And some people, sir, do both.
It was tempting today to simply offer a quotation from the master, Terry Pratchett, as a mark of respect, but even without the impossible nature of narrowing it down to a single string of words, I can't help but feel that would be less a tribute, more a disservice to his remarkable talent and capacity for conjuring, and furthermore a slight against his immeasurable inspiration.
I've always loved Terry Pratchett's writing and it must be said that as a judgement of character, a liking for his work in others has served me well thus far.
The sarcasm, the gentle cynicism, the humour, the reality. That unfathomable ability to paint with mere words such vivid and all-encompassing pictures, scenes, thoughts and feelings that it becomes hard to imagine you are anywhere else other than in fact inside his head. Instead, this entire world is being etched on the inside of yours, like gazing up in to a vast, vivid planetarium of light and colour and the kinds of characters no actual human being could ever hope to do justice to, writing in this fantasy world, this reality of his conjuring, so marvellous, so vividly depicted, and so grounded in observations of society as a whole that often it becomes hard to imagine that those 4 elephants and that giant turtle aren't in existence somewhere in the great beyond. That place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.
Just yesterday I read this piece from Tim Minchin about the talent of others and those incredible, glorious sentences and phrases that as a writer elicit that most frustrating of desires, to have got there first. If I'm honest, that is what Terry Pratchett's work is to me. All of it. Even now I re-read sentences of his and while delighting in the beauty and sheer sorcery of his words, still mourn the fact that that particular alchemy of language will never be mine. That ability to so accurately and poetically depict thoughts, feelings, situations so as to elicit actual unconscious nods in a reader, those knowing smiles, smirks of confirmation, that laugh of recognition. Such is, was, his talent for spearing the human condition, capturing the fallible, imperfect beings that we all are so perfectly and so knowingly: that is what I aspire to.
The master himself wrote that "Dark sarcasm should be taught in schools," and all I can do is agree. Terry Pratchett's legacy offers up that particular blend of honesty, cynicism and charm that prepares you most adequately for the world as it really is: baffling, mystical, and when you're really lucky, as glorious as it is ridiculous.
RIP sir, and thank you.
"I knew the two of you would get on like a house on fire. Screams, flames, people running for safety."
"Rincewind could scream* for mercy in nineteen different languages, and just scream in another forty-four. (*This is important. Inexperienced travelers might think that "Argh!" is universal, but in Betrobi it means 'highly enjoyable' and in Howondaland it means, variously, 'Your wife is a big hippo,' and 'Hello, thinks Mr.Purple Cat.' One particular tribe has a fearsome reputation for cruelty merely because prisoners appear, to them, to be shouting 'Quick! Extra boiling oil!')"
"Vimes' glare ran from face to face, causing most of the squad to do an immediate impression of the Floorboard and Ceiling Inspectors Synchronised Observation Team."
"The camel looked along its nose at Teppic. It's expression made it clear that of all of the riders in all of the world it would least like to ride it, he was right at the top of the list. However, camels look like that at everyone. Camels have a very democratic approach to the human race. They hate every member of it, without making any distinctions for rank or creed."
"It didn't look like the kind of snow that whispers down gently in the pit of the night and in the morning turns the landscape into a glittering wonderland of uncommon and ethereal beauty. It looked like the kind of snow that intends to make the world as bloody cold as possible."
"It was quite impossible to describe.
Here is what it looked like.
It looked like a piano sounds shortly after being dropped down a well. It tasted yellow, and it felt Paisley. It smelled like the total eclipse of the moon."