Spotlight: Terry Pratchett

Image courtesy of Anatole
‘Discworld’ Image courtesy of Anatole

Words cannot express the sheer brilliance of Terry Pratchett’s imagination.The back catalogue of this man is not only large but his most well known work, the Discworld series spans across over 40 books. The distinct and different style that is distinctly Pratchett’s is one that blends comedy with high fantasy. While certainly taking place in a somewhat typical fantasy world, the Discworld series is one that is full of magic, adventure and a dastardly sense of humour.

Through techniques such as extensive and sometimes page long footnotes as well as a distinct characterisation, Pratchett weaves unique stories set in a vastly different world. To understand the scope of the world creation one simply has to look at the place in which the Discworld series is set, the Discworld. The normal day to day life of the Discworld is one that is as the name implies, on a disc. However, this disc is one that is held up by four elephants who themselves ride on the back of a giant turtle which is forever swimming through the infinite vastness of the universe.

Such imaginings are almost typical of Pratchett’s stories with other reoccurring stand outs including an oddly human Death personification, an orangutang librarian, the Night Watch and the staff of the Unseen Wizard University. These characters and the magical stories that the novels weave are what have led to a very passionate fan base.  Indeed the real value of this series is in how welcoming it is to new readers.

New initiates  to the Discworld do not have to start at book number one and slog it out to the end, rather the way in which the series is written allows for new readers to start at any novel. Pratchett writes novels that sometimes do connect together or to past characters but often times, each new book is dedicated to a new bunch of characters with old characters being mentioned and interacted with occasionally.

With this in mind, it is with a small shove, that this blogger highly recommends that a Pratchett book be picked up and read, post haste!

Spotlight: Billy Collins

Embrace

You know the parlor trick.

wrap your arms around your own body

and from the back it looks like

someone is embracing you

her hands grasping your shirt

her fingernails teasing your neck

from the front it is another story

you never looked so alone

your crossed elbows and screwy grin

you could be waiting for a tailor

to fit you with a straight jacket

one that would hold you really tight.

-Billy Collins

Billy Collins is an American poet whose style is one that emulates an almost personal conversation with the reader. Often times in a poem Collins will address the reader pondering the question of, ‘I am here, where are you?’ Coupled with this tearing down of the fourth wall is the humour evident in his work. Poems such as ‘Embrace’ (seen above) and ‘Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep a Gun in the House‘ are the poems where this humour and almost bitter playfulness stand out the most.

Other themes addressed by Collins are numerous and vary greatly, however while humour is certainly evident in the work, so too is a sense of depression. References to anti-depressants and a developed sense of ennui litter the works sporadically. These moments of humour, sadness and above all an appreciation of the small things in life are all strongly evident in Collins work. The collections and published books of Collins are a pleasure to read as his work is very accessible to the reader. There is no extended or complicated focus on style or form, rather Collins presents simple yet poignant poems. This distinct style and body of work is one that, for me, makes Collins an inspired and brilliant poet.

For a sample of his work, a few of Billy Collins’ poems can be found here and here.