notes on terry pratchett and neil gaiman's "good omens"

2021-04-07

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~2 min read

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395 words

The quote on the cover of my copy of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s cult-classic, Good Omens is “The Apocolypse has never been funnier”. I have to agree. It seems like a quintessential Pratchett novel in that I was laughing from start to finish (albeit with a slight lull in the middle).

The book itself explores an age-old premise (the end of the world), but does it with wit and humor and it’s a ton of fun to read through. I couldn’t help but wonder throughout, however, whether this book would have been able to be published today. I felt nearly certain that it would not have made it to press, at least in its current form, today. While the duo accurately identified many of the cultural shifts already underway in the late 80s and early 90s, I doubt they fully appreciated how much progress we’d achieve in the subsequent 30 years since publication. Jokes on sexuality and foreigners in particular stand out as dated.

Understanding the context in which they wrote the book, however, and with the benefit of the doubt regarding intentions behind their jokes, I could laugh heartily. I do wonder, however, if that approach to reading is still acceptable. It certainly seems more and more that we’re applying today’s standards on works written in the past. There’s some logic to this: why continue to expose ourselves to ideas that cause harm when alternatives exist. But as a student of history, and one who always found historiography particularly interesting, it seems like a tenuous path to follow at best.

I, for one, am glad the book is still widely available. Not only does it make me laugh and think about larger ideas like right and wrong, but it forces me to think about how we operate as a society too.


I only highlighted a few passages however, they’re listed below.

On the influences of form

Form shapes nature. There are certain ways of behavior appropriate to small scruff dogs which are in fact welded into genes. You can’t just become small-dog-shaped and hope to stay the same person; a certain intrinsic small-dog-ness begins to permeate your very Being.
Pg. 141

On the challenges of foresight

It’s not enough to know what the future is. You have to know what it means.
Pg. 216


Hi there and thanks for reading! My name's Stephen. I live in Chicago with my wife, Kate, and dog, Finn. Want more? See about and get in touch!