If I hadn’t read Terry Pratchett’s book Going Postal way back when it was first published in 2005 I would have sworn the DVD I watched tonight was satirizing the actions of Big Business over the last few years. The DVD was also called Going Postal, which might have counted as copyright infringement had it not been based on Mr. Pratchett’s fine book, introduced by Mr. Pratchett himself, and–a special treat for all us groupies–graced with a lovely little cameo appearance by the author.
I’ve been reading the Disc World books since The Boy was The Baby, and I was pushing him down the street in Eagle Point, Oregon, to borrow Pratchett books from the tiny library. The first one I read was Hogfather, and from the moment Mr. Teatime (pronounced Tay-a-tim-ay) lisps his first sinister lines I was hooked.
By the time Going Postal came out I had graduated to buying the Pratchett books, in hard cover, because I knew then, and I know now, that these are books I will keep until I die, and then I want them buried with me. So–long-time fan of the books here, but the movies are a comparatively new guilty pleasure.
Chaulk it up to us not having cable until we moved to Milton-Freewater, but somehow the fact that Mr. Pratchett’s books were migrating to the small screen had escaped me. When I discovered Hogfather for sale on Amazon (and surely that was Kismet at work, that my first Pratchett DVD would also have been my first Pratchett book) I nearly swooned. And then I found The Color of Magic. And this afternoon the nice Fed Ex lady knocked on my door I answered it she placed the precious package in my hands–my very own DVD of Going Postal: The Movie.
When we popped it into the PS3 (and how cool is that, that we no longer have to have two machines in order to both play games and watch movies?) The Boy and I planned for a long, lazy evening in Ankh Morpork. And that’s exactly what we got. One of the things I love about the Pratchett movies is that they look exactly the way they should. Part of this might be that Pratchett is involved in the production. Part of this surely is that since some of the novels have been made into graphic novels the set designers and wardrobe people have resources from which to draw.
But this movie has Something More, and it gets it from the context in which it will inevitably be watched. As I said, I read the book back in 2005, and enjoyed it. But as I watched the movie tonight I was struck by the eerie parallels with our time. Mr. Pratchett is not only a damned fine writer–he is apparently a prophet as well.
I won’t spoil the movie for you because you truly need to get it and watch it for yourself, but I will say that in writing this book Mr. Pratchett juggles things like bankrupt post offices, robber barons who operate within the letter of the law while systematically robbing the people they profess to serve, the role of marketing in shaping public opinion, and a multitude of other issues that apparently plague Ankh-Morpork as well as us–and he never once drops the ball.
I know I just make this sound like a “thinky” movie, the kind of thing you want to be seen renting, but fails to grip once you’ve gotten your bathrobe on and the popcorn popped, but Pratchett’s genius lies in being able to take an idea that seems bizarre on the face of it and make it seem not only logical but inevitable–and to do in in the midst of a teeming, roiling, bawdy city that’s like no city anywhere on earth–or The Disc, for that matter.
I love Going Postal for the same reason that I love Terry Pratchett’s books–because first of all they’re such fun (how can you not like a book that contains a mystery meat pie man named “Cut Me Own Throat Dibbler,” and a bum named “Foul Ol’ Ron,” and a thriving community of dwarves–dwarf women are also bearded, and gender is a carefully guarded secret until Just The Right Moment). Now take all those characters, place them into a situation that seems all too familiar, add a little magic, a terrifyingly pragmatic ruler (and a former Assassin, from the Assassin’s Guild), a policewoman who is a werewolf, a magical college (Unseen University) whose stated function is to keep people from doing magic, a–I could go on–shake them until they’re all thoroughly irritated, and then pour them out onto a plate that rests on the back of four elephants who are in turn standing on the back of a giant turtle who is swimming through space, and you have a simulacrum of the world in which Pratchett’s books live and move. And in which the movies are apparently shot.
So–get the books. Get them all. Get all the movies, too. Order a case of M&M’s and another of barbecue potato chips. Stock up on the beverage of your choice. Then close the curtains, bar the door, call in sick for a month and just read, read, read. Then watch movies. And when you emerge, pale, shaky, pink-eyed, and myopic, you will only regret that, for the moment, there are no more Pratchett books to buy. But take heart–Terry Pratchett appears hale and hearty, and doesn’t look to be running out of material any time soon. There will be more.
Now go. Buy. Watch. Be happy.