Now, I'll admit, I'm not a diehard Terry Pratchett fan. I read a few of his books a number of years ago, but I think there are some people out there who have actually read all 50+ (Actually I think it may even be somewhere around the 70 mark) of his books. Nevertheless, I was please to find that I didn't need to be the kind of Discworld fan that remembers the hundreds of character names, knows the plots better than Terry himself, and who dresses up in weird costumes at conventions. Terry was entertaining enough for anyone with a love of books to listen to.
You're probably aware that Terry Pratchett is known for writing his books so that they seem as if they should be shelved under humour, as opposed to fantasy (and, in fact, during his talk, he called being labeled a "fantasy writing" limiting). Early on in the evening, Terry's assistant, Rob Wilkins read an excerpt from Snuff. As far as my reading tastes go, it was probably ramblier than I usually like, but it worked so well for this extract. The whole thing was hilarious (although you had to be listening carefully to actually get the jokes. For those interested, I found a post where someone has thoughtfully made a transcript of the extract.
No only did the extract have me laughing aloud, but so did Terry Pratchett himself. All too often, writers who manage to make their books so wonderfully humorous seem rather dull in comparison. Terry, however, had a punchline for every anecdote, and was good humoured about everything. When the interviewer (sorry I can't recall her name) moved onto the subject of Terry's Alzheimer's, he berated her for taking a "hushed tone" which made me giggle because that is the way people often try to broach sensitive subjects.
Interestingly, the talk turned somewhat political, which I get the feeling may have been inevitable (but I didn't know enough about Terry Pratchett to be expecting it). It turns out that Terry is an advocate for "assisted dying". As you can expect, even though it was Terry doing most of the talking, it felt like the night had turned a little heated. People wriggled uncomfortably in their seats, and bubbles of laughter popped up whenever Terry cracked a joke, as if they could relieve the tension by laughing. A number of people seemed uncomfortable at times, especially when he asked if there was anyone there who disagreed with him who wanted to argue (a number of hands went up, but unfortunately only one got to speak). In a country that does feel like it is ruled by politic correctness, it was actually refreshing to hear someone express their views freely!
Despite moments of tension, Terry was really treated like a rock-star. When he arrived, everyone stood and applauded, and every time Terry made a joke, or said something that the crowd agreed with, clapping and whooping took place. At times, it felt almost like we were in church. At one point, Terry said that he felt frustrated by Christians who felt the need to beat the idea of Jesus into everyone's heads. "God is love," he said. "Not a hammer!" The crowd erupted and I almost expected someone to cry out "Amen!" The atmosphere in the room was vibrant, and Terry seemed to make the hall come to life. As more of a bystander than an interactive audience member, it was incredible just to watch and listen.
I wasn't expecting to have my mind broadened by this talk, but really, it was very eye opening. If you ever get the chance to go listen to him talk, I suggest doing so. While a little hard to understand at times (although it could have been the acoustics of the hall) Terry Pratchett knows how to hold an audience captive.