I remember the first book of his that I read and how late in my youth it was that I’d begun reading his books. My dad had found it in a used book shop for me amongst the dozens of other books available, and, to say the least, I was enthralled. It’s called “The Light Fantastic”, and I giggled to myself all night as I engorged myself on it’s pages for hours. I loved it, and I needed more. I’d never read a book that entertaining and fun in years. I’d read books with more technically perfect prose and finer use of the English language, but not a book that had used foot notes as a jokes column and taken to using analogies so perfectly. I wish I were half the writer and entertainer he was.
The second book I remember so vividly is called “Guards! Guards!”. It’s a novel that has one of the best dedications I’ve ever read because the pages that followed told an amazing tale of incompetence and hilarity.
“They may be called the Palace Guard, the City Guard, or the Patrol. Whatever the name, their purpose in any work of heroic fantasy is identical: it is, round about Chapter Three (or ten minutes into the film) to rush into the room, attack the hero one at a time, and be slaughtered. No one ever asks them if they want to.
This book is dedicated to those fine men.”
Again, a long night of not studying and working ensued, and I couldn’t drop the novel at all. Wolves, badgers and bears could have broken into my room and threatened to make use of my skin to form a brand new hammock, and I wouldn’t have put it down. His understanding of the human condition was so absolute that it was all the more tragic when I learned of his own human condition.
“The Ephebians believed that every man should have the vote †. Every five years someone was elected to be Tyrant, provided he could prove that he was honest, intelligent, sensible, and trustworthy. Immediately after he was elected, of course, it was obvious to everyone that he was a criminal madman and totally out of touch with the view of ordinary philosopher in the streets looking for a towel. And then five years later they elected another one just like him, and really it was amazing how intelligent people kept on making the same mistakes.”
- †Provided that he wasn’t poor, foreign, nor disqualified by reason of being mad, frivolous, or a woman
He lived a life that he shared with so many minds young and old, he introduced us to worlds that are more alive than any other I’ve ever encountered. Thank you for teaching us so much, showing us the hilarious truth, and being honest with us about our own world through the lens of your own.