Goodbye Sir Terry, and thank you

Yesterday my favourite author, Sir Terry Pratchett met one of his enduring characters: Death (who always spoke in capital letters). Terry loved communicating via technology and so it is fitting that his death was announced via his Twitter account:

“AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.

“Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.

“The End.”

The world has lost a wonderful, creative mind. He certainly inspired me. So, I’m reproducing this Terry-inspired post from 2013 as my tribute to the passing of a great man.

Boots – the world according to Sam Vimes

New boots - I hope they last!

New boots – I hope they last!

Now I know that quite a few of you are Terry Pratchett fans like me (well, perhaps not like me, because you probably don’t name your chickens after characters out of his books), but for those of you who aren’t, I want to recommend that you take a look at his writing. He is generally considered to be a writer of comic fantasy and that is certainly true at the most superficial level. However, in my opinion, he is a remarkably astute social commentator, as well as having what appears to be a vast knowledge of history, philosophy, science and literature. Well, maybe he is just good at research, but he certainly draws on it very elegantly in his writing.

Anyway, I was thinking the other day about the economics of poverty… at least the economics of being poor in an affluent society and remembered the best explanation of this that I have ever read. I should explain that Sam Vimes, the character in this excerpt, is from a very poor background, but  finally marries a very rich woman.

The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.

― Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms

And that does seem to be it… over the years I have been lucky enough to be able to afford to buy some good quality items and I can attest to the money that this has saved. In addition, if you can pay for them, it’s possible to choose things that are designed to be repaired… our bamboo flooring in the kitchen can be sanded down and refinished, meaning it will last for many years; on the other hand, cheap laminate flooring has to be replaced once worn because it just can’t be repaired or rejuvenated.

As things stand, this is a difficult cycle to break.Leonard Cohen was right when he wrote

The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

– Leonard Cohen, Everybody Knows

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17 Comments

  1. Vale, Sir Terry, you will be greatly missed. Perhaps I won’t need that third shelf on the book case after all, if you aren’t going to be giving us more insights into human nature in the guise of comedy…

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  2. When it’s my turn I want to go to Ankh Morpork and take the job as Patrician. I’m sure Terry Pratchett will be there filling Sam Vimes’ boots.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

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  3. He was a wonderful writer.

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  4. I haven’t read any of these books–I should change that. I’m sorry you lost a favorite!

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  5. I know I said I would search him out when you first published this post and I still haven’t got round to doing so. I read less these days! But, like Tolkien, his work will live on I’m sure – his legions of fans are spreading the word!

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  6. So very many people will miss him, young and old, men and women. Sigh. At least we still have his work.

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  7. There are so many books I’ve read that I think how lovely it would be to be discovering them again and I’m so happy to recommend them to others, thinking of their enjoyment (whew, run on sentence). And there’s the excitement of knowing there’s another one coming and the sorrow of knowing there won’t be more. So I wish you the joy of the new book and of re-reading if you’re someone who does that. And since it’s literature, there will always be new readers!

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  8. I also love his writing. It’s not just that he makes me laugh on a regular basis, but he gives me insights into our world. He puts things in such a succinct, wry way. Like Kurt Vonnegut, his writing is so deceptively simple. The world is a much poorer place, but I will enjoy rereading. [I hope you don’t mind if I reblog this, as I think it is a fitting tribute to him.]

    Reply
  9. Reblogged this on Anne Lawson and commented:
    You know that Terry Pratchett died last week. The Snail of Happiness, a true Pratchett fan, has posted this fine tribute to him. I just had to reblog it.

    Reply
  10. “However, in my opinion, he is a remarkably astute social commentator, as well as having what appears to be a vast knowledge of history, philosophy, science and literature. Well, maybe he is just good at research, but he certainly draws on it very elegantly in his writing.”

    I don’t think you could have said it better. This is exactly why I enjoyed his books so much and why my sense of loss is so great. There will be no one to replace him, not in my lifetime I bet. We were blessed that he could continue to create in spite of Alzheimer’s but really, why couldn’t DEATH have taken someone else?!

    Reply
  11. We just lost one of the greatest literary commentators of the 20th Century. I have almost every single one of the Diskworld series and am now going to have to shuffle post haste to the local bookstore and buy the rest. Sorry moth eaten sock under the bed. Needs must. I can see why most of us are here now. We share a commonality of thought. I loved Sam Vines. He too now is deceased. R.I.P Terry Pratchett and R.I.P. The Diskworld. I find it particularly heartening at this sad time to know that there are legions of Diskworld fans who haven’t been born or even thought of yet to come. Death where is thy sting.

    Reply
  12. My Hubby is an avid fan and has recommended that I too should read the weathered Pratchett books that line his bookcase. Reading all your comments perhaps I am missing out and should heed my lovely mans advice.

    Reply

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