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Nov 28

Why You Should Get Lost in Discworld or How Terry Pratchett Changed My Life

WHAT’S PLAYING: AdeleLovesong

I received a strange package in the mail last Monday, but because of work and the general chaos that is my life, I didn’t get a chance to open it until the night before Thanksgiving. Imagine my surprise when I opened the envelope to reveal a signed copy of Terry Pratchett’s latest Discworld novel “Snuff”.

Cue happy dance!

Happy Dance

After jumping around and screaming for about twenty minutes, I settled in and started reading. Bedtime came and went, chores went undone, and phones and e-mails unanswered.  (Sorry, Dad.) I finished it around 3AM, and fell asleep still wanting more.

Now, I could tell you how great the Discworld books are. Funny, relevant, and brilliantly written, they are an awesome combination of fantasy, humor and satire.

Instead, I think I’ll tell you how these books changed my life.

When I was nine years old – per a custody agreement drawn up before I was even born – I left my home on the reservation and moved in with my father. I still visited my mother fairly often, but it wasn’t the same as living with her. I was something of a loner before I left the rez. After, I became down right reclusive. I rarely spoke and spent most of that summer in my room, only coming down for meals or at my father’s insistence.

Problem was that I didn’t speak English very well. I could barely string three words together.  So, that fall, my father enrolled me in a Catholic school that specialized in teaching ESL (English as a Second Language). I excelled at math and science, but my grasp of the English language remained sketchy at best. Truth is, I didn’t want to learn. I already spoke one language fluently. How many did I need?

Then one day, a nun handed me an old, dog-eared copy of “The Color of Magic”. It took me over a month to finish it, but after that, I was a goner. I decided that if I had to learn English to read books like that, then I would learn. Six months later, I had reached “proficient” level. Two months after that, I was fluent. My love of reading didn’t end with Discworld – over the years, I discovered Twain, Gaiman, Shirley, Norton, McCraffrey, Lackey, and so many others – but it began there. And the result is that I now get to make my living doing the two things I love most: chemistry and writing.

Don’t get me wrong, not everything is roses. There are mornings I wake to the gray and featureless void of depression. When the very act of breathing is a struggle and I feel about as worthless as tits on a telephone pole. It’s on these days that I force myself to look for pleasure in small things: a funny movie, an uplifting piece of music, a hot shower, even a spoon of ice cream. (To paraphrase Raymond Carver: eating is a small, good thing in a time like that.)

And, of course, a good book.

The Discworld novels saw me through my first transition from reservation life to the mainstream. Ten years later, they helped me cope when I lost my twin brother, and my fiancée five years after that.

I’m not saying that reading is some sort of magical cure for depression. It’s not. But, you have to admit that a world in which books like “Snuff” or “The Color of Magic” exist can’t be all bad.

What about you? What cheers you up when life gets  hard? Friends? Family? Music, art, or books? Where do you find your little wonders, your small pleasures?

Stories not only shape our perceptions, but can also shape our lives if we let them. They remind us that there is no such thing as a hopeless cause, that we can all be better if we choose. If they’re really good, stories can leave us feeling uplifted and a bit wiser.

And that is no small thing.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.jacquitalbot.com/2011/11/why-you-should-get-lost-in-discworld-or-how-terry-pratchett-changed-my-life/

6 comments

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  1. Devorah Kakeh

    I was very pleased to find this web-site.I wished to thanks in your time for this excellent read!! I definitely having fun with each little little bit of it and I’ve you bookmarked to check out new stuff you blog post.

  2. =Tamar

    Discworld has helped me for years. Something else that helps is learning something new, or figuring out an explanation for something.

    1. justjacqui2

      I agree, especially when it comes to learning new things. If you’re not growing, you’re dying.

      1. Yunjung

        I’ve only ever read The Colour Of Magic by Terry Pratchett so I don’t know that much about the whole of discworld but for a fast paced fasatny I’d recommend Mister Monday by Garth Nix it’s part of a series which I think is called the Keys to the Kingdom. It’s classed as a sort of early teens read but it’s a really interesting story and you find yourself attached to the main character. For fasatny with magic, I’d suggest the Black Magician Trilogy by Trudi Canavan and many of her other books. There’s also the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien which I would recommend to everybody!

  3. Josephine

    I have some rather raodnm ideas. Maybe you’ll find one of them interesting:You might want to try Jasper Fforde’s books, either his “Thursday Next” series (which starts with The Eyre Affair) or his “Nursery Crimes” series (which starts with The Big Over Easy). His books are light and fun, but heavy on literary and cultural references, so they’re a bit different from Pratchett, but they are still easy to read.I would also second the recommendation of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden books, which are light and funny. I began at the beginning of the series, and I’m glad I did because of the slow development of characters and relationships, but I would definitely agree that the first few books are not at all representative of the quality of the series as a whole. But if you stick with it, it’s wonderful.Also … you may want to check out Daniel Pinkwater, though he writes YA novels. I’m no YA, but I love his sense of humor and his absurdity. If you like Pratchett, you might like Pinkwater.How about William Goldman’s The Princess Bride? In my opinion, the book is much better than the movie. It’s certainly very different, more wry and less naive.Anyway, good luck finding something to your liking!

    1. JacquiTalbot

      Wow! Thanks for all the great suggestions! Indeed, I have all of these with the exception of Daniel Pinkwater. I’ve never heard of him. I’ll check it out. Thanks again!

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