Bookshops have always held a special place in my life. As an atheist who doesn’t believe in anything that hasn’t got a decent amount of proof backing it up, they are the closest I can get to a holy place.
In my adopted country, today was Father’s Day. Only the second one I have been resident here for. My five year old son was very excited and came running into our room, with the card he had written (with my wife’s help) and the things he had made for me at school.
My wife had organised for us to go out for breakfast, to a Bookshop in South Perth which has a café attached to it. We ordered our food and duly filled our bellies. Very nice it was too.
Upon finishing we sauntered through to the bookshop to have a browse. The young ‘un started leafing through some books about Star Wars, then dinosaurs. My wife had a general investigate to see if there was anything worth reserving at the library – we’re trying to save a bit of money and space at the minute by e.g. not buying extra/unnecessary stuff to fill the house.
After my fill of stegosaurs/wookies I decided to see if there was anything that piqued my own interest. The bookshop wasn’t huge but had an eclectic mix of topics. I realised, with some shock, that I haven’t really been in a bookshop to browse for about eight or nine months. That meant that it was also the first time I have visited one since Sir Terry Pratchett was taken by complications of his early onset Alzheimer’s in March of this year.
I stared at some of the books lined up on the shelves. I moved along and stared at some others. After a few more attempts I realised that I wasn’t thinking the usual thoughts of “ooh, that looks interesting” or “I’ll have to write that one down to get hold of when I have a chance”, I was just staring, blankly.
I am currently in the middle of reading, or re-reading Pratchett’s entire catalogue of books, as amassed on my bookshelves. I am doing the Discworld ones first, The Colour of Magic through to The Shepherd’s Crown. Then I’ll do the non-Discworld books, The Carpet People, Strata, Truckers, The Unadulterated Cat, etc. and so on. Finally I will read The Long Earth through to The Long Utopia. Having not yet read the final Discworld or Long books, it means I will finish with a new one. It is an emotional and exclamatory journey!!!
The problem is that I just wasn’t able to consider looking at any other books in the shop. Pratchett’s passing has left me temporarily (I hope) unable to consider reading anything else by anybody else. I love books and will read almost anything – physics, sci-fi, history, evolutionary biology, classics, speculative fictions, maths, religion, adventure, whatever – This is the first time I have ever stood in front of a bookshelf feeling nonplussed. It was horrible!
It may sound over-dramatic, but I believe what I am experiencing is a form of grief. I am in mourning for a man I met once, but who had such a profound effect on my life that I am a wholly different person to the one who travelled down the non-Pratchett trouser leg of time.
I have lost people before and am conversant with the feeling of broken memories, disjointed conversations and half recalled situations, which rip through your mind at inopportune moments, making you smile and bringing a tear to your eye in equal parts. The odd thing is that in this particular case these memories are wholly fantastic, involving Wizzards (sic.), witches, trolls and a disc shaped planet supported by four elephants carried by a world sized turtle.
If I am right then I guess I will slowly recover and one day may be able to feel the thrill of searching for new worlds and characters, new technologies and species. But for now, I am lost in a lonely literary universe.