Thursday, April 26, 2007

Jasper Fforde

It seems my main blog site might be about to give up the ghost, as the site is down more than up these days. I'll be transferring lots of posts over to my other blogs from that one. This is one of those.

Jasper Fforde. He's one of the favourite finds I've made amongst my newest friends. Fforde and I have a little different relationship than I do with the other friends who I'm introducing here -- a sort of, you know, special relationship. All of the rest were friends of friends, introduced to me through those others. But Fforde is one of those rare gems... I saw a title on the shelf while browsing through a bookstore, picked it up, uncertain what I'd get inside the covers there. But I took the risk, bought the book, and took it home to read. Those sorts of finds, when they turn into "the real thing," are the sort I don't let go of easily.

To be honest, I went about it all wrong. The book I'd picked up, called Lost in a Good Book (I know, I know -- that's such an obvious trap! you'd think I wouldn't be so easily taken in!), is the second in a series. I didn't care, though. I read it anyway. And loved it. It didn't take long before I went back in time, so to speak, and picked up the first in the series, The Eyre Affair, and was immediately head over heels. I don't usually believe in love at first sight, but I hardly know how else to describe this. I've got the rest of Fforde's books now, though I haven't gotten to read all of them yet.

There's just something about him. It isn't just the quirky names, like the hero named Thursday Next. Nor is it just the parallel universe in which those names move about and make their life -- a parallel universe where mammoths and dodo birds have been brought back to life through DNA research, and where Next works as a Literary Detective (!). And it isn't just the extraordinary dexterity with which he moves through all the Great Books, though that's probably a large part of it. It is all of that, in part, but it is also more. Fforde's low-key humour, which never hits you in the face, even though it never stops, sits just right with me. I love how cleverly he strings the fun together. I have to say that the best way I can describe it is that Fforde achieves an almost Pinholian type of humour, and you all know how I feel about Pinholian humour... Fforde, like Pinhole, manages to set up fun and funny situations because they are such radically twisted views of life, and yet they are twisted, not detached. They are views of life that are grounded enough to make sense to just about any reader, and to ring true somehow, through all of the hilarity. What might seem like lighthearted fun on the surface usually also settles itself in some very profound part of the imagination too. If you follow the toying about with reality that these types of authors bring to the whole game, it is sure to be a fun journey indeed.

Authors like Douglas Adams or Neil Gaiman, or even Terry Pratchett, bring some of this same sort of twists and turns into their story, and into the view of life exposed in those works. The ability to play about with the absurd, but not be completely engulfed in the nihilism that so many are when they play this game, is a real gift. I'm glad to have bumped into the likes of Jasper Fforde (and Pinhole too), a perfect fit into that list of better-known authors, to make this journey through the absurb actually feel fun. If you don't enjoy Adams, Pratchett, Gaiman, or Pinhole, then I'd suspect Fforde is not going to be to your taste either. But, then, I don't know if I know anyone who doesn't like those writers.

I've been writing some reviews over at ReviewStream, and they've just started a new policy. Every review can now earn a few extra pennies for receiving positive votes. If you've got a few minutes, you can take the time to go and read my reviews and vote on those that are helpful. You can find them from the links below. Thanks!


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