[LMB] OT: Terry Pratchett

Matthew George matt.msg at gmail.com
Mon Sep 20 17:03:15 BST 2021

On Sun, Sep 19, 2021 at 8:45 AM Elizabeth Holden <alzurite at gmail.com> wrote:

> He didn't lose his great ideas, but his cutting edge was dimmed a little.

More than a little.  I think the fans who are convinced he was losing his
mind are mistaken, but not because there isn't a whole lot of evidence,
merely because I think they're wrong about what that evidence indicates.

*Raising Steam* had its main plot points in order, but Pratchett's
signature wit was much reduced.  *Shepherd's Crown* lacked any mention of
the titular object after its initial introduction.  And I became very, very
tired of being smacked over the head with "the hare jumps into the fire" in *I
Shall Wear Midnight*.

It's quite difficult to compose a lengthy text without being able to read.
The ancients managed it with oral literature, but their texts tended to be
shorter and /or highly constrained in structure (Homer was said to have
been blind, but his epic poetry is structured and repetitive in ways
intended to make it easy to remember), and they had a great deal of
practice.  When writing became more common, materials were still expensive
enough that only a final draft would be committed to hardcopy, but there
were ways to temporarily write (like wax tablets), and they could still go
over the written work.  I'm pretty sure that once Pratchett's vision
declined to the point that he could no longer make out text, even untouched
memory and executive functions wouldn't have been enough for him to be able
to compose in the seemingly-simple-but-quite-elaborate style he was so
known for.  Beethoven composed great music even after becoming deaf, but he
could read and write, and even a symphony is relatively brief compared to a

There is a very definite decline in quality.  I just don't think that it
was because of cognitive impairment.  [shrugs]  It's something of a moot
point now, I guess.

Matt G.

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