Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett
[The guards from the Ankh-Morpork Night Watch are attending a clown’s funeral at the Fool’s Guild]
‘This is very moving’ said Boffo.
On a dais at the opposite side of the quadrangle was a fat clown in baggy trousers, huge braces, a bow tie that was spinning gently in the breeze and a top hat. His face had been painted into a picture of misery. He held a bladder on a stick.
The clown with the urn reached the dais, climbed the steps, and waited.
The band fell silent.
The clown in the top hat hit the urn-carrier about the head with the bladder – once, twice, three times…
The urn-bearer stepped forward, waggled his wig, took the urn in one hand and the clown’s belt in the other and, with great solemnity, poured the ashes of the late Brother Beano into the other clown’s trousers.
A sigh went up from the audience…’Classic’ [Boffo] said. ‘It’s what he would have wanted.'
observations: We cannot be the only readers who assumed for a long time that Terry Pratchett books were not for us – some combination of sci-fi and Young Adult, aimed at a teenage boy’s sense of humour. Fortunately for some of us, we were forced to read them by the teenage boy, and found them to be (on the whole – there is a huge output) funny, clever, endlessly inventive, satirical and often quite affecting.
TP must be one of the cleverest writers ever, in terms of his range of references (from the weird random organ made by B S Johnson in this book, to his brilliant take on the Trojan War in the otherwise slightly disappointing Eric), his parodies, his reversals of expectation (there is a band of travelling accountants, who dance around the campfire in the evening doing the Double-Entry Polka.) It seems churlish to wonder what he would have done if he had ever written about anything except Discworld. His own sensibility seems to shine through: socialist, pacifist, humanitarian with GSOH. A legendary man.
In this book, the Night Watch is trying to track down a missing weapon, and as well as all its other felicities, pokes fun at every crime story and police procedural ever written/filmed. Also highly recommended is The Truth – about the invention of newspapers – and anything with the witches in.
Links up with: All on the blog: Clown fancy dress costume here. Discussion of funeral clothes here, and splendid examples here. Really strange funeral story right at the end of this entry.
With thanks to Alex, the teenage boy.
The carnival photo is from the State Library of New South Wales.