Many of the people reading this — and surely all of those likely to care — are already aware the wildly popular fantasist/satirist Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease last year. (Announcing the diagnosis to his fans, Pratchett wrote: “I know it’s a very human thing to say ‘Is there anything I can do’, but in this case I would only entertain offers from very high-end experts in brain chemistry.” The man knows how to turn a phrase.)
This is very sad news for his friends and family, and to a lesser extent to his legions of fans. And then there’s this passage from his 1992 novel Lords and Ladies, which makes it sadder. The following is taken from a confrontation between the witch Granny Weatherwax (the book’s heroine), and the wicked Queen of the Elves. The Queen, being an evil queen, is taunting her captive in the high villainous style.
“You will not be killed,” she whispered. “I promise you that. You’ll be left alive, to dribble and gibber and soil your-self and wander from door to door for scraps. And they’ll say: there goes the mad old woman.”
“They say that now,” said Granny Weatherwax. “They think I can’t hear.”
“But inside,” said the Queen, ignoring this, “inside I’ll keep just a part of you which looks out through your eyes and knows what you’ve become.
“And there will be none to help,” said the Queen. She was closer now, her eyes pinpoints of hatred. “No charity for the mad old woman. You’ll see what you have to eat to stay alive. And we’ll be with you all the time inside your head, just to remind you. […]”
The Queen wasn’t expecting it. Granny Weatherwax’s hand shot out, pieces of rope falling away from it, and slapped her across the face.
“You threaten me with that?” she said. “Me? Who am becoming old?”
Pratchett, describing the most horrific torture he could imagine, came up with what is basically Alzheimers. I mean, dude. :(
On the plus side (as Pratchett is quick to point out), he’s not dead yet. And he’ll be able to afford the very best in medical care and therapy… at the very least, he’ll never need to worry about what he has to eat to stay alive.
Still. Dude. :(
Rather than dwell on this too much, I suggest you all go out and read one of Pratchett’s Discworld novels. Most of the books can be read in any order you like, but Mort, Small Gods, Guards! Guards!, and Wyrd Sisters are all good ways to get your feet wet. Pratchett writes great light entertainment that really isn’t all that light. Middle-school students can read his books – and do, in droves – but don’t let that stop you unless you hate things that are joyful. Characterization, admittedly, is not Pratchett’s strongest suit, but he excels at action, satire, and farce, and he’s a rather astonishing prose stylist. Here are a couple of choice passages from the Pratchett Quote File*:
“It was possibly the most circumspect advance in the history of military manoeuvres, right down at the bottom end of the scale that things like the Charge of the Light Brigade are at the top of.”
“By and large, the only skill the alchemists of Ankh-Morpork had discovered so far was the ability to turn gold into less gold.”
“The person on the other side was a young woman. Very obviously a young woman. There was no possible way that she could have been mistaken for a young man in any language, especially Braille.”
* The ‘big list of funny quotes’ is such an old school use for the internet! I feel like I should be wearing cutoff jean shorts and plugging my computer into a phone jack.
This is indeed sad news. Alzheimer’s is one of those diseases I’ve got my fingers crossed is largely cured by the time we’re old enough to worry about it. Then again, I feel the same way about every disease.
I haven’t had the pleasure of reading the Discworld books. But I do highly recommend Good Omens:
It’s a 1990 teamup between Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (another favorite of readers of this blog, I’d wager). It’s sort of a farce about the apocalypse, and they’re always rumors that it’s going to be made into a movie any day now.