Friday, April 08, 2005

Thursday Next, Jasper Fforde and Home

I woke up this morning thinking of spring where I grew up out in the high plains in a skinny stretch of land wedged between Texas and Kansas, No Man's Land. Last night, I finished BH Fairchild's latest book of poems. He grew up in Liberal, Kansas and later worked there in his father's machine shop. Liberal is the next town (also next county and next state) over from my home town. His poems about dragging main, dust on caliche roads, and even the people he grew up with resonate with me even though my childhood was 20 or 30 years after his. Maybe it's my impending 20th high school reunion (OK, to do list: lose 50 pounds, check. Have varicose veins in ankles hoovered, check. Eye lift, check. Lip0suction, check) that's made me think of home. (I'd say, ahh, think fondly, but as usual, I'm there for 48 hours and already thinking of my life elsewhere.) Either way, it was a pleasant read in that dark time between the end of the evening and sleep.

This week, I also finished the last two Jasper Fforde novel stacked up since last year -- The Well of Lost Plots and Something Rotten. It's been years since I felt I read new fiction that was both truly innovative and well executed. But with his oddly science fiction Thursday Next series, Fforde delivers. It's not science fiction in that it takes place in the future (it doesn't) or that there's some time travel, fictional technology and just plain weirdness. It's only in Fforde's capable "world building" skills that this complexly run literary romp works. In his first novel in the series, The Eyre Affair, he builds a new world around literature featuring a plucky English literary detective named Thursday Next, her pet Dodo (long extinct but now available to built at home in cloning kits!), her sometimes eradicated husband, her partners at LiterTec, and even her enemy -- The Goliath Corporation. The Thursday Next series now includes four books, each better (in my opinion) than the last. If you enjoy literature and really enjoy clever, witty writing, you should at least try these books. I don't think you'd be lost if you start with whichever book seems most interesting to you, although there are four books in the series and if you're a compulsive "reader in order" like me, then you'll start at the beginning, now won't you.

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