16 December 2007

A taste of philosophical silliness

In the late 1980s, when Neil Gaiman was a young writer, he started a short story and couldn't figure out how to end it. He sent the manuscript to his friend Terry Pratchett. He couldn't figure out where the story was going either. The story sat on Pratchett's desk for a year.

When Pratchett looked at it again, he figured out what came next in the story. Intercontinental telephone calls were made at strange hours. Floppy disks were sent back and forth by air mail (those were the days before e-mail, children) and after awhile the two wild men had a nearly-400-page novel. Well, they had the beginning of one. The got themselves into the same room and hashed out the writing of Good Omens.

All that is a preface to my purchasing a copy of the book in the famous Powell's bookstore in Portland, Oregon. (I'd always wanted to by a book at Powell's.)

David is a fan of Pratchett's Discworld novels. I've heard him chuckling over the books and ranting about the wonders of Discworld and the hilarity in the books.

I didn't know if I was ready for Discworld, but I thought I'd get a taste of Pratchett by buying and reading Good Omens. You may have noticed that it took me a month to read the book.

Actually, I didn't start until after I'd come home from Oregon and a 30-hour round trip to Denver. It still took a long time for me to read a book about Armageddon.

Yes, the book is about the end of the world and how it didn't happen. Seems the agents of fate were as falible as the people. Mistakes were made from day one, it turns out, and in the end not everyone went along with what was ineffable.

The dialogues (between devils and angels, between witches and witch hunters, among children mystified by goings on and their powers, et al.) sparkle with puns and logical jokes. It does remind me of the humor of the late Douglas Adams. Sometimes I was reminded of Jim Henson and the Muppets. I was also reminded of Kurt Vonnegut, especially Cat's Cradle.

If a movie is ever made of Good Omens, I think it should be a Muppet movie.

By the way, seemingly the only being to really know what is going on (everywhere and everywhen) is Agnes Nutter, witch. And her prophecies don't get used to their full extent.

As Kurt Vonnegut wrote, "So it goes."

It's good winter time reading. Look for the book in the library or in a new paperback edition. You can order it from Powell's or from Amazon below (and a few cents will come back and support this web site).

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