Note: This entry contains no spoilers.
"Lush knew what Flanker meant and Flanker knew that Lush knew. I knew that Flanker and Lush knew it and they both knew I knew it too."
I return from the kitchen and my soles are sticky. I really need to clean this flat but have so much work to do that I do not have the time. Instead, I shall procrastinate by writing about my current reading material, something I've not really done properly in quite a while. At this moment in time, I am reading Lost in a Good Book, by Jasper Fforde - the second in a series of books revolving around Thursday Next (literary detective).
Now, I might have only read one chapter of this book (so mostly I'm basing my opinion on The Eyre Affair, which I read a few months ago) but I happen to find them very enjoyable - and I was reminded of it when I started reading this one. When I was reading Atonement I agreed that Ian McEwan is a writer's writer. And if McEwan is a writer's writer then Jasper Fforde is most definitely a reader's writer. While McEwan writes a wonderful narrative, it's painstakingly contrived and it's OBVIOUS that it's painstakingly contrived. But with the Thursday Next series it's done with such flair because the whole thing is just so fun in comparison. Partly this is a personal joy because I tend to have a fondness for all things nonsense and I know it's not for everyone; my mother said that she liked the concept but got bored with The Eyre Affair before finishing it. I think it's because she doesn't really like fantasy whereas I absolutely adore it as a genre, and it may have got too fantastical (by which I mean fantasy-like) for her. Still though, I can see why it's not a book for everyone (but which book is?)
" 'John Smith - Weeds & Seeds.'
'Unusual name,' I said, shaking his hand. 'I'm Thursday Next.' "
Some of it's so glaringly obvious you love Fforde for doing it but can't help groan - the majority of names in the book, for instance, are some sort of play on words or pun. From Thursday Next (self-explanatory) to her love interest Landen Parke-Laine, to Jack Schitt and Aubrey Jambe and the little extracts by Millon de Floss at the beginning of chapters. Pretty much all the names in there, to be honest.
" 'Seems everyone wants you to investigate their favourite book,' observed Landen. 'While you're about it, can you try and get Tess acquitted and Max de Winter convicted?' "
I love the prose, I love the dialogue, and I love the literary in-jokes that will make readers all over the place smile to themselves because they know that reference (if not all the rest). There are a lot of writers and a lot of books I've read that take a mildly satirical slant on politics, government departments, war, corporate policy, chat shows, fanatical organisations and dodos, but few (note: still some) do it so well and so hilariously that I can't help smirking to myself. I mean, a Toast Marketing Board, it's great. (In a couple of ways, this kind of thing strikes me as Pratchett-esque but it's still so different [in a way that is detailed in the next paragraph]).
Wiki calls them "comic fantasy, alternate history novels" which is...sort of true. Although how can you really have an alternate history at the same time as fantasy - yeah, it's alternate history for a world in which people can time travel and transmogrify - but that's not our world so can you really label it alternate history if it's not alternate history to our own world? I dunno. It's rather a fantasy-based alternate reality...um...or something. At the same time, it's still grounded in a world that's a lot like ours (which is ours, excluding the whole time travelling/transmogrifying[as detailed above]/jumping into books and conversing with characters way) anyway, which is what makes it easy to relate to even though it's still got all the fantasy elements. Obviously some fantasy is closer to home than others (see "Harry Potter") but there's still great fantasy that's far removed from us (see "LotR"*) but I think it's a lot harder to relate to the characters when, y'know, they're not even human (obviously you can in some ways, they still have emotional scope and stuff) but when they're not really living the same world you are. Fantasy books never are really living the same world you are - but there's a spectrum of how tied they are to reality, that's what I'm trying to say. I should draw a diagram and place all my fantasy books on it (watch this space).
So, to summarise, I like this series (disclaimer: so far) and they make me smile and they're great light reading for me, if not everyone. I would recommend them to...most people - so long as you appreciate their depth I'm fairly sure you'll like them but they're not really for non-book lovers.
*I apologise for using such clichéd examples.