Who are the Book Fairies?

Have you heard of the Book Fairies? No, they don’t have wings, they don’t fly on flowers and they are of a normal size.

Let me explain – In March 2017, ‘Harry Potter’ actress Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) helped launch The Book Fairies project on International Women’s Day, when she hid feminist books around NYC – titles she had chosen for her book club (yes, Emma Watson has a Book Club). She is currently continuing her Book Fairy fun with the current book club read – The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, which she is currently sharing around Paris. 

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Basically, this is what being a Book Fairy is all about – Book Fairies are people who leave books in public places, in order for these to be found and read, and then passed on to other readers. The aim is to promote reading!

Although the project started in New York with only a few members, today Book Fairies number over 5,000 people sharing books in more than 100 countries. In fact, anyone can be a Book Fairy! All you have to do if you have some books you’d like to share, is to head over to the Book Fairies’ website here and order some VERY cheap green ‘Book Fairies’ stickers to attach to your books. One can also decorate the books with ‘Book Fairies’ ribbons or bookmarks, which can also be found on the official website here.

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Who knows, you could be featured in the Book Fairies page as a representative of your country! Take a look here!

As for me, I know that I personally could never be a Book Fairy because I’m a book hoarder and I’m too attached to my books to give them away. Once I’ve read a book, I want to keep it forever. Fortunately, no one is as book-greedy as I am!

Do you believe in Book Fairies!?

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January Round-Up – Book Reviews

FINALLY, I have fifteen minutes’ time to sit down, take a breath, and write the round-up of the books I read in January. It’s been an unbelievably hectic week, and what’s more, it promises to be quite a hectic weekend too, so I’d better get down to it before I fall asleep at the desk.

January has been a good month in that I got hold of quite a few interesting books, some of which I’d had my eye on for a bit. I read a grand total of ten books, which is not too bad, though I admit some of them were not as long as I would have liked. So, here goes:

1 The Moth – Catherine Cookson – 1 star out of 5
I started out the year by deciding to try and read something by this author, since I had previously watched a couple of movies transposed from her novels. The movies are maudlin and depressing, but I thought maybe the novels would be better…? No such luck, apart from being disgustingly predictable, the ‘heroine’ is nothing less than the usual damsel in distress, the ‘hero’ is the ‘charming man of low class’, and of course, though set in rural England, the story-line is completely boring. 

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2 The Interpretation of Murder – Jed Rubenfeld3 Stars out of 5
Lovers of the Agatha Christie/Sherlock mysteries will love this one. Not to mention those who have studied, either professionally or in an amateurish way (as in my case) the theories of Sigmund Freud. Basically, a string of strange crimes and murders are investigated by a young psychoanalyst, who’s also a student of Freud. The plotline is quite good, but what I really loved was the apparent research and dedication the writer shows when describing America in the very early 20th century.

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3 The Rottweiler – Ruth Rendell3 Stars out of 5
I just love anything by Ruth Rendell. The way she portrays her characters, and especially her study of the main character, which is usually the serial killer himself, is truly revealing. Creating a net of everyday happenings, while introducing a number of characters, most of whom all know each other, Rendell creates an enthralling and unsettling landscape where you realize each person you know, in the end, has something to hide.

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4 The Green Mile – Stephen King4 Stars out of 5
I had watched the movie before, and I must be frank, read the book too, but it was such a long time ago, that I decided to refresh my memory a bit. And boy, was I glad I did. King’s suspenseful novels are always a joy, and this one in particular is pretty different from his usual work since there is hardly anything of the supernatural or fantastical in it. It is mostly a portrayal of racism, friendship, love, human behavior, not to mention a stark critique of society which leaves the reader feeling as though he’ll never be the same again after he’s read it.

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5. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald2 Stars out of 5
Ok, I know this is supposed to be like ‘the great American novel’, but seriously, I did not like the pace of writing, and the style much. I admit, if I hadn’t watched the movie before, I would have liked it even less. Yes, I get that it’s a portrayal of society’s hypocritical behavior, but still… I don’t know, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

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6 – 10 – The other five books I read this month were five novels collected in one single thick volume which I finally managed to purchase online. The volume is in beautiful hard cover and all the novels in it are by the horror writer Susan Hill. These are:

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Dolly – This novel had much promise but when I finished it, I felt as though the author could have been more specific or given us at least a partial answer to the weird happenings… 2 Stars out of 5

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The Man in the Picture – This one was my favorite out of Hill’s five novels, it is evocative of Wilde’s ‘Picture of Dorian Grey’, as well as portraying decadent Venice and its masked balls, which is a subject which always wins me over…. 4 Stars out of 5

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Printer Devil’s Court – Hmm I’m of two minds regarding this one. Again, I think it could have been explored more… 2 Stars out of 5

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The Small Hand – Not bad, a ‘traditional’ ghost story with an old mansion, a man with a troubled past, and an unreliable narrator. 3 Stars out of 5

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The Woman in Black – Yes of course I’ve watched the movie with Radcliffe, and the novel is much more toned down than that, still the atmosphere and the writing were breathtaking, though not as good, I think, as The Man in the Picture. So, 3 Stars out of 5

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And that’s it! Right now I’m reading a book about Celtic Lore and Wicca, so it’s not a novel, but I will still include it in my February round-up next month. To be honest, I think the next round up will contain less books than this one, since I will be going to Germany for a week soon, and I doubt I will be reading much during that time as I will be too busy sightseeing!

2016 Goodreads Challenge WON!

During the past four years, I admit that I haven’t been as voracious a reader as I used to be in the past. This is mainly because:

  1. I moved house 3 times in 3 years, meaning that my books were hidden in boxes for long periods of time at a stretch.
  2. Living alone means that one has more responsibilities and more time needs to be dedicated to house chores, meaning that when I finally have some free time, I mostly end up mindlessly vegetating and watching some T.V rather than reading.
  3. Me and my bf bought our own place in 2015, which also meant we had to restore, furnish and do quite a number of maintenance jobs, which left me exhausted both in mind and body.

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Finally however, I was all settled in 2016 and could re-start focusing my life once more. This is why I took part in the Goodreads challenge with the premise of reading at least 75 new books during that year. I don’t know whether to you 75 books sound like too many, but for me, it is the bare minimum I had to read to restore the real ‘me’ to myself, taking into account the enormous number of books I used to read and enjoy before. 

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I am happy to say that I more than passed the test. I read a total of 116 books in 2016, passing and topping the challenge I had set myself. Which is what I actually wanted really. I must also add that I didn’t make an effort or check myself constantly in any way to push myself to read. I didn’t do it because I HAD TO. I read effortlessly, lovingly, having fun and choosing books I liked or those I was curious about.

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2017 brought along a new Goodreads challenge. This time, I am promising myself I’ll read at least 100 new books this year… which means that I’m reading at least 150… haha. Call it my New Year’s Resolution.

Also on this note, I’ve decided to start writing a blog entry each month, reviewing briefly the books read during the previous 30/1 days. So looking forward to that!

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Feeling Intellectually Snobbish

I guess one should be grateful about Plebs trying to write in English. People say it’s the effort or the thought that counts, and not the result – they say it when someone loses a competition or gives a lousy present, so I guess, seeing people whose written English is just so terrible, trying to make an effort, should give one a bit of hope right? At least they are TRYING to write.

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And yet, the conjugation of the verbs, not to mention the turn of sentences, or lack thereof really, are so bad – that I end up wondering. Wouldn’t it be better to just resign yourself to the fact that your English is terrible and that you are just not capable of writing, in English at least, instead of pushing yourself, and others, to suffer through that horrifying syntax? It’s torture really, especially when you’re a voracious reader tenderly minding your own business, and suddenly there it is. Like a freezing squall surprising you out of nowhere. Like a sudden punch in the face. Those bloody sentences which go nowhere, the lack of auxiliary verbs, the mixing of the past and present tense. And don’t let me start about the vocabulary. Ugh.

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Yes, I’m kind of a language Puritan. What can I say? Would the term ‘Grammar Nazi’ fit? Perfectly I’d imagine. Oh yes, I make mistakes, especially when I’m typing using some itty-bitty mobile keypad, or when I’m distracted. But making a typing error in a status or a hurried comment is one thing, while actually publishing a whole article without even bothering to edit the bloody thing, is something totally different

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For Pete’s sake, one can even do that with the auto-correct function these days!

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Ugh, yes rant over.

And THIS is why I hardly ever read local amateurish stuff.

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Oxford University – The Real Hogwarts!

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Have you ever found yourself in a particular place and suddenly felt completely at home? I couldn’t identify this pervading feeling at first, but when I visited the University of Oxford in Oxfordshire, England, a couple of years ago, for some strange reason it felt amazingly familiar. I had never been there before and yet, that indecipherable feeling of connection could not be shaken off.

The architecturally gothic buildings and the streets thronged with bustling students, the jovial camaraderie and the many fairy-like gardens and little shops sporting old tomes and coloured school uniforms… I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Until I started visiting specific places of interest that is, and then all the pieces of the puzzle magically made sense.

Oxford is Hogwarts. It is Diagon Alley. It is Lyra’s parallel Oxford from Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials Trilogy’. It is Terry Pratchett’s ‘Unseen University’ on Discworld, J.R.R. Tolkien’s playing field, C.S Lewis’ inspiration, and Lewis Carroll’s domain. Traces of Wonderland and Narnia permeate the streets. Oxford – the place where so many literary titans met, conversed, evolved, were influenced, and created their master works.

We left our car in a small parking area outside the city proper and took a bus which left us on Magdalen Street, where the first thing we saw was Balliol College. This is the oldest of the 38 constituent colleges which make up the University of Oxford.

When one speaks of this University, one must keep in mind that the different colleges or communities in which students live and study all present different outlooks and approaches to learning, having their own various idiosyncrasies, sports teams, coloured uniforms, patron saints, facilities, and academic prospectus. And yet they all make up one University – 38 different parts of one great whole, as well as a number of academic departments divided into four divisions. Is this starting to sound a little bit familiar?

Balliol College, founded in the late 13th century, had long existed as a medieval hall of residence for students. There is, in fact, evidence that teaching took place here as far back as 1096AD, making Oxford the oldest university in the English-speaking world.

Moving on towards the iconic Bodleian Library, I passed outside the enchanting Sheldonian Theatre, built in the 17th century. Its eight-sided cupola is truly a sight to behold. However, I had no time to enjoy any of the music concerts or lectures taking place within.

As we walked away from the theatre, I chanced to look up and for a moment, thought I had been suddenly transported to Venice. This is because I was passing under Hertford Bridge, also known as ‘the Bridge of Sighs’, which joins the two sides of Hertford College. Although popular for supposedly being a replica of the eponymous Venetian Bridge, it actually looks more like the Rialto Bridge of the same city.

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My target, however, was the second largest library in Britain – the Bodleian Library, which is famous for containing each and every book published within the UK. Over 11 million volumes housed on 120 miles of shelving to be precise. Are you impressed yet? I was all agog even before going inside. When I stepped over the threshold, I was flabbergasted – it was Hogwarts! Literally.

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The Bodleian Library was used as part of the set through-out four of the Harry Potter movies, not just as a library, but as the infirmary, as well as serving as the Hall where Professor McGonnagal teaches the students to dance in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

No trip to Oxford is complete without a visit to Christ Church College

Duke Humphrey’s Library, which is the name of the oldest reading room within the Bodleian, was used for the scene where Harry Potter enters the Restricted library under his invisibility cloak with a lamp to steal a book in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

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Here, one can also find a section of mysteriously chained books, which are known to have inspired Terry Pratchett’s depiction of the magical library within his ‘Unseen University’ of wizards. And what about the magnificently vaulting ceiling within the interior of the Divinity School, a medieval building which is attached to the library itself? Definitely not to be missed.

Just a side-note… the official head of Oxford University is called the chancellor, while the vice-chancellor is the one who organises central administration and the in-house professors are generally called ‘Masters’. Readers of Terry Pratchett should find themselves familiar with this state of affairs. The coat-of-arms of Oxford University, an open book with a crown underneath it and two above it, funnily looks a lot like the coat of arms of the Unseen University too.

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Moving on down Catte Street, I soon visited other well-known Oxford Colleges, such as All Souls, Queens, as well as Magdalen College, where C.S Lewis, author of the famous Narnia books, was a tutor, and Exeter College, where I could admire the bust of one of its most famous past students, J. R. R. Tolkien.

On the other hand, unfortunately I did not have the time to visit the cloisters found at New College, which were used as the backdrop for certain scenes of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Needing a break and something to eat after all this walking and awe-inspiring sightseeing, I paused at the Oxford Covered Market, centred in the middle of the city. This historic market goes back to the 18th century. It offers a plethora of fresh food stands, artisans’ products, traditional stalls, greengrocers, bakeries and handcrafted knick knacks. Truly a landmark in its own right.

After some well-merited refreshments, we walked on down Wheatsheaf Yard towards Christchurch Cathedral, which serves as both the College Chapel and Mother Church for the Diocese of Oxford. The gothic long-spired building, with its colourful stained glass windows, vaulted cloisters and intricately carved ceiling, is truly one of a kind.

A short walk south of the cathedral brought us finally to Christ Church College, which, for me personally, was the climax of my trip to Oxford University. I definitely know which college I’d wish to attend if I could be an alumna of Oxford University! ‘Welcome to Hogwarts’… so says Prof McGonagall as Harry is about to enter his school for the first time. And those same steps we see on screen are the same steps which actually lead up the dining hall at Christ Church College.

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The Meadow Building, built in the Venetian Gothic style popular during the Victorian period, dominates our view as soon as we enter this college. The courtyard also gives one a view of Bodley Tower, whose picturesque stone staircase was portrayed magnificently throughout various Harry Potter movies. Up the magical staircase we go to the dining hall at Christ Church College. The first thing we see on our immediate right as we enter the hall is a portrait of Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, famed author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

The large stained glass windows around the hall and above the fireplace sport a myriad of Alice in Wonderland figures – from Alice herself to the white rabbit, and even the mock turtle. It was while Dodgson was rowing on a small boat near Magdalen College with the Dean’s three daughters, of which one was called Alice Liddell that he first started improvising the tale we all love and know so well.

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Christ Church Dining Hall was the inspiration for the Hall in Hogwarts, with its wood-panelled walls, its long long tables and its tiny lamps. The movie was not actually filmed in it, but a perfect replica of the place was reproduced within studio.

The many portraits lining the dining hall in Christ Church also played an important part in J. K Rowling’s novels. The table at the far end, known as ‘the High Table’ and used by senior members of the college, was also perfectly replicated as the table where Professors at Hogwarts dine and make speeches.

No trip to Oxford is complete without a visit to Christ Church College, just as no tourist worth his salt could drive off without spotting the small store known as The Alice in Wonderland Shop. Located just in front of Christ Church College, this colourful Wonderland emporium stands on the historic spot pre-viously filled by Alice Liddell’s favourite candy shop.

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The shop is full of Alice in Wonderland merchandise – different decks of cards depicting characters from the story, tiny china tea-sets, replica pocket watches, figurines, tea cosies, books and much more. If, like me, you’re an Alice aficionado, prepare your cheque book!

This article of mine was published on The Sunday Times of Malta on 23.10.2016 – http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20161023/travel/Oxford-University-the-real-Hogwarts.628830

Preparing for Winter!

It’s that time of the year again, when the air gets suddenly chillier, the nights start to tiptoe in earlier, my fluffy socks seem more and more attractive, and all I want to do is snuggle in bed with a good book – though, to be honest, in my case I feel like this all year round lol.

Apart from focusing on my Stephen King marathon these past two months, I also bought (or found online) a number of good, old fashioned, horror stories. First of all, might I say that I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Shirley Jackson! Yes, I know that everyone’s bonkers about her ‘The Lottery’, but my favorite is and always will be ‘We will always live in the Castle’. I can’t help it, I get Merricat TOTALLY! Make of that what you will ;p

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Another thing, after gobbling up Dan Simmons’ ‘Drood’ a couple of months ago, the fantastic premise just wouldn’t leave my brain. Apart from my fixation on Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins’ skewed perspective just tickled by fancy straight to neverwhere. So, when I came across ‘The Moonstone’ and ‘The Woman in White’ on sale at the bookstore, and realized that I had never actually read them, I obviously HAD TO BUY THEM!

Next up, I realized that the only Ray Bradbury book in my actual possession was ‘Something Wicked this Way Comes’, so obviously I ordered ‘Fahrenheit 451’ and ‘The Illustrated Man’, which are amazingly cheap on Book Depository. I don’t know whether to take that as an insult, or just count my blessings.

Anyways, how’s that for a good start to some Winter reading?

P.S An article of mine on Winter Reading will be coming out on EVE.COM soon, however obviously the article is totally different, as are most of the novels mentioned, since I tried to refer to books which might be more approachable by the masses ;p I also gave very short summaries of the books, instead of just gushing out about the ones I have waiting for me on my bedside table at home without giving any explanation for the unenlightened ;-p

The National Book Fair Sucks… sorry. This is my opinion.

People I hardly know tag me on book-related stuff on Facebook (and I love it). Friends have ceased to ask me why I always have books in my handbag. People who hardly know me identify me because unless I’m talking to someone, there’s always an open book in front of me.

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Let’s face it, everyone knows that I’m a Book-addict/Bookaholic/Bibliophile/Nerd/Bookworm/etc. I think books, breathe books and live in books in my mind most of the time. For me, the characters I’m reading about at that moment in time are more real than ‘real life’, and even though I try to rein it in to ‘appear like a normal human being’ on the surface, it just seeps through.

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So, I’m guessing with the opening of the National Malta Book Fair this afternoon, I am ‘expected’ to go into an orgiastic frenzy and tear everything in my path until I’m standing right there buying everything in sight. I admit, that was the case once. But unfortunately, things change.

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I’m going to come out and say it, and I don’t care who takes offence, because it is my right as a person to say what I think. THIS YEAR I AM NOT GOING TO THE BOOKFAIR BECAUSE IT SUCKS!

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It wasn’t always like this. Up until around four/five years ago, it was great. One of the most anticipated weeks of the year (for me), but all that slowly ground to a halt as I realised that the fair was becoming more and more crappy each year. What happened?

Well, first of all people go to a fair to find bargains. It’s the truth. We rush there hoping we’ll ‘find’ something we couldn’t normally purchase, or that we find something cheaper than usual, which is why we’d be especially waiting for the fair to buy it. In the past, this applied to the bookfair as there were many bargains depending on the different stalls. Many of them offered a ‘buy two books, get one free’ deal, while others offered paperbacks for very cheap and worthwhile prices.

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Nowadays, the prices are the same as those found within regular stores, and sometimes more expensive than the prices of books bought online – so in that case, why bother?

In relation to the books themselves, I used to go ‘hunting’ for books which one does not normally find in stores too. Like old editions of fairytales for example, or novels written by obscure authors I had never heard of, but which were brilliant nonetheless. Today this is no longer possible, simply because ADULT NOVELS in ENGLISH are only a very small portion of the books on offer during the fair. This is because the fair has mostly become a publicity stunt to show how our society is trying to promote reading for children. This is not a mistake at all per se, as it is obviously important for the powers that be to provide opportunities for new readers, however the bad thing is that by doing so, they are NEGLECTING already developed readers. By focusing only on children’s books, the bookfair is neglecting adults who like to read!!

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Another thing is the overly obvious promotion of books in the Maltese language. Personally I do not like to read in Maltese, preferring English as this complements my state of mind more. This does not mean that other people don’t love to read in Maltese, obviously. I also understand the importance of promoting and creating opportunities for writers of Maltese, as well as books about Malta, to take a prominent role within the National BookFair. It is a matter of course. What I DO NOT get is why lately, the bookfair is offering only:

  1. Books for children
  2. Novels and other books in Maltese
  3. Historical books about Malta

WHERE are the novels/books in the English language for adults??

I don’t mean to say there aren’t any, but there are VERY FEW on offer, and these are quite mainstream and found in shops all year round, not to mention online. So, why on earth should I need to go to the bookfair to get a hold of them?

Considering that in Malta, both the Maltese and the English language are ‘official languages’, one should be as important as the other!

Last year, I asked the relevant Facebook page pertaining to the bookfair whether there would be a good assortment of literature in English. The answer I got was that there would be books in English, just as there would be books in Italian and French. For shame! English is one of the two official languages of Malta, why is it being relegated to a ‘third language’ status?
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I’m sure many will not agree with me and that is not a problem. However, these are the reasons why I personally, will not be going to the National Bookfair this year. I simply know I will not find anything that will interest me there. As I didn’t find anything (except boredom and wasted time that is) last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. Thank you very much for nothing, I will continue buying my non-mainstream and new, yet inexpensive books online.

End of rant. You may like to start kindling your fires and sharpening your pitchforks now.

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Yesterday I cried… a lot…

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Yesterday I arrived home, I put on the water-heater in the bathroom, I switched my laptop on, and while it was loading, went to see which book I would read during the evening, since I had just finished reading Patrick Rothfuss’ ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ for the second time. I knew it had to be good to follow up Rothfuss, so I picked Pratchett and Gaiman’s ‘Good Omens’, which I hadn’t looked at in a while.

My pc had come around by then, and I went to take a quick peek at my email as well as Facebook, before starting my household chores. It was then that I saw it… TERRY PRATCHETT HAD DIED AT 66

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I know, I know, he had Alzheimer, and all Terry-lovers knew we had to loose him someday. But ‘someday’ and ‘dead at 66’ are worlds apart. Not only is 66 not that old by today’s standards… THIS IS TERRY PRATCHETT!! He died while I was working at some boring meeting two hours previously, and I did not know anything about it! The earth did not tremble, the sun did not shatter, my heart did not scream in rage!! I just could not believe it! How could the literary genius of our time be dead, and only a few be so concerned as to even comment on Facebook?

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How can the rest of the world not be in a brainless comatose stupor like me??

I cried while I prepared my work-lunch for today. I sobbed while I laid out my work clothes ready for usage at 6am. I shrieked silently and continuously while I showered. I trembled and shook while I wrote my aunt’s birthday card. I keened while I stared disconsolately at my Terry Pratchett books in the living room. I wailed when I looked outside and realized that the spirit of that great writer, my inspiration, the source of all comic and parodic genius, had left the planet. I blubbered as I gazed at the pc screen and realized that for most people this was no big deal. I bawled and hugged myself as I crouched in a fetal position under the bedclothes.

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Then, I blew my nose, shut up, and thought a bit. NO he was not dead. His books were still there. Part of him lived and would live forever. There would be no more books. He will never sign anything for me. I will never meet him. That is the truth. But the truth is also that he made his great mark upon the world, he inspired millions of people. Made them laugh. Made them cry. Made them be alive.

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Maybe now that he’s dead, he will finally get the recognition he deserves. Most literary geniuses only seem to get it once they are gone anyways, for some weird reason. I guess TV channels will just gobble up the Discworld stories, and I really welcome that. I just hope that they don’t rape them, like the last Indiana Jones movie was raped. I hope they continue having that awesome flavor and fantastic weirdness present in previously rendered films like ‘Hog Father’ and ‘Going Postal’.

We’ll see.

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