My summer's more than half over (back to school August 1), and I've only read three books. That's a little sad, except that one of them is nearly 1000 pages and I read it pretty much exclusively because it was way overdue at the library.
First, I read the John Green book, An Abundance of Katherines. John Green writes stories about real teenagers with real problems, not problems like which griffin or manticore or schweinhund they might fall in love with. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but John Green is the perfect example of why my own YA book Trendy Poseurs Go Home would actually sell. I like John Green. I kind of wish I were John Green. Where's the manual for becoming John Green? He should write one. I'd follow it.
That 1000 page book I read is 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. He's an amazing writer from Japan who writes in the magical realism tradition that Gabriel Garcia Marquez kind of made up by himself. (Literature scholars feel free to disagree. I was at a teacher conference last year and the instructor gave a fifteen minute digression about how magical realism means nothing. I wonder what he would say about my bold statement about Marquez.) His stories are more about the means than the end. The language it takes to make the journey is what matters to Murakami.
I realize I'm not including much--well, anything--about the plots of these two books, and I'm probably not going to say much about the actual plot of the Jasper Fforde book I'm including here, either. I'm sure you can look elsewhere for that. I'm usually more attracted to a writing style than a plot, anyway. Suffice it to say, you should read these books. Each has a different style, but each is crazy brilliant in its own way.
Okay, if you've never read Jasper Fforde and you like to read at all, you are missing out. Fforde writes for bibliophiles. His Thursday Next series is set in a world where some people are able to jump into the BookWorld to interact with the fictional characters, and fictional characters can come out of their books to visit the real world. This "real world" is a contemporary alternate-history setting where time travel is common, they fly by blimp instead of airplane, and neanderthals, vampires, and ghosts coexist with the humans. Thursday Next herself is a Book Detective and her assignment in the first book, The Eyre Affair, is to find Jane Eyre, who has been kidnapped from her own story. Fforde has a thoroughly wild imagination.
There are now six Thursday Next books, and Fforde has also written two books in a Nursery Crime series, set in a world similar to the Thursday Next world but with small differences like space aliens live on Earth instead of neanderthals and nursery rhyme characters also exist in the real world. The Big Over Easy is about the murder of Humpty Dumpty, and in The Fourth Bear, Goldilocks goes missing and the Gingerbread Man is a deranged killer.
I could talk about these books all day, but just writing down the premises makes me a little giddy. These are clever, smart, intellectual books (I know what I just wrote), with references to literature throughout. And the wordplay and attention to the English language can be hilarious. In one of the Nursery Crime novels, Fforde makes inconsequential jokes for three quarters of the book just to set up one throw away line that made me laugh for days. It still makes me giggle a little just to think of it.
I just finished the latest Thursday Next book, One of Our Thursdays is Missing. It's set almost entirely in the BookWorld and involves the written Thursday's investigation into the possible murder of the real Thursday. The underlying commentary on the nature of reading and state of publishing in today's REAL real world is perfect.
Below is a look at the BookWorld's Fiction Island. Click on it to get a better view. Or see it here.
The following passage from One of Our Thursdays is Missing is a taste of the wordplay you're in for when you pick up a Jasper Fforde book:
"I moved quietly to the French windows and stepped out into the garden to release the Lost Positives that the Lady of Shalott had given me. She had a soft spot for the orphaned prefixless words and thought they had more chance to thrive in Fiction than in Poetry. I let the defatigable scamps out of their box. They were kempt and sheveled but their behavior was peccable if not mildly gruntled. They started acting petulously and ran around in circles in a very toward manner."
And the following description of the Metaphoric River that runs the entirety of Fiction Island, reaching every genre, describes the necessity of figurative language in all writing:
"Most people these days agreed that the river couldn't actually have a source, since it flowed in several directions at once. Instead of starting in one place and ending in another using the traditionally mundane "downhill" plan, it would pretty much go as the mood took it. ...the Metaphoric brought with it the rhetorical nutrients necessary for good prose--the river was the lifeblood of fiction, and nothing would exist without it."
I didn't know Jasper Fforde until a couple years into my marriage. My wife's library was already extensive when we met; indeed, it was one of the reasons I fell in love with her. She owned the first two Thursday Next books, but it took a while for us to mutually realize I had never read The Eyre Affair. I'll admit now that I've never read Jane Eyre all the way through, so the ending of Fforde's take on the story confused me until my wife explained. As with any allusion, if you're not familiar with the source, the reference gets lost. Still, I am eternally grateful to my wife because I am now hooked on Fforde and suggest the same for you. Reading Jasper Fforde will do nothing less than enrich your life.
The next Thursday Next book, called The Woman Who Died a Lot, is supposed to be released this month. Here's some info. So get cracking.