Monday, August 23, 2010

Jasper Fforde: A PSA

If you already know the Jasper Fforde books, this blog post is not for you. Rather, it's to raise awareness among the millions that are scratching their heads and saying "Fforde? Is that supposed to be Swedish or something? Nah, screw it, let's see what's on Lamebook."

I've reccomended these books to virtually everyone I've run across since the first time I read them. It's not uncommon to find a book that's kinda different, has some unusual element to it, or finds a way to reverse an expectation we didn't even know we had. The two white girls obsessed with flamenco in Sarah Bird's The Flamenco School. The loveable, aimless, semi-alcoholic dad in Tawni O'Dell's Fragile Beasts. The presence of Turner's Syndrome (which I'd never heard of before) in Jennifer Haigh's The Condition.

Jasper Fforde's books are something else altogether. You'll find them miscategorized as mysteries, but they're really about the journey, not the destination.

Thursday Next lives an a sort of alternate reality, similar to our own, but with some key differences. Wales is a Socialist Republic, life is dominated by evil corporation Wal-Ma.....I mean, Goliath, the Crimean War dragged on for decades and claimed thousands of casualties, and literature looms large in everyone's lives. There are WillSpeak machines on streetcorners: put a quarter in, and you get a soliloqy. People attend Rocky Horror-style performances of Richard III ("WHEN is the winter of our discontent?"). And crimes relating to fiction are serious matters.

That's what Thursday starts out doing. Then, she is recruited by Jurisfiction to police matters internal to books. For instance, keeping the Mispeling Vyrus under control (it disfigured Uriah Hope from David Copperfield, who became "cadaverous" instead of "courageous," etc.). She also runs Rage Counseling Sessions in Wuthering Heights and in an inspired sequence, gives a happy ending to a child's tale about a blind dog.

The books are nothing short of brilliant. They're funny, clever and totally original. You can read one in an afternoon. Knowledge of literature is somewhat helpful, but not necessary. It actually inspired me to read several of the classics. After meeting Miss Havisham as Thursday's mentor (who liked to sneak off in her moldy wedding dress to attempt to break the land speed record before Mr. Toad could), I read Great Expectations and found it to be surprisingly funny, much more enjoyable to get through than I ever would have imagined, and actually not terribly different from today's better-written novels.

But if you're not in the mood for a Dickens and are looking for something a bit different, try a Jasper Fforde book. The Thursday Next books are: The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, Something Rotten, and Thursday Next: First Among Sequels. Enjoy!

1 comment:

kittens not kids said...

yeeeeah jasper fforde!

and Dickens is HILARIOUS. no one EVER believes me when I say this, but it is true. Old Curiosity Shop alternates between sentimental chapters, and the funniest chapters ever. EVER.