Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Discovering BookWorld

In January 2009, I was receiving daily radiation treatments for my pesky prostate cancer down at the Cleveland Clinic.  Seven weeks, five days a week, I drove down to the main facility near Case Western where I lay on a table and let a Star Wars kind of contraption rotate around my--you know--zapping me a few dozen times.  It didn't hurt, just sapped my energy the more it went on.

During that period I took a leave-of-absence from Western Reserve Academy.  I simply could not handle a demanding job with all the driving, the treatments, the accumulating weakness.  My routines were fairly set (can you imagine? me with a set routine?).  I would still go to Caribou early in the morning to do the reading for the book reviews I was writing for Kirkus Reviews.  I was also working on some various writing projects in the morning.  Later, I would try to ride the exercise bike at home for thirty minutes, trying to maintain whatever strength I had.  Then, after lunch, I would drive to the Clinic, listening to Middlemarch, the only "talking-book" experience I'd ever had (and still the only one).  Oddly, I finished that novel the final day of my treatments.  I sat in the driveway before going in the house and listened to the last ten minutes.  Not a dry eye in the car.

Anyway, during this period I got a wonderful email from a parent of one of my students.  She wished me well--and then suggested I might enjoy a series of books she liked--books by the British novelist Jasper Fforde (pronounced "Ford," pretty much).  At that point, I was ready to leap into just about anything that would distract me from my grim routines.  And so I ordered the first one--The Eyre Affair--just to see.

These were novels about a character Fforde named Thursday Next, who is an agent who moves in and out of the BookWorld--the realm where the stories and characters in books are actual.  Among the many odd things in BookWorld--when you go there (and very few can), you realize that the people are wearing only what the author has said they wore (if the author did not mention socks--no socks) and the scenery has only the features the author mentioned (no trees in the book? no trees in BookWorld).

Thursday Next battles the dark forces that want to disrupt things in BookWorld.  There is a mega-corporation, Goliath, bent on world domination (and doing very well, thank you); there is a Hades family (three guesses: are they good or bad?); there is a Goliath agent with the endearing name of Jack Schitt; and on and on and on.

Fforde drops literary allusions around his terrain with the glee of an Easter-Egg-hider.  Shakespeare, Austen, Homer, Dickens--you'd better be up on all of them if you want to catch some of the humor.  (I'm sure I'm missing things--which is annoying.)

The books are amusing, frightening, sanguinary, clever, quick, and, well, dazzling.  But I would not suggest you do what I did: I consumed the first five like a fistful of Fritos.  And as a result, I sort of wearied of them.  (My fault, not Fforde's.)  And when the sixth one came out last year (One of Our Thursdays Is Missing), I bought it but did not immediately read it.  I plopped it on a pile and ignored it.

But then I got the chance to review the newest one--The Woman Who Died a Lot--coming out this October, so I quickly consumed #6 (which I loved) and am now preparing the review of #7.  (I'll post a link when it's out.)

Meanwhile, I am enormously grateful to that thoughtful mother.  Those books helped brighten some dim days.

Link: Fforde's website

No comments:

Post a Comment