Men of true authorial anger sometimes get refashioned in the public’s twinkling eye. How can their pique be made more palatable for the masses? Too often these days, Mark Twain conjures images of a quipping literary pitchman wearing a Colonel Sanders suit and a Garrison Keillor public temperament, his “Mysterious Stranger” fury and high dudgeon sanded down to the point of “folksy curmudgeon.” And Gaiman has seen how the public loves to pinch the elfin cheek that masks the pique of Mr. Pratchett, his British countryman and fellow sci-fi/fantasy giant of a collaborator on “Good Omens.”
But then, there’s another truth that rides along: The public can’t help but love certain smart, winking satirists. The world mourned Twain, America’s first true celebrity figure — the Samuel Clemens self-creation whose words and actions so captured the national imagination. And today, the world mourns Sir Terry Pratchett.
Pratchett, author of more than 70 books, was best known for his Discworld series (a satirical world sitting on the backs of elephants and a turtle), and he was writing up until last year — seven years after receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (which he referred to as an “embuggerance”). “As all who read him know, Discworld was his vehicle to satirize this world: He did so brilliantly, with great skill, enormous humor and constant invention,” said his publishing company, Transworld.
British prime minister David Cameron said that Pratchett’s books “fired the imagination of millions”; indeed, at the turn of the century, according to the BBC, Pratchett was Britain’s second most popular author, after J.K. Rowling — just two years after he was awarded the OBE for services to literature.
Sir Terence David John Pratchett died today surrounded by family and a sleeping cat. From his social-media account, in reference to his literary depictions of Death, this was tweeted:
Terry Pratchett, who was also a right-to-die activist, may not have gone gently into that good night. But he left us with a lifetime of brilliant, satirizing light.
Thank you, Sir.