I just learned Terry Pratchett died today. I’m trying to process that grief and it feels like I’ve lost an old friend. The world is a worse place without him there is no doubt. I wrote this review a couple of weeks ago but hadn’t posted it yet. Now is as good as time as any. Thank you, sir. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
Not an autobiography, but still pretty close to it, A Slip of the Keyboard is a collection of speeches and various articles that Terry Pratchett – among other things the creator of the Discworld series – has written over the years. For fans it is an invaluable and eye-opening resource toward understanding the man and what drives him. For everyone else it will probably be less valuable but will likely push you to continue the journey to explore the many, many terrific books he’s written.
Because so much of the book is taken from speeches there is a lot of information and anecdotes that get repeated. He has several pieces discussing the ghettoization of fantasy and sci-fi (“fantasy with bolts on it”) against “real” literature. I would rather read a Watchtower pamphlet than read some serious and dour tome about an 18th century pig farmer who rises above the hypocrisy of his time to become a swine baron before being struck down with syphilis…and oh God I’m bored just writing this. Point is that he was preaching to my particular choir and I enjoyed the hell out of the hymn. Or whatever the comparable response is for that saying, I really don’t know. I enjoyed the homily? Let’s go with it.
Several pieces are directed at the National Health Service in Britain and the euthanasia movement. Pratchett was diagnosed with a rare form of Alzheimer’s when he was 59 and he talks about that quite a bit as well. However, none of these pieces were written specifically for this book so they have a bit of a PR sheen to them. Stories about his childhood and the influence of JRR Tolkien and other fantasy writers on his style are great fun to read. He even has a couple pieces touching on the dreaded “Where do your ideas come from?” (answer: lots of undirected research and curiosity) which is great fun to read. Pratchett’s books have always juggled more than one idea at a time and these segments as peeks behind the curtain are insightful. I would have liked more of them.
If you love the Discworld this is must read. It pulls back the veil and offers insight in to the way Terry writes as well as comes up with the ideas. Very enjoyable and highly recommended.