Wednesday, November 03, 2004

If Only

If only real life was like a Thursday Next novel, the bad guys would be defeated and everything would turn out okay just like in Something Rotten in which Yorrick Kaine, evil politician, and Goliath, evil corporation, get their comeuppance. Alas, life is not like a book and the good guys only win sometimes. But at least when times are bad we can escape into a good book even if it's just for a little while. And Something Rotten, the fourth book in the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde, might be just the ticket you're looking for. Though if you have yet to read a Thursday Next book, you might want to start with The Eyre Affair. This particular book picks up two and a half years after the end of The Well of Lost Plots. Thursday returns to Swindon and the real world with her boy Friday. Things are never easy, but Thursday presses on with pluck and drive to set things right in her life, in the book world and in the real world. Since this is a book and Thursday is our hero, she succeeds in varying degrees in achieving her goals. Of course, she doesn't go it alone, she has the help of her time traveling father, her neanderthal friend, Uncle Mycroft, Spike, her assigned stalker, Hamlet and a Shakespeare clone. Hamlet plays an important role and provides some opportunity for humor. Thursday takes him out for coffee and asks him what he wants. The sheer number of choices sends Hamlet over the edge and he wonders, "To espresso or to latte, that is the question...Whether 'tis tastier on the palate to choose white mocha over plain...or to take a cup to go. Or a mug to stay, or extra cream, or have nothing, and by opposing the endless choice, end one's heartache." Who has not stood at the Starbuck's counter and wondered the same thing? Fforde, obviously a voracious reader himself, also offers up some thoughts on the experience of reading. Hamlet has never been in the real world before and is amazed at the level of detail compared to that in the book world, exclaims that it "would take millions of words to describe correctly." Thursday explains that that is the magic of books, that "a few dozen words conjure up an entire picture." But she says, it isn't the author that does all the work, the reader does most of it:

"Well, each interpretation of an event, setting or character is unique to each of those who read it because they clothe the author's description with the memory of their own experiences. Every character they read is actually a complex amalgam of people that they've met, read or seen before--far more real than it can ever be just from the text on the page. Because every reader's experiences are different, each book is unique for each reader." "So," replied the Dane, thinking hard, "what you're saying is that the more complex and apparently contradictory the character, the greater the possible interpretations?" "Yes. In fact, I'd argue that every time a book is read by the same person it is different again--because the reader's experiences have changed or he is in a different frame of mind."
Ain't reading grand? Something Rotten like the other three books in the series, was fun to read. And now that it is done I have to wait a long time for a new Thursday Next book. Sigh.