Review of A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Non-Fiction – Terry Pratchett

Posted: February 13, 2015 in nonfiction, Review, science fiction

A Slip of the Keyboard

Terry Pratchett is famous for writing fiction, particularly the Discworld series of books, and this is a collection of his non-fiction work. The dustjacket is carefully annotated as such, just in case the careless purchaser thinks it might be otherwise. Thematically, Pratchett’s scribbling’s are divided into three main sections.

The first section concerns the behaviour of a professional writer. Not only what this particular one does during the day to continue writing, but the other minutiae of a professional writer’s existence, such as promoting the book, attending Science Fiction conventions (Terry is famously a Science Fiction author, but please don’t let that discourage you.) He presents some words of wisdom for the budding writer, such as Douglas Adams’ advice that once you’ve finished a project, you should immediately start a new one. Pratchett notes that Adams famously did not follow his own advice in this regard. Pratchett, on the other hand, has been a professional writer almost his entire working life, first as a journalist, then working as a press officer for an energy board and finally as an author.

The second section is a miscellany of essays about what got him to where is now, including his first book purchase – Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable – a title that is referred to more or less constantly in several essays. There is also the proprietor of a porn shop that sold Terry his first substantial quantities of SF (and possibly the inspiration for Nanny Ogg).

The third is the most intriguing – as most people ought to know, Terry is famously suffering from a degenerative brain condition, similar to Alzheimer’s disease – and Terry does not wish to pop his clogs suffering from an advanced case of going gaga. It is a tribute to his skill that these essays are neither insufferably egocentric nor bathetic. We will all die. Most of us will be blissfully unaware of our manner of going until quite late in the piece. Terry is one of the few who knows how. He would also like a degree of say over when.

There is a delightful introduction by Terry’s good friend Neil Gaiman. Read this book. You shan’t be disappointed.


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

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