Favorite Moments with Terry Pratchett

As sad as I was to hear about Leonard Nimoy, it was even more devastating a couple weeks later to hear that Terry Pratchett had died.  Pratchett’s Discworld series is my go-to resource on bad days and sad times, the funniest book I ever read came from his pen, and I consistently pick one of his books for funniest read of the year every year.  When I heard of his death, inside of fifteen minutes I was on my mobile phone to–what else?–request a Discworld book from my library.

So in honor of Sir Terry, I’m re-posting my collection of favorite Discworld moments…not quotes exactly, because several are all about the dialogue or the back-and-forth.  Hereare some moments that always make me think or make me laugh or do both!

First, a philosophical one, about the power of knowledge:

They thought the Library was a dangerous place because of all the magical books, which was true enough, but what made it really one of the most dangerous places there could ever be was the simple fact that it was a library.

– Guards! Guards!

And another time, Death waxes philosophical.  It should be noted that Death always speaks IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS:

WHO KNOWS WHAT EVIL LURKS IN THE HEART OF MEN?
The Death of Rats looked up from the feast of potato.
SQUEAK, he said.
Death waved a hand dismissively. WELL, YES, OBVIOUSLY ME, he said. I JUST WONDERED IF THERE WAS ANYONE ELSE.

– The Truth

And because Death is so brilliant, another one, after someone suggested that he should be “more of a people person”:

KNOCK KNOCK.
He looked up.
“Who’s there?”
DEATH.
“Death who?”
There was a chill in the air. Beano waited…
I WONDER… CAN WE START AGAIN? I DON’T SEEM TO HAVE THE HANG OF THIS…

– Men at Arms

Maskerade is probably a favorite moment in its entirety, and I could quote most of it…but here’s just one moment.  A dead body turns up, along with a note from the Opera Ghost:

Hahahahaha!  Ahahahahaha!
Yrs, The Opera Ghost
P.S. Ahahahahaha!

“I don’t understand!  Is this man mad?”

Salzella put an arm around his shoulders and led him away from the crowd.  “Well, now,” he said as kindly as he could.  “A man who wears evening dress all the time, lurks in the shadows and occasionally kills people.  Then he sends little notes, writing maniacal laughter.  Five exclamation marks again, I notice.  We have to ask ourselves: is this the career of a sane man?”

“But why is he doing it?” Bucket wailed.

“That is only a relevant question if he is sane,” said Salzella calmly.  “He may be doing it because the little yellow pixies tell him to.”

– Maskerade

The image of the Phantom of the Opera, chatting with the little yellow pixies, never fails to crack me up.  It’s the same for this very odd bit below, about a crazed artist:

“He was convinced that if he went to sleep at night, he would turn into a chicken.  He’d leave little notes for himself saying, ‘You are not a chicken,’ although sometimes he thought he was lying…  Scholars have puzzled over the notes ever since, seeking some insight into the poor man’s tortured mind.  They are not in any order, you see.  Some are very…odd.”

“Odder than ‘You are not a chicken’?”

– Thud!

I think I need to re-read all of these books now.  🙂  Other Discworld readers, what are your favorite quotes or moments?

Movie Review: Arsenic and Old Lace

Arsenic and Old Lace 2I spent New Year’s weekend watching favorite movies, and among them, I dusted off my copy of Arsenic and Old Lace, starring the wonderful Cary Grant, directed by the equally wonderful Frank Capra.

Cary Grant plays Mortimer Brewster, whose two aunts are simply the kindest, sweetest, loveliest little old ladies you could ever want to meet. They collect toys for children, they give a hot meal to anyone who needs it, and they poison lonely old men as a charity, by putting arsenic in elderberry wine. They just want to give the poor dears peace, you see. Mortimer is stunned to find a dead body in the windowseat, and tries valiantly to explain to his aunts that this is not a nice thing to do. Happening almost in real time, the rest of the movie covers one night as Mortimer tries to get control of a situation that increasingly unravels around him.

This is black comedy at its best, macabre and ridiculous, and so absurd that you can’t be horrified. And the laughs come pretty constantly. Continue reading “Movie Review: Arsenic and Old Lace”

Book Review: Dear Luke, We Need To Talk

Sometimes it’s a book title that draws me in, and that was definitely the case for today’s book: Dear Luke, We Need To Talk, Darth – and Other Pop Culture Correspondences by John Moe.  It’s rather a long title, but it does pretty much encapsulate the book–a series of letters, interview transcripts and journals, putting a new slant on familiar movies, TV shows and songs.

Like anything based on pop culture, these only really work if you know the originals–but Moe seems to have chosen things that are very widely known, if I can judge from my own experience.  I had at least heard of everything that was spoofed, and had some idea of where the jokes were originating.  The book satirizes a broad range, from Jaws (the therapy journal of the shark), to Elvis (a letter from his severely depressed hound dog), to Harry Potter (the diary of an obscure student) to the Grinch (a disgruntled letter from Max). Continue reading “Book Review: Dear Luke, We Need To Talk”

Witches and Phantoms and Opera, Oh My!

I think we know that I madly love retellings of The Phantom of the Opera…and that Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series claims the “Funniest Book” spot on my End of the Year Rankings every year…so what could be more perfect than Maskerade, a Discworld retelling of Phantom?

I was inspired to pull this off my shelf recently after reading I Shall Wear Midnight, with its cameos from Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg.  This is my…third?  fourth? read of Maskerade, and it stays just as funny on repeated visits.  Although my poor paperback now has a crack in the spine–which I kind of enjoy, because it’s cracked on my favorite page!  I feel like that’s a cliche that rarely actually happens…

Anyway!  Maskerade focuses on Granny and Nanny, who are coming to the unfortunate realization that you just can’t have a coven of only two witches, having recently lost Magrat as their third.  The only eligible girl in Lancre is Agnes Nitt–but she recently departed for the bright lights (and strong smells) of the big city of Ankh-Morpork, determined to reinvent herself.  Agnes wins a role at the Opera House due to her prodigious voice–but not a starring role, due to her prodigious size.  She is befriended by the wonderfully, incredibly idiotic Christine, who can’t sing but looks good in an evening gown.  When Christine’s mirror starts talking to her she insists on switching rooms with Agnes, and Agnes finds herself the recipient of music lessons from a mysterious man in a mask.

Meanwhile, the Opera’s new owner is very perturbed to find out that the entire Opera Company accepts the existence of a masked ghost who writes notes and gives directions and, in a recent development, kills people.  Granny and Nanny, from the most altruistic motives possible of course, decide that something is a bit off in Agnes’ letters home, and they must depart for the big city to investigate.

And there is mayhem and Death and hilarity and Phantom references and mad little notes with five exclamation points and suspicious cookery and sometimes most of those things all on one page. Continue reading “Witches and Phantoms and Opera, Oh My!”

A Visit to Discworld to Finish the Story of Tiffany Aching

I found myself with a slight crisis recently, short on books and still waiting on holds, wandering the shelves of my tiny local library looking for something to carry me through the week…and was delighted to stumble upon I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett.  Discworld is the one series I somehow feel no pressure to finish–it’s too big and too rambling and I just dip in at random whenever I feel so inclined.  But the Tiffany Aching subseries as always felt much more self-contained and continuous, so I have been meaning to finish that off.

The final book in the sub-quartet presents Tiffany Aching at sixteen, still new to her role as Witch of the Chalk, but settling into the position.  But Tiffany’s dance with the Wintersmith in the previous book has awoken an ancient evil–one who hates witches.  With hostility towards witches rising throughout the land, Tiffany must find a way to fight through the fear and prejudice to confront its root.  And that while dealing with the upcoming wedding of Roland, her some-time beau, and the sometimes harmful help of her devoted allies, the Nac Mac Feegles.

I love the way Pratchett has presented Tiffany’s growth throughout the quartet.  She has always been someone who does what needs doing, from rescuing her little brother from a Fairy Queen in the first book, to the unglamorous witch work of caring for the ill, elderly and forgotten in this final book.  Tiffany has gained wisdom and confidence all along the way, but like life, it’s often been a few steps forward, a stumble or two back, a redirection and a new leap ahead.  Tiffany’s not only learned how to fulfill her role, she’s very consciously had to figure out what that role is, and how she wants to fulfill it.  Pratchett has done a masterful job of keeping Tiffany always the same person, while growing her throughout the series.

And then there are the Nac Mac Feegles, the Wee Free Men, the drinking, fighting, carousing, honor-bound (but always their own interpretation of honor!) clan who swore loyalty to Tiffany as the Hag o’ the Hills and will stick with her through thick and thin, no matter how many times she tells them to go away.  I love how well Tiffany understands them by now, and her back and forth with them is hilariously brilliant.  For instance, she’s somewhat less than surprised–and remarkably calm–when Daft Wullie sets fire to her broomstick in midair, and staunchly denies responsibility while holding a lit match…

I also appreciated that Rob Anybody, the Nac Mac Feegle chief, did get one moment of more depth.  The Nac Mac Feegles, basically, are never serious…until the humans try to dig up the Nac Mac Feegle hill, and for just a moment we glimpse a very real fear and anger from Rob Anybody about his wife and children.  I’m not sure I really want more than one serious moment from the Nac Mac Feegles, but one was perfect.

Having read other Discworld books, I enjoyed a cameo for Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg.  It’s always fun to see familiar characters from a different perspective, and I liked seeing them through Tiffany’s eyes–still the same characters as when they tell the story themselves, but with maybe a little more awe mixed in.

Pratchett’s books are all the more remarkable for being hilariously funny, while sharply insightful in their satire.  Here he personifies a familiar and particularly ugly side of human nature, the hatred of the Other simply because they’re Other.  Or as was said in another fantasy story, “we don’t like what we don’t understand; in fact, it scares us” (Beauty and the Beast, “The Mob Song”).  There it was against the Beast; here it’s against the witches, and there’s an added subtlety in the sense that part of the hatred comes because people know that the witches do what needs doing–what people guiltily realize they ought to be doing themselves and aren’t.

I already own all the City Guard Discworld books, and I think I need to start collecting the Tiffany Aching books.  They’re both my favorite kind of comedy–we have one stable, complex main character to ground us and guide us through the constant hilarity of everyone else around them.  This book was a wonderful end to the quartet, hilarious, insightful and deeply satisfying.

Author’s Site: http://www.terrypratchettbooks.com/

Other reviews:
Tethyan Books
Escape Pod
Book Aunt
Anyone else?

Buy it here: I Shall Wear Midnight

Mixed Magics

Being a completist, I had to include the four Chrestomanci short stories in my reread of the series by Diana Wynne Jones.  Fortunately, they’re conveniently gathered together in one book, Mixed Magics.  All four stories are excellent fun and well-worth the read!

“Warlock at the Wheel” – This story follows directly on Charmed Life, focusing on a very minor character from that novel.  The Willing Warlock comes off very badly in a confrontation with Chrestomanci, and decides that the answer is to travel to another world.  All seems to go according to plan–until the car he steals in this new world turns out to have an enormous dog and a very demanding child in the backseat.  Soon, the hapless Warlock is being bullied by the dog, the child, and even the car.

This is a funny little story that is definitely best read immediately after Charmed Life.  Personally, I would have had trouble making the connections otherwise!  The Warlock is a great character who intends to be villainous, but is rather too woebegone and put-upon to be very successful…

“The Sage of Theare” – In the very well-ordered world of Theare, the gods are horrified by a prophecy regarding the Sage of Dissolution.  They try to get rid of the recently-born Sage by sending him to another world, but Chrestomanci and company return him to his proper place.  When the Sage grows up, unaware of his destiny, Dissolution (and serious timeline muddling) are in store.

I can’t think too hard about this one, because it makes my head hurt.  There’s a lot of “wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey” business going on, with events happening in reverse and the Sage on the hunt for himself…yeah, don’t ask, just read it!  Chrestomanci only has a small role, but all the same, his arrival at the Court of the Gods in his dressing gown is one of his best moments ever!

In terms of the larger timeline, I haven’t the slightest idea where this fits in among the others, as there isn’t much to place it in time!

“Stealer of Souls” – This story, on the other hand, belongs directly after Magicians of Caprona.  It’s the most Chrestomanci and Co. focused.  Cat (of Charmed Life) is deeply displeased by the arrival at Chrestomanci Castle of Tonino (of Magicians of Caprona), but they have to work together when they run afoul of a nasty magician intent on stealing souls.

I enjoyed seeing Cat again, and seeing Tonino from an outside perspective, after mostly being in his point of view in his book.  There are also some nice ties to The Lives of Christopher Chant, with a few of those characters returning.  And besides that, there’s a wonderfully sinister plot afoot, and some excellent mayhem and humor.

“Carol Oneir’s Hundredth Dream” – Carol possesses the wonderful ability to not only control her dreams, but to bottle, syndicate and sell them.  When she finds herself unable to dream her one-hundredth dream, her parents take her off to meet with Chrestomanci, who packed up his family after the previous short story for a vacation.  We follow Carol into her dream world, where we learn she has several principle characters, and they’ve gone on strike.

I love the whole concept of this one.  The idea of bottling dreams just fascinates me.  As a writer, I’m also intrigued by Carol’s struggles.  Essentially, she has writer’s block!  Even if most writers don’t have characters who literally mutiny, I think we all know what that feels like…

This is a quick little read with only the four short stories, but it has all the charm of Jones’ novels, and offers some nice extra pieces about the characters.  It feels sort of like a bonus to the rest of the series!

Don’t forget, you can win a signed copy of my fairy tale retelling, The Wanderers! Just put #WanderersGiveAway in your comment to enter.

Author’s Site: http://www.dianawynnejones.com/

Other reviews:
Calmgrove
Aelia Reads
I am sad I couldn’t find many reviews…anyone else?

Buy it here: Mixed Magics

Laughing Over Book Titles

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic was an invitation to choose from any of their previous weeks’ topics.  Well, it’s not Tuesday…but I thought that was such a fun idea to come up with a bookish topic for a post anyway!  So today I thought I’d write about a few of my favorite “Hilarious Book Titles,” with a thank-you to Top Ten Tuesday for the idea.

1) How I Stole Johnny Depp’s Alien Girlfriend by Gary Ghislain – This is a surprisingly accurate title, as the book is about an alien who comes to Earth looking for her perfect match; she has a picture, and it looks a lot like Johnny Depp.  Unfortunately, the title was the best part of the book, as the “I” of the title keeps romantically pursuing the alien girl even though she’s horrible to him–but beautiful.

2) Beatnik Rutabagas from Beyond the Stars by Quentin Dodd – Titles don’t get much better than that.  The book was actually a little too random for my taste–though I guess I should have expected it!

3, 4 & 5) The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There and The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M. Valente – There’s nothing all that funny about any one of these titles, but when you put them all together it takes on a tinge of absurdity.  Or when you try to say them all on one breath.

6) The Celery Stalks at Midnight by James Howe – Part of the Bunnicula series, this book is about a possible attack by evil vegetables.  So…the celery stalk is stalking.  !!!

7, 8 & 9) Harpy Thyme, Roc and a Hard Place and Swell Foop by Piers Anthony – These are funnier if I explain that they’re about magical thyme that slows time, a giant bird, and a really terrific foop.  I perhaps should also mention that the Xanth series, of which these are a part, is powered mostly by puns…

10) A Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag by Gordon Korman – This is both funny and deeply philosophical.  Really.  It’s a metaphor, based on a commercial showing the strength of a garbage bag, valiantly trying to hold together while more and more pressure is pumped in.  Anyone who’s felt stressed and can’t take one more thing can relate.

I find #1 and #2 to be the funniest titles–but #10 is the funniest book!

Can you think of any particularly funny titles?  Share a title (and a laugh) in a comment!