As I read my way through the Shakespeare plays I cannot help but wonder about the boy he might have been. Was he annoyingly cerebral? Could he relate to other kids who said things like "Hey dude" rather than "Harken!" Did his mother want to stuff a rag in his mouth to stop him emoting? Or tell him to shut up and eat his oatmeal? Was he a little prissy pants? Somehow I don't see William Shakespeare as the stud-muffin-heart breaker of Stratford on Avon. Geniuses rarely fit in and I imagine he had a rather rough time of it.
I left Henry VI, Part I with poor Joan being lead off to the stake (proving unequivocally that smoking can be dangerous to ones health) and Suffolk gloating Margaret shall now be queen, and rule the king; But I will rule both her, the king and realm. Politics, power and greed. Will we ever learn? I'm waffling on my original idea of reading all the plays in chronological order. For one thing, I don't know that I have the ability to recognize the intricacies of the Bard's evolution as a writer. For another, I don't think I care. At my age I read for fun. So, perhaps I'll continue on to Part II (which does make some sense) or say "to hell with it" and read Love's Labour's Lost. (Stay tuned, details at 11.)
Getting back to what I planned to tell you all along, I closed the back cover of Wolf Hall (reviewed at length by better minds than mine - suffice to say I loved it) and was once again on the prowl. A little background information is in order here: A few months ago I wandered into the library and saw a display entitled "Librarian Picks..." with volumes and audio books recommended by the library staff. Among these was an audio version of The Well Of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde. I picked it up and began to read the back of the case.
"Have you read the Thursday Next books?" a voice asked over my shoulder. I turned to find the diminutive, graying librarian attempting to maneuver a push-cart of books destined for re-shelving peering at me over her glasses which were festooned with a kind of Edwardian grill-work.
"No, I've never heard of them or Jasper Fforde. New glasses!"
"Prada...only fake," she whispered tapping the rim.
She smiled. "I strongly recommend them...the books not the glasses" Now she twittered a little, but softly because, after all, we were in the library. "But I'd begin with the first one first."
"Do you have that one on audio?"
"Not at this branch, but we can get from another branch in a few days."
"Well...that's okay. I was looking for something to listen to right away so I'll just start with this one."
She gave me that okay-suit-yourself-don't-listen-to-me look, held it for a moment, and disappeared into the stacks preceded by the slightly wobbly cart.
But by the time I listened my way through one-third of the book I knew. As much as it pained me, I returned the audio book unfinished. The librarian knew her stuff. I had to start from the beginning. Starting in the middle was like trying to eat a sumptuous meal with a head cold. I was missing too many nuances of flavor. I wasn't just reading a book. I was entering a new world and I needed the backstory...I had to learn the language.
That weekend found me at Barnes and Noble where I bought The Eyre Affair in paperback (I also purchased a hardback version of the 5th book in the series, First Among Sequels, at a super-deluxe bargain price that I simply could not pass up.) The Fforde was put on the back burner of my reading stack. And so it was that after having finished Wolfie I was wandering down my upstairs hallway and spotted The Eyre Affair on a bookshelf. I snatched it up as quickly as a frog does a fly. Rarely have I fallen into a book so effortlessly (which oddly enough is much of what the series is about). So mesmerized was I by the writing, the story, the premise that as I neared the end I was afraid of "running out" of Thursday Next.
I stopped at the library last Friday and picked up Lost In A Good Book and The Well Of Lost Plots (book version). When she saw me the librarian said, "I knew you'd be back for these." Which brings me to a sidebar discussion: The benefits of a small library, or a small bookstore, or a small grocery...or a small local bank for that matter, are much the same. You are known by your name if you go in often enough. The people who work there look out for you. They keep an eye out and know when something seems amiss. "We've got some nice lamb chops, Miss Linda," "Morning Mrs. ___. Got your deposit? How's Katharine doing?" "We just got so-and-so's latest book. It's right up your alley." Oh, there are drawbacks, surely. Not enough copies, few exotic ingredients, no Panko crumbs - that sort of thing. But by and large (or by and small) big is better in some departments but small is better for others.
The weekend looms long - being the Fourth of July. I'm half-way through Lost In A Good Book and am trying to pace myself, debating if I should go ahead and check out Something Rotten...just in case of an emergency. What if it rains all weekend and there is nothing to make me feel guilty about laying around reading? Eating only things I can handle with one hand? What if I really and truly can't put Lost In A Good Book down? And immediately jump, crazed and as unstoppable as a juggernaut, into Well Of Lost Plots? And it gets to be Monday afternoon and the library is closed for the holiday and the Thursday Next well has run dry? (I'm slightly dizzy and my colon is giving me a worrying feeling at the prospect.) There is always First Among Sequels as a fall-back but I don't want to read out of turn. Nope. I'd better take precautions. I'll have to prepare - stock the provisions. I'm off to hunt down Something Rotten, so I must run along now.
Oh yes. Before I go...Are you sitting down for the best news? The 6th Thursday Next adventure comes out this month...in fact I think next week. Once I have the new book in my hands, and have read the last word on the last page of that latest book I promise to start a twelve-step program. But for now, there's joy in Bookville!
Happy Fourth of July. Happy Birthday good ole U.S.A.