the rights of people to make an intelligent and informed decision to take their own lives in situations of terminal illness, with no penalty to those who help them.

Heavy stuff aside, a bit about Pratchett (of whom both my wife and I are fans). He's immensely popular - but critically under-rated. The majority of his books are essentially pastiche, set in a Flat-Earth world called Discworld that provides a mirror of our own history, mythology and culture. Wyrd Sisters for instance, is a cross-breed between Hamlet and Macbeth. Pyramids satirises Ancient Egypt. Guards! Guards! explores the lives of the unsung spear-carriers in fantasy works. Carpe Jugulum is a dig at the tropes of vampire fiction. And so on.

Pratchett is a superb prose stylist. Philip Pullman tends to get more press coverage: he's darker, rather more literary in style, and he has a known anti-religious stance that attracts attention. But Pratchett, I think, excels in his combination of affectionate satire with a general sympathy for the human condition. He is just so much more fun than Pullman. My personal favourites among his works are Wyrd Sisters and Guards! Guards! Clare (Mrs Ray) agrees, with the addition of Mort.

Check out Pratchett's official sites: terrypratchettbooks.com and terrypratchett.co.uk.

(And I hope he gets his wish).
- Ray


  1. I used to dismiss most of Pratchett's books but have recently been converted.

    About Pullman I have mixed feelings. [I've just deleted further comment on that as inappropriate here; I'll write it another time.] The two authors are, IMO, are very different.

    All that aside ... I, too, hope that Pratchett gets his wish. The legal handling of right to die is a very difficult issue, but I have no reservations over my conviction that we have to get past them ... and I, too, am feeling hope that it may happen soon.

  2. The two authors are, IMO, are very different.

    Oh, certainly. It's possibly a fatuous comparison I made: obviously intentionally comic writing is going to be "more fun" than non-comic. I just found what I've read of the His Dark Materials series somewhat solemn even with its genre (I've dipped many times, and find them indefinably uninteresting). I did, however, enjoy The Ruby in the Smoke and I was a Rat! (which I admit I only read after seeing the TV adaptations).

  3. I didn't think your comparison fatuous at all. Unlike most commentators, it seems, I find Pullman's "His Dark Materials" less and less interesting as the series progresses.

  4. Very thought provoking post, this. I was immediately reminded of the 1981 play Whose Life is it Anyway which I had the opportunity of seeing at the Folger in D.C. During a stint with the Big C disease in children, I became an advocate of pediatric hospice a maximum pain control (and, as needed, pulmonary effusion control which is the worst, i.e. dying in your ocean). While I would say dying in the library would be preferrable to the garden I would certainly substitute a Jack on the rocks and some dark chocolate.

    As a young person of craziness, I though for sure that I would die in a flaming crash of my MGB before I was 30. Maybe I did and this is all heaven.