One of the contributing factors to surviving a thesis is to discover a distraction that will remove you so completely from what you are writing that you can recover both your sanity and your critical distance. Terry Pratchett might not receive a thank you in your acknowledgment section but deep down within yourself you know that you would never have survived without Discworld.
There was always that one book The Colour of Magic on your family shelves. You did not like the aggressive caricature on the cover nor Rincewind when you opened it. There was another splash that time when you hired out The Wyrd Sisters animation from the ACMI library and subsequently read the book. Better, but there were too many to face jumping in and starting from all the way back at Rincewind did not appeal. It would take many more years and a completely different approach before you dived into and properly appreciate the slightly interesting flavoured waters.
It was at work. Kate had mentioned Terry Pratchett and she was buying the latest for her brother. He doesn’t read anything but he loves these, she said. Kate’s upfront, she tells you right out that she likes only some of Pratchett’s work. But this latest is about the wizards at Unseen University and should be worth the price of a hardback. The wizards, you ask. Yes, she replies. There are patterns throughout the novels that you can follow. Lead characters and so on. Like all the ones with Death. It’s best to read those ones all together. The wizards are fun. So are the witches. The gods not so much. Then there are the guards. The guards? You are intrigued. It works like this. She opens the internet windows and your eyes.
Wikipedia has accompanied you through your undergraduate degree. You do not trust it and feel you never will. But here, plain for all to see the Discworld books are there in a table with a list of main characters and also the ‘theme’ or ‘strand’ that they are a part of. I don’t like Rincewind much. You admit this to Kate. Really? She is surprised. Well, read those last. Start anywhere as long as it is in the start of that group.
Going Postal. The pages flick through smoothly and it smells comforting. The cover is not by Josh Kirby and the man on the front grins reassuringly as conmen are want to do. The Rowden White library holds a dizzying array of his books and it overflows into a mild panic. But you remember the wikipedia and you take this one and two with Granny Weatherwax on the cover. The Witches strand. If this doesn’t work it doesn’t matter, you tell yourself. You should be writing your thesis; researching your thesis; working on your thesis; reading your thesis. Thesis, thesis, thesis! The word crowds your conscious for attention. You ignore it and you read.
And you read. And read. Everything. After Going Postal and the witches there are the guards, who turn out to be favourites and then Death stories interspersed with the gods and also the wizards. Lastly you read of Rincewind and you love the world so much that he wins you over. It’s the winter break and you go on holiday through the pages. You’ve never read anything like this before. The immersion in this world is just what you needed and it took the internet to show you how to access it. There is no way you would have approached a series like this and yet now you know there is no other way. Kate is amused at your effusive thanks.
But you know that these characters live with on with you, in you, as does Discworld. Even Death has a resonance beyond the pages. You know also that Terry Prachett is right about the comfort of the anthropomorphic. [I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN.] But you do. You really do. Away from the thesis you reclaim a sense of you. You return to the world of JSTOR articles, of analysing and of academia. The thesis goes well. It is comforting to know that whenever you need to escape from this world there is another floating alongside, through space on the back of four elephants standing on the shell of a giant turtle. So, now you thank Terry Pratchett and perhaps Wikipedia is owed an acknowledgment too. For in this instance, the internet did not just impact on your reading habits, it impacted directly on you.