Last night I saw the 1998 movie Meet Joe Black (that delicious Brad Pitt with an equally compelling Sir Anthony Hopkins) wherein a business tycoon is visited by Death, who is on holiday (well, sort of, partly, in-between usual duties, as it were) and who – for a short period – stands by the tycoon’s shoulder as he fights his last business battle and makes things right with his two daughters. All is tidied up in the end: virtue triumphs, Death stalks away, Hopkins dies tactfully off-screen, and the mortal Joe Black lands up with the younger daughter in his arms.
And then there is Mr Golightly’s Holiday by Sally Vickers, a book I didn’t particularly enjoy, although other Book Club members raved about it. It follows the same theme, but this time it’s God who takes the holiday instead of Death.
The movie set me thinking about books featuring Death, which leads me instantly to the marvellous Terry Pratchett and his Discworld books. There is the book Mort where Death takes on a human apprentice, called Mort, would you believe? Death appears in many of the Discworld romps, always SPEAKS IN CAPITAL LETTERS and has a nice white horse called Binky, which he rides when calling upon people.. Say no more. He also – on occasion – rides a Harley. The front mudguard of which has been replaced by a large animal skull. Other than this, Death’s accoutrements are standard: a damn great scythe, an infinite store-room of hour-glasses (yours & mine, I regret to say), hooded robes, and a tiny assistant, the Death of Rats, known as the Grim Squeaker. No comment.
Pratchett is quite at home with the gods, too. His Discworld is overseen? supervised ? trifled with? by whole pantheon of gods one of whom is Anoia – “The minor goddess of Things That Stick in Drawers, Anoia is praised by rattling a drawer and crying “How can it close on the damned thing but not open with it? Who bought this? Do we ever use it?” As she says, sooner or later every curse is a prayer. She also eats corkscrews and is responsible for Things Down The Backs of Sofas, and is considering moving into stuck zips.” I suspect Anoia is at work in our world too, never mind the Discworld..
Pratchett’s Gods live atop a mountain called Dunmanifestin (“Done Manifesting”, which is also as a pun on the traditional British house name Dunroamin).
If you haven’t experienced the riotous satire that exists in the Discworld, run to your nearest book store NOW and rectify this omission.