Monday, October 20, 2008

In Anticipation of Terry Pratchett's Nation

Terry was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's earlier this year. A condition that he then described in his typical style as an "embuggerance" has now slowly started affecting his brain functions earmarked for day-to-day activities. There seems to be very little medical science can do at this moment to cure or control this disease. Its a highly rare form of dementia and the fact that it should have struck Terry of all people is proof enough that gods do not have a sense of humour. Terry himself is not taking this lying down. He has pledged a million dollars in support of Alzheimer's research and is actively crusading for more government spending on dementia research. Here's a link to an impassioned article he wrote recently in a newspaper talking about the disease and what it does to perfectly normal people.

I spoke to a fellow sufferer recently (or as I prefer to say, ‘a person who is thoroughly annoyed with the fact they have dementia’) who talked in the tones of a university lecturer and in every respect was quite capable of taking part in an animated conversation.

Nevertheless, he could not see the teacup in front of him. His eyes knew that the cup was there; his brain was not passing along the information. This disease slips you away a little bit at a time and lets you watch it happen.

By all standards Terry Pratchett's output has been staggering. Not only in terms of sheer volume, he averages around 1.5 books a year, but the quality of his writing has been first rate throughout. As a humourist Terry is in the same league as Wodehouse and as a humanist he is in a league all by himself. To typecast him as a purveyor of fantasy is akin to labeling the Beatles as just another cute boy band. He is not so much a writer of fantasy as he is a fantastic writer. He writes with equal felicity on topics ranging from the nature of belief, fundamentalism, organized religion, sexism, racism, political strategy, foreign policy, pop-culture, rock music, shallow patriotism, journalism, corporate greed, education to policing while making you laugh and think at the same time. This is a rare gift.

Nation, his latest book, which is incidentally a non-Discworld novel was released last month amidst much fanfare in relative obscurity (as most of his books are). I had to order it online and I receive my copy tomorrow. And it will be with a sense of anticipation and appreciation that I will commence my reading of it because there is a possibility that he might be no longer as prolific as he once was. But then again given the near certainty with which million-to-one chances come good in his books I am sure he will be just fine.

Nil illegitimo carborundum Terry.

PS: A minor rant against Crossword, the book store. I am not sure if it passes muster as a bookstore of any consequence. With the temporary closure of the Landmark store owing to the fire incident at Infiniti Mall, I had to go to crossword to see if I could lay my hands on PTerry's 'Nation' and Joseph O'Neil's 'Netherland'. Crossword did not have either. Buggrem.

No Bylines

Have you noticed, most articles on Cricinfo covering the Australia tour have no bylines. Just a "Cricinfo Staff". Wonder why.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Quality of Sprawl

Nice. Us Likes. From Al-Lude's blog.
The Quality of Sprawl - Les Murray
Sprawl is the quality
of the man who cut down his Rolls-Royce
into a farm utility truck, and sprawl
is what the company lacked when it made repeated efforts
to buy the vehicle back and repair its image.

Sprawl is doing your farm work by aeroplane, roughly,
or driving a hitchhiker that extra hundred miles home.
It is the rococo of being your own still centre.
It is never lighting cigars with ten dollar notes:
that's idiot ostentation and murder of starving people.
Nor can it be bought with the ash of million dollar deeds.

Sprawl lengthens the legs; it trains greyhounds on liver and beer.
Sprawl almost never says, Why not?, with palms comically raised
nor can it be dressed for, not even in running shoes worn
with mink and a nose ring. That is Society. That's Style.
Sprawl is more like the thirteenth banana in a dozen
or anyway the fourteenth.

Sprawl is Hank Stamper in Never Give an Inch
bisecting an obstructive official's desk with a chain saw.
Not harming the official. Sprawl is never brutal,
though it's often intransigent. Sprawl is never Simon de Montfortat
a town-storming: Kill them all! God will know His own.
Knowing the man's name this was said to might be sprawl.

Sprawl occurs in art. The fifteenth to twenty-first
lines in a sonnet, for example. And in certain paintings.
I have sprawl enough to have forgotten which paintings.
Turner's glorious Burning of the Houses of Parliament
comes to mind, a doubling bannered triumph of sprawl -
except he didn't fire them.

Sprawl gets up the noses of many kinds of people
(every kind that comes in kinds) whose futures don't include it.
Some decry it as criminal presumption, silken-robed
Pope Alexander dividing the new world between Spain and Portugal.
If he smiled in petto afterwards, perhaps the thing did have sprawl.

Sprawl is really classless, though. It is
John Christopher Frederick Murray
asleep in his neighbours' best bed in spurs and oilskins,
but not having thrown up:
sprawl is never Calum, who, in the loud hallway of our house
reinvented the Festoon. Rather
it's Beatrice Miles going twelve hundred ditto in a taxi,
No Lewd Advances, no Hitting Animals, no Speeding,
on the proceeds of her two-bob-a-sonnet Shakespeare readings.
An image of my country. And would that
it were more so.

No, sprawl is full gloss murals on a council-house wall.
Sprawl leans on things. It is loose-limbed in its mind.
Reprimanded and dismissed,
it listens with a grin and one boot up on the rail
of possibility. It may have to leave the Earth.
Being roughly Christian, it scratches the other cheek
And thinks it unlikely. Though people have been shot for sprawl.