“Bea says that the art of reading is slowly dying, that it’s an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us, that when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind, and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day.”
Carlos Ruiz Zafon (The Shadow of the Wind)
Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you lived in a world where literature was very important? Where there is a need for literary police in order to curb illegal selling of first editions of long-lost books? Where characters in books are treated as celebrities and where – if you are lucky and really good – you can actually physically enter the world of literature?
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Jasper Fforde imagined such a world (and more!) in the first book of his Thursday Next series, The Eyre Affair. Highly entertaining, exciting and moving, this is a book you would not want to miss.
The Eyre Affair is set in an alternate 1985, where – as described above – literature is very important, where dodo’s are not extinct and where England is a police state ruled by the Goliath Corporation. Thursday Next is a literary detective who is investing the theft of the original manuscript of Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit. She gets injured and moves to her hometown of Swindon after her recovery. She keeps pursuing the master thief, Acheron Hades, and eventually ends up in the book Jane Eyre where Hades is hiding. In an attempt to stop Hades, Thursday Next changes the ending of Jane Eyre from a boring, unsatisfying ending to the ending we all know and love now.
I do not want to give too much of the story away. If you like whimsical stories with a deeper undertone, then The Eyre Affair is perfect for you. Fforde constructs his novel brilliantly – the reader immediately knows it is not in Kansas anymore, so to say, but Fforde does not insult the reader by telling far too much of the backstory. There is enough information to understand what is going on, but most of what the reader needs to know comes through the telling of the story.
I can heartily recommend this book.
This week has been very busy, hence the silence on my blog. The project is done though, so next week the posting should resume as usual. I will be flying to the Netherlands tomorrow for a weekend with my siblings and parents, so that will be fun. Will have to leave the kids and my husband behind, but we all have to make sacrifices sometimes.
I will also get back to editing next week, that has also fallen by the way side. I am itching to get back into it, especially since I am eager to move from the editing on paper stage to the editing on the computer stage, which will include a LOT of rewriting and additions. But it will be good to get back into writing whether it is on my book or for my blog.
“The Muse must never be domestic. And can never be possessed. The Muse is dangerous, elusive, unaccountable. The writing then becomes the wager of a gambling man, the words flung down on one colour, win or lose, for the reader to take up. We are all gamblers. We write for our lives.”
Patricia Duncker (Hallucinating Foucault)
“The truth is that even big collections of ordinary books distort space, as can readily be proved by anyone who has been around a really old-fashioned secondhand bookshop, one that looks as though they were designed by M. Escher on a bad day and has more stairways than storeys and those rows of shelves which end in little doors that are surely too small for a full-sized human to enter. The relevant equation is: Knowledge = power = energy = matter = mass; a good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.”
I have always held the view that literature is art. A writer writes because he or she has something to tell the world, he wants to have his voice heard, tell his story. Of course the goal is that as many people as possible read his story. He wants to share his ideas with the world.
Often, and especially in days gone past, the only way an author could get people to read his stories was to be published. A publisher would weigh the merits of the story and if it was not found lacking (or at least not lacking too much), then the publisher would decide to publish the book.
Nowadays the majority of authors still write because they have a story to tell. I do not believe that this has changed all that much. But there does seem to be a trend moving towards books being purely commercial products. I have heard of the work of prospective authors being rejected because publishers do not think that it would sell. Now, of course, a publisher has to make a living. But to say that writers should write more vampire novels around the time that Twilight was so popular, because that was “in” at the time seems wrong to me. I am not saying that publishers should be philanthropists, but they should judge the standard of an author’s work not by how popular a particular trend is at the moment, but by how well the book is written, how appealing the story is and how well the plot has been worked out.
Another indicator of this “writing only for money” trend is British author Terry Dreary who recently argued that libraries should be closed because they “are doing nothing for the book industry. They give nothing back.” He then proceeds to argue that libraries cost too much money and that publishers, writers and the taxpayers are being taken advantage of by people who are unwilling to spend money on books. I am not even going to get into how ridiculous his argument is, but I do see it as a sign that the tide has turned and that there are writers and publishers out there who view writing not as a passion, but a clear way to make money.
I am not sure that books written from a money-making perspective are really worth reading. The best books are usually those which are written from the heart, not from the wallet.
Some of you faithful followers may have noticed that there was no weekly Wodehouse quote last week. This was in part because I was sick and in part because my children were both sick and in part because I was also busy with some other time-sensitive projects. We are luckily all better, but unfortunately the time-sensitive project has failed and time has become even more pressing for that particular project. So blogging will have to take a bit of a back seat over the next two weeks, for which I apologise.
With regards to the weekly Wodehouse quote: I am not planning to stop it, but I think it would be good to change it to a Weekly Quote in general. Although Wodehouse is absolutely fantastic, I have to agree with Douglas Adams here, who said so eloquently in the foreword of Sunset at Blandings:
We Wodehouse fans are very fond of phoning each other up with new discoveries. But we may do the great man a disservice when we pull out our favourite quotes in public, like, ‘Ice formed on the butler’s upper slopes’, or ‘like so many substantial Americans, he had married young and kept on marrying, springing from blonde to blonde like the chamois of the Alps leaping from crag to crag’ or (here I go again) my current favourite, ‘He spun round with a sort of guilty bound, like an adagio dancer surprised while watering the cat’s milk’, because, irreducibly wonderful though they are, by themselves they are a little like stuffed fish on a mantelpiece. You need to see them in action to get the full effect. There is not much in Freddie Threepwood’s isolated line, ‘I have here in this sack a few simple rats’ to tell you that when you read it in context you are at the pinnacle of one of the most sublime moment in all English literature.
So as of this week, there will be quotes by different authors. There will still be the odd Wodehouse quote, for how can I ignore his brilliant phrases, but I will also let some other authors in the spotlight. If you miss the Wodehouse quotes, why not pick up one of his books and read those wonderful lines in the context they were meant for?