When I first started talking to DH one of the many things I discovered we had in common was our love for certain genres of writing, particularly science fiction fantasy. Oh I did not like some of what he read and he just wasn’t into some of mine but there was enough common ground to have at least a very good conversation over tea. Don’t get me started on DC vs Marvel though – we can go very geek with that line of discussion and Anime? That would take several days worth of posting to even begin to scratch the surface.
But somewhere in there he introduced me to a fantastic English writer of comic fantasy – Sir Terry Pratchett. I had never heard of the man before until I was given the first book to read. I was hooked from then on! If you are not familiar with his writing his most notable works are his Discworld series. Discworld is a world in space that is just that – a disc. It is supported by four elephants who stand upon the giant space turtle, The Great A’Tuin who is swimming in space. Now if you know any other mythology and folk lore about our planet and how it came to be, etc. you will recognize some of it right there. He goes on from there. His writing parodies or “borrows” from the writing of such greats as Shakespeare, Tolkein, and more. And he does brilliant satire of current events in the political and scientific realms just to name a few. All of this while using this mythical world that is inhabited by trolls, dwarfs, wizards and witches, goblins, ghosts, gnomes, vampires and werewolves, humans, Death, and Igors. The Igors are absolutely hysterical! Did you know that a female Igor is called an Igorina? Oh! The university where the wizards train up wizards to be has a librarian that is an orangutan. He used to be one of the wizards until a spell went awry; he likes being an orangutan and refuses to be turned back. Whatever you do do NOT call him a monkey! He is an ape and if you call him the “m” word you may find a banana shoved……….
The mans writing is positively brilliant and incredibly witty and funny! Once I read the first book I had to finish the series (Well not entirely finished yet, one I cannot find in print and another I just started). That has taken me about four years. There were some nights when I should’ve been sleeping but I just had to get in a few more pages of whatever book I was in. We lost a couple of the books when we moved so fortunately they were available for my e-reader. Hurrah! As time went by I developed a fondness for some of the characters. Detritus the Troll can only count this way – one, two, many, lots. Rincewind the worlds worst wizard inherited a killer suitcase from a traveling friend that follows him wherever and whenever he is. Trust me on the killer part! We even included a line from one of the Discworld characters on our wedding programs. Nobody caught it and some thought it was a typo, but we knew what it meant.
And then there are the guilds. There is a Fools Guild, a Thieves Guild, an Assassin’s Guild (the elite lot of all the guilds), a Sewing Guild (the ladies there don’t really sew, they – ummmmmmm – well you have to read what they really do), and more. If you come into the town of Ankh-Morpork and try to commit any crime or action sanctioned by one of the guilds but you are not a member? Well, you can expect a very nasty visit from one of the guild representatives. Very nasty indeed. The Patrician of the city was once a star student at the Assassin’s Guild and the city refers to him as their benevolent dictator. The rightful ruler of the city (he has the birthmark and all) is a 6ft. plus dwarf who is now the head of the Watch. Oxymoron you say? No. He was found by the dwarfs as an infant in a wagon crash and was raised as one of their own.
I could go on and on extolling the merits of his writing but I won’t; just if you are even mildly interested in fantasy writing give one of his books at least a preview. The man is amazing. And that leads me to the subject of this post, my fave writer and Alzheimer’s. Normally I am up to date on all of the research and announcements about anything and almost anyone having to do with this disease so I chide myself for missing this one. In December 2007, he announced to the public that he had the early onset type of this dreadful disease. I had only just been introduced to his books the middle of 2007 and knew next to nothing about him at the time.
I did not become aware of his diagnosis until I read an article about his writing just last year. Someone was saying, in regards to his most recent book which I just started reading this past weekend, that they could see evidence of the disease upon his writing; it wasn’t as sharp and witty, etc. It was because of that article that I put off getting his latest book because I did not want to see his “decline”. But eventually I surrendered and downloaded the book. I must fight my inclination to compare this work with earlier works and to just enjoy the book as it is. Early onset Alzheimer’s is usually a very very nasty incarnation of the disease – and his is even worse as it is a rare form of it – as it takes its victim at an age least suspected for dementia and sometimes progresses much more quickly than later onset. So far it appears that he is holding his own although he has someone help him with his writing and he dictated to said person or uses voice recognition software as compared to his writing it out himself.
This little snippet was taken from a Wikipedia article about him: In March 2008, Pratchett announced he was donating US$1,000,000 (about £494,000 at the time) to the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, saying that he had spoken to at least three brain tumour (cancer) survivors yet he had spoken to no survivors of Alzheimer’s disease, and that he was shocked “to find out that funding for Alzheimer’s research is just 3% of that to find cancer cures.” Of his donation Pratchett said: “I am, along with many others, scrabbling to stay ahead long enough to be there when the Cure comes along.” Pratchett’s donation inspired an internet campaign where fans hope to “Match it for Pratchett”, by raising another $1,000,000.
From a personal standpoint, he has a point there. And I do not begrudge any funds and progression in the cures for Cancer, on the contrary I applaud any research that helps with the cures for any of these horrid diseases that continue to try and take those we love from us. But Alzheimer’s research still has so far to go, still needs funding, and as of this very moment has no cure. There are drugs to slow it down some, but no cures. For a short time I was hoping and praying that a cure or something that would help mom would come along, but it never did and there came that time when I had to just accept the facts as they were. She was not going to get better, she was never going to be anywhere in the general vicinity of who she once was, she was eventually going to die. Alzheimer’s takes some people quicker than others and no two patients exhibit quite the same – but in the end take it does.
So whenever I read or hear of anyone be they famous, another relative (Yes! I have a first cousin who, sadly, has it now), someone in the blog-sphere, or even overhear a conversation at the local coffee shop – my heart winces and I find myself going back down the road I once traveled and I pray for them and for further advancements towards a cure. If not a cure just yet at least something that will give those who are in need of the cure some solid strong ammunition to fight back with. Maybe the brain is the final frontier for man; we can only speculate. In the meantime I continue to try not to freak out when I forget something, do my health bit to stay healthy with the occasional lapses into decadent eating, and donate to the cause. I will also continue to read Sir Terry’s latest book. I hope an Igor is in there.
My teddy, Curletta, reading one of his books.