Friday, June 25, 2010

Next

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.

"Very becoming."

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.

11 comments:

  1. I love how you prepare for a holiday weekend!! :)

    And I'm just about to start working my way through the Shakespeare plays as well (good suggestion of yours!!), and also thought I'd leave off the chronological approach as I wanted to get in the ones I haven't read first and then go back to favourites.

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  2. I had EXACTLY the same experience--sans librarian since I was visiting my sister at the time. Tried to read the second (or maybe third?) book but had to go back to the beginning for anything to make sense.

    Happy Fourth of July--and forget about those steps; you don't need them!

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  3. God you make me laugh - 'Eating only things I can handle with one hand' cracks me up - I know those items so well myself (and still can't manage them, as my besmirched clothes can attest)!!

    Now, I have heard of The Eyre Affair somewhere along the line... in the blogosphere, methinks, and you have not only piqued your own curiosity but mine too... hmmm... I shall investigate.

    I also loved the chat with the librarian and wholeheartedly agree with you on the benefits of small local providers.

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  4. I'll have to get on with the fifth one then, you've timed it just right it seems. They're just marvelous (although there are rough spots) and anyone who brings back the dodo gets my vote. You might like his Nursery Crimes series if you run out of Thursday before the sixth one appears (although I've not tried them yet).

    Glad you liked Wolf Hall, but I think there will be a long time spent hanging around waiting for the sequel. I'm sure your librarian will let you know when it comes in though, what a nice public space that sounds like.

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  5. Inslinger, some people load up the cooler with beer instead (they might have a better time, in fact). I definitely think I'll skip around in the Shakespeare department as well.

    Tinky, Thursday Next must be approached from the beginning. It's just too unusual. Funny thing is, no matter where you start, the writing is so clever you know you have to stop and start from the start.

    Doctordi, Fforde is simply a mad genius. Clever isn't even the word for it. I've heard it described as Harry Potter for Grownups, but even that isn't the correct comparison. There simply is no comparison. The more one has read of the Classics (including modern ones) the more one will enjoy the series, but it's not completely necessary. I almost fell out of the chair when I got to a part about Titus Andonicus in the 1st (or was it the 2nd? or 3rd?) book. Especially since I had just posted about it, and Fford and I had the same perspective on it. Serendipity comes to mind.

    Jodie, aha! another Nextian! We need to form a club or something. I have looked at his Nursery Crimes series in the library and they look just as wonderful. I might take a break from Fford after I finish the Thursday Next series, though. Re-establish my sense of reality. But what fun to know they're there. Oh, yes, and loved Wolf Hall (took me a while to get through it but it was all good.)

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  6. I know I commented on this but my comment must not have taken! Pfft! I love Thursday Next. Wouldn't it be great to be able to hop in and out of books? And her dodo Pickwick makes me laugh. Something Rotten is a hoot because at last you get to laugh and make fun of Hamlet :)

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  7. Stefanie, it would be heaven! I love that dodos make a "plock-plock" sound. Who knew? I'm just about to start Something Rotten so I'll look forward to the Hamlet bit!

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  8. Stumbled onto your site and had to comment on this post since I love both Shakespeare and Jasper Fforde. I know exactly what you mean about being afraid of running out of Thursday Next as you get towards the end. I've read the series about 4-5 times and I love it each time. His Nursery Crime series has the same wit of the Next series and is actually a spin-off from it. He also has a new book, Shades of Grey, I haven't made it to yet but that I sincerely look forward to.

    Good luck with your trek through Shakespeare. I love him but I know he's not for everyone. I do recommend The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) for a funny look at his plays.

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  9. (1) This blog is never--never!--boring, and
    (2) Funny you mentioned Cather because I just bought The Professor's House. However, you probably want My Antonia--rural setting, like my work. There's something very luminous and clear about Cather's style--can never put my finger on it.

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  10. Jasper Fforde is amazing, especially considering that it took him ten years to get published.

    Thursday Next is awesome, as is the Nursery Crime series. Thursday #6 is now slated for a March release.

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