Thursday, January 7, 2010

Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

Has anyone else out there ever laughed so hard they cried at a passage in a book that, upon inspection, others do not find so funny? And perhaps, the next morning, you still find amusing, but not that funny? It was a small section that involved Greebo, Nanny Ogg's awesomely awful cat. I have a distinct fondness for Greebo, due to his antics in Witches Abroad, the other Pratchett novel (other than Mort) that I had read previously to my discovering that Pratchett is in fact one of my favourite authors. So perhaps it was that background knowledge I have, or that I had been reading Wyrd Sisters solid for a couple hours and this section set me over the edge, but whatever it was, I could not stop laughing.

I am pleased that my first book of the year shall be a Discworld novel. It fits. Discovering Discworld last year was like discovering a ... well, a whole new world, and every time I open a Discworld novel I feel it enveloping me. It is so rich, and varied, and absurd in a way that shines light on how absurd everything is, really. I am savouring this experience, of reading the Discworld books for the first time, because I know it won't happen again once I'm through them. This is why I'm not blasting through them even though I suspect I really could.

As for Wyrd Sisters, when a book opens like this:
The wind howled. Lightning stabbed at the earth erratically, like an inefficient assassin.
... I know that I am going to have a good read.

Here we have Pratchett playing with theatre; specifically and most obviously Macbeth, but many other Shakespearean plays make an entrance, not to mention several other dramatic references. The references were fast and furious and I'm certain I didn't get all of them. That did not take away from my enjoyment, however. Here we have comments on the power of theatre, and the power of words to both heal and harm, the power of both to change history. Not in the sense of what actually happened, but because after all those who remember an actual event are gone, it is the words that describe the event that carry it forward into collective memory. If those words change, then the event changes -- history changes.

We are introduced once again, to my delight, to Esme Weatherwax, witch extraordinaire, most respected of the leaders witches don't have. We are also introduced to her cohorts Nanny Ogg (and the aforementioned Greebo) and Magrat Garlick. (Enter three witches.) Granny Weatherwax was really just finding her feet in Equal Rites. Now she's got them, and her broomstick, and she. is. awesome. She is not a perfect person, and the stuff she does one thinks might really not turn out. Sometimes it backfires horribly, not that she would let you know that. But her supreme confidence is refreshing, and things work out often enough that the reader has supreme confidence in her, too.

Overall in this book we have the same strong characterization I'm coming to expect of Pratchett, if not for every character then for most. The duchess, though somewhat 2-dimensional "Evil" is also, through most of the book, probably one of the creepiest and most upsetting Pratchett villains I've come across so far. Her husband, Duke Felmet, is also fascinating -- well drawn and complicated and both somewhat bored and ordinary while also being ambitious and increasingly insane. At the end, the duchess especially takes on some pretty stereotypical characteristics that make her less of a character and more of a caricature, but I can accept that. At that point she was pretty much a sidenote anyways.

The deeper I go into Discworld, the happier I am to be there. Looking forward to Pyramids, up next in my quest to read the whole series.

20 comments:

Amy said...

Now I want to read more Pratchett. Right now the only Pratchett in my life is "That's Not My Cow!" And not only should I read them, I should buy them because Delphine will be old enough for them in a year or two. Awesome!

kiirstin said...

Oh, do read some! I recommend (as always) starting with The Wee Free Men. Sooooo gooood. Although he has so many good books, I think there's something for everyone. It took me a couple of tries to really get what other people saw, but now that I've seen it I will never look back...

Phyl said...

I had exactly the same experience -- not "getting" what people saw in Pratchett's books, at first. This was distressing to me, because I'd had people give me five of the books, for Xmas and my birthday, and they just hadn't clicked.

Then I got to Small Gods. And that did it. CLICK. It's like a switch turns on, and then you really Get It.

I do think the books got better after Pratchett's first two or three, and just keep getting better.

I need to read both Wyrd Sisters and Wee Free Men again, with my new consciousness. But I think Small Gods and Pyramids are likely to remain my favourites.

maiac said...

I adore Terry Pratchett with profound and devoted adoration. I occasionally stop and re-read a sentence or paragraph just for the beauty of it. I particularly enjoy Wyrd Sisters both for the adaptation of Macbeth and for the perceptive and amusing take on fairy tales. And for Granny Weatherwax.

I just wish I could convince my local librarians that not all of Pratchett's books, nor the film adaptations, belong in the Juveniles section.

Cath said...

It was Nanny Ogg's postcards in Witches Abroad that set me off laughing so hard I couldn't stop. Especially when she reported that someone (I forget who) had got the 'dire rear'. I actually cried. I'm doing the Pratchett challenge this year and have read Night Watch already. So looking forward to a yearlong fest of his books.

kiirstin said...

Phyl - Oh, good! You're a fan of Pyramids! I'm extra-excited about starting that one now. I can't imagine getting *five* books by an author I'm not sure I like. I would really start to wonder what the heck was going on...

Maia - Bad cataloguing is the bane of my existence. Our library does very well with Pratchett, but very poorly with some other things. Not only does it make things hard to find for our patrons, but it makes things harder for me. But something like cataloguing Pratchett as Juvenile is just sloppy. How are the film adaptations, though? For some reason I just... can't see these books working for me on screen.

Cath - I am so looking forward to getting to that book again! Especially now that I have some background on the witches. The Pratchett Challenge was one of two that I was *this* close to signing on for, but even though I know I will read a bunch of his books this year, I don't want to feel like I *have* to (I'm overly sensitive to that sort of thing.) Good luck to you with it, though!

Cara Powers said...

You've made me want to reread this one! I wonder what I missed the first time. Anyway, I remember really liking it. I didn't like Pyramids as much, but it was a personal preference not a matter of execution.

kiirstin said...

The great thing about Pratchett, in my opinion (or, one of the great things) is that there really seems to be something for everyone to enjoy. I haven't run up against a book of his I haven't liked yet, just a couple I haven't liked as much as some of his others.

....Petty Witter said...

Not a huge fan of TP, Husband dearest has all the books and is constantly encouraging me to read them. Who knows maybe's one day I will as I did enjot the Tiffany Aikens(?)/Wee Free Men books and Wintersmith I loved, it's one of the most beautiful stories I've ever read.

kiirstin said...

I think there's another Tiffany book out there, A Hat Full of Sky, if you're wanting more. :) Like Phyl has said above, I think it sometimes takes time to come to Pratchett.

Darla D said...

Hey, you're ahead of me again. I'd better get cracking - I'll be back to read your review when I've finished. The problem is I own most of the earlier books, so they fall off my radar because of all my library books! Thanks for the nudge. :-)

kiirstin said...

*kiirstin sneaks into lead, orders Pyramids from the library before Darla gets a chance to read Wyrd Sisters*

Seriously, though, I know what you mean. I take too much out of the library, and then feel the due date pressure to read those books, even when I have lots of my own I'd like to read.

Darla D said...

*Darla enrolls in speed-reading course and whips through the the next three books in a day.* teehee.

kiirstin said...

Aw, dang!

*hops in time machine, reads next four books yesterday*

Darla D said...

Oh, no! *Cat burglar creeps into Kiirstin's house and puts entire discworld series in forgotten box up in attic...*

mwahaha!

kiirstin said...

I know I had some Pratchett around here somewhere... *scratches head, looks confused*

Ah well. It's time for my completely out-of-character midwinter cleaning spurt anyways! I haven't even been in the attic in months... :P

Nymeth said...

Haha, yes! That's happened to me with Discworld quotes - also with passages from Douglas Adams books.

This as actually my very first Pratchett, so I have a special fondness for it :)

Darla D said...

Don't think I've ever inspired anyone to clean before - maybe it will transfer to my family (and me)! :-)

Oh, wait - I think that cat burglar put the box in my attic - maybe you'd better start at our place!

kiirstin said...

Nymeth - Awesome! I can see how this would be a great one to start with.

Darla - Ahem. Nice try. Although I bet you have some great books in your attic...

Darla D said...

Rats! Well, it was worth a try. :-)