Weird circumstances the past couple days have seriously disrupted the routine, and as a result I’m getting virtually no work done on the novel, nor am I having any particularly useful things to post about here on the blarg.
That’s partly due to the honest-to-goodness fact that my daily schedule is all screwed up and partly due to the fact that there is some heavy sharknado weighing on my mind that I am literally not allowed to discuss. More updates in a few days when the dust settles.
However, my activities the past few days have left me with some rather large gaps during the day which I’ve had to fill using no electronic devices at all, and since I plan ahead for these eventualities, I’ve gotten to do something I haven’t enjoyed in quite some time: sit down and read. You know, from a book. Like in the olden times. Pages and all. Bookmarks. Dog-eared pages and jotting little notes in a notebook. (Yeah, that’s how I read, I can’t help it.)
In particular, I’m sinking myself into the second in a series by Jasper Fforde, Lost in a Good Book. The series in question is the Thursday Next series, which follows the titular heroine (a literary detective) as she gallivants in and out of various works of fiction, some renowned, others reviled, in pursuit of her duties tracking unauthorized changes to priceless manuscripts and verifying the authenticity of lost works of Shakespeare.
Now, “literary detective” is a job title which immediately makes me want to fall asleep, but these books are just flat out fun. They detail a fantastically well-imagined alternate reality in which, to name just a few key differences, ownership of the Crimean peninsula is still in dispute, long-extinct animals have been genetically resequenced as household pets (Thursday keeps an adorable and rare second-sequence dodo bird, Pickwick, in her home), and Gravity Tubes allow anybody to travel to anywhere in the world in the space of just over forty minutes. If that sounds whimsical, rest assured that I’ve only just slipped you the tip of the taco. Fforde weaves the details of this fantastical world so thoroughly into his narrative that I never find myself questioning how things work; rather, I bounce happily along for the ride. In fact, the alacrity and gusto and sometimes the offhanded way in which he creates the tiniest of details in this world is so charming and effective that it makes me feel woefully inadequate as a writer.
To wit, this passage from page 112 of Lost in a Good Book:
“Looping” was a slang term for Closed Loop Temporal Field Containment. They popped the criminal in an eight-minute repetitive time loop for five, ten, twenty years. Usually it was a Laundromat, doctor’s waiting room or bus stop, and your presence often caused time to slow down for others near the loop. Your body aged but never needed sustenance. It was cruel and unnatural — yet cheap and required no bars, guards, or food.
He tosses off this explanation like sluicing water off the hood of a freshly waxed car, deftly weaving the callous cruelty of the monstrous corporation together with the unfathomable scientific capabilities of the universe and, oh, just for fun, offers a clever explanation for why we always sit around checking our watches (sharknado, I just dated myself) or rather our cell phones in waiting rooms. And he does this every three or four pages.
I’m not here today to offer a review of the entire book, let alone the series. I haven’t yet reached the point in the book where somebody does get Looped, though it’s not necessarily an eventuality I expect. It’s simply one example out of hundreds that detail the possibilities of an alternate universe that plays fast and loose with the laws of physics. Fforde is also unrelentingly British and has that delightfully dry wit, so the books scratch that Douglas Adams itch that seems so untameable. (Untameable? Untamable? Spellcheck doesn’t like either option.)
In short, if you’re a bookish sort, you should be reading Thursday Next. Possibly you could read Thursday Next on Thursday next. (I think the man must have been chuckling sideways at himself with just about every character name in the thing.) And no, it’s not a particularly new series — Good Book came out in 2002 — but who cares? It’s brilliant and clever and whimsical and ridiculous all at once.
The last several books I’ve read have been so heavy and dark and drear that these books have felt like a much-needed B12 shot. Anybody else out there reading books that make you laugh?