I recently got my hands on Terry Pratchett’s newest book with what can best be described as giddy, fangirlish glee. His recent announcement about Alzheimer’s and then the prolonged wait for another good had got me worrying. I discovered all these authors at a young, tender age when they were near the prime of their lives and I’ve grown up reading their books. My mental calendar is marked with book releases – in this month I’ll read the new Spider Robinson, then two weeks after that the new trashy vampire novel comes out… The realization that these men and women who have filled my life with stories, entertained me when I was bored, comforted me on dark nights, kept me company when I was alone… The realization that they’re getting old and dying is something of a shock. A world where a new Terry Pratchett book doesn’t wander out every year or so is a darker place.
So I was remarkably pleased, after the long wait, to get a new one. And… It was a good read, but one a found a little awkward. At the risk of spoilers, the main focus of the story is Mister Nutt, a fiercely intelligent, if grubby, young man with questionable parentage. Throughout the book we understand he’s a goblin, which people know are untrustworthy, thieving cowards who’ll steal your chickens and slit your throat when you’re not looking. Nutt is a shy fellow who tries to keep to himself in the candle making vats below the Unseen University, working hard all the time. Like a personal mantra, he keeps repeating “I must accumulate worth. I was worthless but I must become worthy.” And the idea, we understand, is that he has to make himself likeable and useful, do useful things so that he can someday accumulate enough worth that they won’t kill him for being what he is.
I kind of know how he feels.
The sad fact of life is that I was born unwanted. My mother was a high school student who got kicked out of her house for being pregnant, my father kept my existence secret from his family for years… I was unwanted. Growing up like that, you know that there’s no place for you in the world. I’m constantly trying to earn a place in the community, struggling to try to accumulate worth. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in a good place now. There are people in this world who love me and intellectually I can tell you that they love me not for what I can do for them, but for who I am. But that little voice inside my head says otherwise. We know, that voice and I, that if our parents couldn’t love us then we’re inherently unlovable, unacceptable, and the only way the community will deal with us is if we make ourselves useful all the time.