My current train read is Terry Pratchett’s “The Last Hero : a Discworld Fable”, a gorgeous tome illustrated by Paul Kidby.
This morning, the woman sitting next to me kept throwing me weird looks, and finally, lip curled, said: “Aren’t you a bit old for picture books?”
I thrust the current pages towards her, smiling maniacally, stabbing an index finger toward the illustration, and replied: “But! Loooook…pritty!”, then glanced down and realised that it was a double page spead depicting Cohen the Barbarian and his Silver Horde in all their elderly, sinewy, semi-naked, wrinkled splendour, waving swords and wearing terrifying expressions (phew, that was a very long sentence). Not pretty, perhaps but wondrously drawn and glorious. It worked, anyway: she spent the rest of the journey staring studiously out the window, and probably breathed a sigh of relief when I disembarked before her.
“The Last Hero”, while beautifully illustrated (and once I’ve finished reading the story, I intend to go back and study the art in detail), is not a picture book as such, anyway, but even if it were I’d happily read it. Maybe not on the train, though, because I like to examine the pictures at my leisure and public transport doesn’t lend itself to proper study. I love the art and pared back story of picture books, and fully appreciate the difficulty of writing one.
Which set me pondering what it is about Pratchett that I love so much. It’s the worldbuilding, I think, and the characters, as much as the clever plots. He creates a world that engages my imagination to the point that I want badly to live in it, and my real world is such a – not disappointment, exactly, because this world is truly wondrous. I’m not explaining that very well. I love that it’s like taking a step sideways into another dimension both like and unlike our own, recognisable and yet not. Emerging from the world of a book is like waking from a magical dream, and waking is never my favourite thing. There are a few other writers that fire my desire to up stakes and move to their creations: Kerry Greenwood, Charles de Lint, Neil Gaiman, Laurel K. Hamilton, Marion Zimmer Bradley (a non-exhaustive list).
Reading is such a joy, escapism as art form.