Pratchett on Chesterton

September 3, 2014

Since I like to keep an eye on Chesterton-related items, I’ll draw your attention to a recent interview with Terry Pratchett in the New York Times Book Review:

Sell us on your favorite overlooked or underappreciated writer.

G. K. Chesterton. These days recognized — that is if he is recognized at all — as the man who wrote the Father Brown stories. My grandmother actually knew him quite well and pointed out that she herself lived on Chesterton Green in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, here in the U.K. And the man was so well venerated that on one memorable occasion, he was late in sending a piece to The Strand Magazine and a railway train actually waited at the local station until Mr. Chesterton had finished writing his piece. When she told me that, I thought, Blimey, now that is celebrity.


If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be? And the prime minister?

Well, it would have to be The Man Who Was Thursday. It’s a damn good read that I believe should be read by everyone in politics.

You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers are invited?

Mark Twain, G. K. Chesterton and Neil Gaiman, because he’s a mate who knows how to order the most excellent sushi.

The whole interview is worth a read; it’s not long, but it brings in Tolkien, Kenneth Grahame, and an old joke that Chesterton himself once used.

I confess I’ve never read one of Pratchett’s books, but on this evidence perhaps I ought to do so. That he would bring Neil Gaiman to dinner with Chesterton and Twain is not surprising: Pratchett and Gaiman co-authored a book some years ago called Good Omens and they dedicated it to Chesterton, “a man who knew what was going on”. Indeed, he did.

5 Responses to “Pratchett on Chesterton”

  1. Grumpy Says:

    Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens is dedicated to GK Chesterton, as ‘a man who knew what was going on’. I read it in the early 1990s, so don’t ask me for an exact plot outline. It was funny. That was the first Pratchett novel I read. Then I read a couple of Diskworld novels, being I think The Power of Magic (or some such title) and then the 2nd novel in the series. Half way through the 2nd one it began to pall on me.

    I find that with many comical novel series – after two or three weeks one can see the machinery whirring and the jokes begin to seem mechanical and automated. I felt the same about the Ladies Detective Club.

  2. I haven’t read either Pratchett or Gaiman, though people have recommended them to me many times. Mostly it’s fairly young people–under 40. I don’t know if that’s signficant or not. It’s certainly intriguing that they like Chesterton so much. And yet they seem not drawn to his Catholicism at all. Or at least that was the impression I had from an interview with Gaiman that one of his fans pointed me to.

  3. KathyB Says:

    I have read a significant amount of Pratchett, including Good Omens. There are about 5 Pratchett novels that I re-read regularly because I enjoy them so much, and Good Omens is one of them. Some of the discworld novels are better than others, my favourites being not the very first few, and not the latest ones. To me it seemed like he took a few books to figure out where he was going with Discworld, then it really hit its stride, and then it became kind of hit-and-miss as he explored new ideas in the series. Pratchett has an atheistic worldview, which comes out in the way he treats the spiritual realm his novels (the spiritual world is real in his fantasy universe). At times this view allows him to make really funny religious satire (Good Omens is an example of this, as it is a novel about Armageddon happening in modern-day Britain), and at times it just comes off as lame anti-religious snobbery.

  4. jim Says:

    I’ve not read a lot of Pratchett, but I have enjoyed the discworld novels that I have read. They’re light-hearted and funny in a way most fantasy I come across (and that’s almost none, anymore) isn’t. That said, I wouldn’t read more than 2 in a row–there is a bit of a formula underneath I think.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    I bought Good Omens because of the dedication, and read a few chapters, but it didn’t grab me. My son read it when he was 13 or 14 and then went on to read a bunch of Discworld books.

    I’ve read 4 of Gaiman’s books (American Gods, Neverwhere, The Graveyard Book, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane) and enjoyed them all. I also listened to an audiobook of soem of his short stories (read by the author). The stories were pretty good for the most part (though a bit “R-rated” at times), and I quite enjoyed his voice.

    As for these two liking Chesterton, I also find that puzzling. (“One might as well enjoy an invasion of his country by the French”). I believe Pratchett is an atheist who has declared his intention to commit suicide (he’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease). Gaiman seems to be less dogmatic (or more circumspect), but definitely not someone I would expect to appreciate GKC.

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