Hey there, sweet cheeks.
I recently (yesterday) finished Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather. Hogfather is one of his many Discworld books, which I think are being made into an Amazon series and frankly that’s delightful.
Friends had urged me for years to read Pratchett, and I knew of his well publicized endorsements of dying with dignity after receiving an Alzheimer’s diagnosis in the mid-00’s (although he passed of natural causes, his statements on assisted suicide ((a term he did not like using)) are worthy of consideration). I had not until this quarantine actually read Pratchett (this statement is so silly. Like, were there other quarantines, Mia? What about this particularly one drove you to Pratchett?).
I like Gaiman well enough (a lot, I like Neil Gaiman’s writing a lot), and found Good Omens delicious. Good Omens was Pratchett and Gaiman’s collaboration, not just me randomly referencing a book for funsies. That said, for years now I’ve found fiction and specifically writing like this, that I so cherished in my teens and early twenties, to be…bland? Bland to me, lest anyone think I’m above such writing or worse yet I think it is bland period. Fiction, and especially that medium Modern fantasy fiction that seems eternally placed in a London subway system, is a favorite. So, when my dear friend A told me they were reading Hogfather and would I like to join, I thought, “why the fuck not?”.
Now, to the review. Or rather, just me kind of talking about it because I don’t want to write an academic excavation nor do I want to say if it’s Good or Bad. Naughty or Nice. It is, ultimately, a Book of a Certain Caliber by a Writer of Substance and that could be the whole review right there full stop.
But! The book.
First of all, charming. More than charming. There are moments that expertly dip their toe into Richer, Deeper Meaning with such humor that it almost passes you by. Pratchett’s beliefs about the universe (Universe?) are on full display (for me, I haven’t read his other work maybe he’s always dissecting Belief and Humanity, I have no idea). The plot is simple: in a world awfully adjacent to ours, but perhaps 100 years older and chalk full of fairies, goblins, gnomes, and spectres, a group of Disembodied (Body-less?) Grey Hoods hire an assassin to kill Hogfather, who is Discworld’s Santa. Death’s granddaughter, Susan, is enveloped by her grandfather to help rescue Hogfather. The plot moves from there.
Hogfather is so easy to read, which is a blessing. I love a book you sit down with and look up to check the time only to see 100 pages have passed. It is also, as previously mentioned, hilarious. I think it’s so difficult to be fun in general, but in writing it’s a marvel. Douglas Adams had me rolling with Hitchhiker’s Guide, as did Good Omens, as did Breakfast of Champions. Pratchett kills it here (but does he kill Hogfather? You’ll just have to read). The plot is wild, and Pratchett shifts between scene after scene of character after character with a rapidity that is hard to dog-ear for later lest you lose your mental place. If I were more practiced in reading fiction, and fiction like this, right now I think I wouldn’t have noticed it as much. No complaints though. My favorite character by far was Bilious the God of Hangovers (poor thing).
Since this is my weird blog and I don’t have to follow Good Essay Format (or whatever it is), here are two of my favorite sections, edited for spacing/impact (they’re really really good in the context of the novel too, but y’know, as I said, my weird blog).
In this bit, early on in the book, Susan is trying to figure out what she needs to do, if she even needs to get involved in this strange happening with her Grandfather and Hogswatch (Christmas itself).
But duration continued. [….]
Between every rational moment were a billion irrational ones. Somewhere behind the hours there was a place where the Hogfather rode, the tooth fairies climbed their ladders, Jack Frost drew his pictures, the Soul Cake Duck laid her chocolate eggs. In the endless spaces between clumsy seconds Death moved like a witch dancing through raindrops, never getting wet.
Humans could liv–No, humans couldn’t live here, no, because even when you diluted a glass of wine with a bathful of water you might have more liquid but you still had the same amount of wine. A rubber band was still the same rubber band no matter how far it was stretched.” (pg. 97-98).
This bit caught me off guard. It reminded me, unsurprisingly, of this strange time we’re in. Time, for me at least, seems to have stopped. But duration continues. Hours pass. The sun rises and sets and things happen in between that are both tragic and tedious, depending on the news source and angle of light. I’m in love with the line, “even when you diluted a glass of wine with a bathful of water you might have more liquid but you still had the same amount of wine”. My goodness.
The second section is towards the end, but no spoilers! It’s a small tête-à-tête between Susan and her grandfather, Death, who speaks in all caps and frankly I love that.
“‘Alright,” said Susan, ‘I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need…fantasies to make life bearable.”
REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
‘Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little–‘
YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.
‘So we can believe the big ones?’
YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.” (pg. 380-381).
I just. I like that. I like that a lot.
So. You can read Hogfather if you want. It’s fairly inexpensive, and I’d be willing to wager lots of second hand bookstores have copies and want you to place an order right now if you can.
Below are links for second hand bookstores in the North Texas and Cincinnati area, should you be reading from there and are curious.
I love you. I miss you. I hope to see you soon.