Friday, January 21, 2011

Where Would You Go?

In the Thursday Next series of books, by Jasper Fforde, the heroine, literary detective Thursday Next has the ability to 'enter' works of fiction. She can literally go inside any specific book and become a part of its 'world'. Fforde's stories are a complex blend of literary mischief, puns, jokes, similes, metaphors and any other descriptive word you can think of that has to do with fiction, classic or otherwise.

At the end of LOST IN A GOOD BOOK, Thursday(and her unborn child) and pet dodo Pickwick, are forced to 'hide' inside a book to save their lives. With the help of Miss Havisham of GREAT EXPECTATIONS, Thursday 'jumps' into an unpublished manuscript deep within the 'well of lost plots'. Thursday doesn't turn up again until the beginning of the next book in the series: THE WELL OF LOST PLOTS. (Needless to say, author Jasper Fforde is a total hoot.)

Beneath the Great Library are twenty six floors of dingy yet industrious sub-basements known as The Well of Lost Plots. This is where books are constructed, honed and polished in readiness for a place in the library above - if they make it that far. The failure rate is high. Unpublished books outnumber published by an estimated eight to one.

Thursday Next
The Jurisfiction Chronicles

Making one's home in an unpublished novel wasn't without its compensations. All the boring day-to-day mundanities that we conduct in the real world get in the way of narrative flow and are thus generally avoided. The car didn't need refueling, there were never any wrong numbers, there was always enough hot water and vacuum cleaner bags came in only two sizes - upright and pull along. There were other more subtle differences, too. For instance, no one ever needed to repeat themselves in case you didn't hear, no one shared the same name, talked at the same time or had a word annoyingly "on the tip of their tongue." Best of all, the bad guy was always someone you knew of, and - Chaucer aside - there wasn't much farting. But there were some downsides. The relative absence of breakfast, was the first and most notable difference on my daily timetable. Inside books, dinners are often written about therefore feature frequently, as do lunches and afternoon tea; probably because they offer more opportunities to further the story.

Breakfast wasn't all that was missing. There was a peculiar lack of cinemas, wallpaper, toilets, colors, books, animals, underwear, smells, haircuts and strangely enough, minor illnesses. If someone was ill in a book, it was either terminal and dramatically unpleasant or a mild head cold - there wasn't much in between.

I was able to take up residence inside fiction by virtue of a scheme entitled the Character Exchange Program. Due to a spate of bored and disgruntled bookpeople escaping from their novels and becoming what we called PageRunners, the authorities set up the scheme to allow characters a change of scenery. In any year there are close to ten thousand exchanges, few of which result in any major plot or dialogue infringements - the reader rarely suspects anything at all.

I thought about this for awhile and wondered where I would go IF I had the ability to hide inside a book of my choice. How would I go about blending into the story? How would I avoid being detected, changing the story line or having any influence on the characters? What if I didn't just want to hide out. What if I wanted a temporary change of pace. lasting a year or two. Or even, a permanent spot away from the cares of the real world. Remembering that I'd still be me, just be in a different environment with a cast of characters, most of whom have pre-ordained behavior and a storyline. What book would I choose?

This is harder than it sounds. Especially since I couldn't pick an unpublished manuscript, I mean, how would I know where to find an unpublished manuscript? I'll stick with the known quantity of the published.

For adventure and fun alone, one of Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody books might be just the ticket. But I'd have to figure out a way to insinuate myself inside one of the Emersons' archaeological digs. Or maybe I'd just hang out on the terrace at Shepheard's Hotel and watch all the usual hi-jinks from there.

Or maybe I'd like to attend that first country ballroom dance where Miss Elizabeth Bennett first meets Mr. Darcy. I could linger nearby in appropriate garb. I wouldn't be able to speak though, being minus as English accent. Well,
I suppose if the manuscript indicated I could speak, it would, hopefully, supply me with the appropriate accent.

According to Fforde, you can't go further than what's on the page itself. Background characters in novels don't have much depth and don't really do much. So I guess it might get kind of boring because if it's not written on the page, it doesn't exist. Get it?

So, within those parameters, where would you go? What novel would you pick? (No non-fiction allowed. That's a whole other ball of wax.)


  1. Your idea of joining the country ballroom dance sounds fun. I wouldn't mind not speaking, I'm more of a watcher, anyway. I think I could muddle my way through the correct steps to "Mr. Beveridge's Maggot" as well as the next imposter. I've seen the 1995 P&P enough.

  2. I have a feeling, Jacqueline, that we wouldn't be the only ones. There would be a veritable CRUSH of bodies. All refugees from 2010. Ha!

  3. You have an amazing imagination. You should be writing fiction.

    I can't think of a fictional work I'd like to be in; that will take some pondering. Maybe a book about Gaugin living in Tahiti? Or a novel that takes place in Fiji? Somewhere with beautiful beaches and water and a temperate climate, and a relaxed, tension-free existence. (The cold and snow are getting to me) No nobility and mansions for me, just regular people being kind to each other, making a living, enjoying each day.

    What book could that be?

    Or maybe I'd like to be V.I. Warshawski (oh, no, Chicago is freezing in the winter; I grew up there), intrepid, fearless, bold, brilliant, getting into adventures (and physically fit!), and having two lovely dogs and neighbors. Or Kinsey Millhone, living in California, solving crimes, with nice neighbors.

  4. Kathy: Thanks! ;) I'm trying to think of a book for you to live in - figuratively, of course. If you want to be surrounded by nice people being good to each other, I recommend one of the Miss Read books set in a small village in England. You can choose the scene to disappear into, so just choose a summer setting. ;)

  5. That's a tough one--probably Pride and Prejudice. I just love that time period and would love to meet Elizabeth Bennett.

  6. Absolutely, Lisa. We'd all be crushed in the crowds wanting to meet Darcy and Elizabeth. Ha!


Your comment will appear after I take a look.