Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday Book Review: ONE OF OUR THURSDAYS IS MISSING by Jasper Fforde

ONE OF OUR THURSDAYS IS MISSING is the sixth entry in the Thursday Next series by the ever witty, ever confounding, ever brilliant Jasper Fforde - a resident of "...the Socialist Republic of Wales..." where it's "...Not Always Raining."

The Thursday Next oeuvre takes place in a kind of alternate universe where familiar things are made unfamiliar at the author's whim. I would say that if you do not have a love of the English language, literature, reading, puns, absurdity and British humor, then these books are probably not for you. Otherwise, read on.

This time out, the 'real' Thursday Next, famed literary detective has gone missing (from the real world) and the book is told from 'the written' Thursday Next's point of view. That is, the Thursday Next who appears in the books we've read so far beginning with THE EYRE AFFAIR - rather than the actual Thursday Next on whom the books are based.

Get it? Got it? Good.

This Thursday Next is one of several on call 24/7 to carry through the scenes in the previous books in case a reader should happen by. Truth be told, the readership of the Thursday books has gone by the wayside and this Thursday is kind of happy to have something to do, i.e. search for the missing Thursday. In the meantime, another Thursday Next - a stand-in named Carmine - has taken over book duties in case, as I said, a reader should happen along.

To explain how BookWorld operates as, say, opposed to the Real World invented by Fforde would take all day, time I've got but wherewithal I haven't. Fforde is better at explaining things and if you really want to know all the details, read the books.

Here's the gist of it: BookWorld (which exists on a different plane than our 'reality') is controlled by the powerful Council of Genres: The Council of Genres is the administrative body that looks after all aspects of BookWorld regulation, from policy decisions in th emain debating chamber to the day-to-day running of ordinary BookWorld affairs, supply of plot devices and even the word supply coming in from the Text Sea. It controls the Book Inspectorate, which governs which books are to be published and which to be demolished, and also manages Text Grand Central and Jurisfiction.

Bradshaw's BookWorld Companion (11th Edition)

The BookWorld is inhabited by every character, every genre, every plot device, every setting, every letter (The Sea of Text), every motivation, every anything you can think of having to do with the creation of books exists for the benefit of the reader who has no notion that the Book World exists at all. The reader (you and me) is never aware of the panoply of moving parts while reading a regular book or e-book.

The reader naturally assumes that the author created the book he or she is holding or viewing off a screen. Little does the reader know that BookWorld uses writers as a sort of conduit.

Enough said.

To avert a potentially devastating genre war, written Thursday Next is called in to search for the missing literary detective who was to serve as an emissary at the scheduled peace talks. But enemies on both sides of the issue do not want her to succeed and written Next must pretend that the 'real' Next isn't missing at all while her search in the BookWorld (with a fast moving side trip to Real World in which she meets the man of her dreams, the real Thursday Next's husband Landen Parke-Laine) takes her from genre to genre with the help of her new-found butler, the endearing mechanical man, Sprockett. They barely survive an attack by 500 mimes when their car is forced off an inter-genre road by another attack by the mysterious Men in Plaid who are frequently after Next currently wanted by the Goliath Corporation (who basically controls the Real World) for a bunch of spurious criminal charges.

Anyway, the peace talks will go on with or without Next, but without, they have little chance of succeeding. An inter-genre war is not a pretty thing to contemplate. The stability of the entire BookWorld is in written Thursday's unsteady hands, especially since she has been manipulated into attending the Peace Talks masquerading as the 'real' Thursday.

Never has the Book World seemed such a daunting place. (See the Map above.)

Rumor had it that undiscovered genres were hidden among the thick vegetation and impenetrable canopy in the far north of the island. Primitive, anarchic, strange and untouched by narrative convention, they were occasionally discovered and inducted into the known BookWorld, where they started off fresh and exciting before ultimately becoming mimicked, overused, tired and then passe. BookWorld naturalists argued strongly that some genres should remain hidden in order to keep the BookWorld from homogenizing, but their voices went unheeded.

Bradshaw's BookWorld Companion (3rd Edition)

Dark Reading Matter: the hypothetical last resting place of books never published, ideas never penned and poems held only in the heart of poets who died without passing them on. Theoretical bibliologists have proved that the Background Story Radiation was appreciably more than the apparent quantity of STORY in the BookWorld. No one had any idea where it might be or how you could reach it. DRM'S existence remained theoretical, at best.

Bradshaw's BookWorld

Companion (4th edition)

Did I mention that these books are also accompanied by b/w illustrations? (Though, strangely, there is no illustration credit given in the book. That I can find, anyway.) Well, they are. Also at the end of the book, you'll find some intriguing ads featuring items and places from the book. Fforde's imagination apparently knows no bounds.

I love these books.

For a complete listing of Jasper Fforde's books, please use this link. You might also want to check out Fforde's inventive, highly imaginative and often confusing (part of the charm), website.

Book jacket illustration by Thomas Allen.

Interior illustrations by Dylan Meconis and Mudron.


  1. That second paragraph has just convinced me that I absolutely MUST start reading this series!

  2. I must say I laughed out loud reading this post, simply hilarious.

    But my cloudy brain cannot follow this; confusion set in quickly. Anyone who can follow this is and read these books is a genius, in my book.

    I think I'll stick to stories in this time period and this dimension -- or a few in the past (at least that could have happened). Harry Bosch, V.I. Warshawski, Harry Hole, Martin Beck, Inspector Adamsberg, Commisario Brunetti, Annika Bengtzon, and others who are contemporary crime solvers are within my galaxy and time frame.

    And, yes, I also have the time, but not the wherewithal. The NY Times and the daily crossword puzzle are enough challenges.

  3. Lisa: Yes, you definitely should. To my mind, they are wonderful. I didn't mention Thursday's pet dodo Pickwick, one of my favorite characters.
    He rarely appears, but when he does he usually just goes: "Plock...plock..." HA!

  4. Kathy: Well, they are not THAT challenging. Mostly they're just fun. I admit that there are things in them I don't get, but by the same token, there are plenty of things I do. I love them.:)

  5. Is the pet dodo paper-trained; if so, it would be the Pickwick papers!

  6. Those maps look like something out of THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH. I'm way behind on this series. I buy all the books but I've read only three.

    Jasper Fforde is seriously deranged. I'd love to meet him someday. I've heard him on a UK radio interview. He's very intense - thought he'd be funnier. He is, but in an intense way.

    I love that his fans created the Fforde Ffiesta to celebrate his books and characters. Takes place in Wales each summer. One of these days I'll go to one jsut because I have to personally witnes the madness his more devoted fans enact and re-enact. Reading about it on his website can't live up to the real thing. I'm sure it's foolish and nutty and just plain fun.

  7. Maybe they're not hard for people with PH.D.'s in English-Science Fictions courses, astronomy, astrophysics, but for me, a non science-fiction reader. "Mysterious Men in Plaid" is funny, but it is a dead give-away that it isn't my type of book, so I'll run right back to the brownstone in the West 30s to consult Mr. Wolfe, or to Chicago to see V.I. Warshawski or to L.A. to see Harry Bosch. Maybe they can find Thursday Next and I don't have to worry about it.

  8. Kathy: I love that the dodo in the 'real' Thursday Next's universe is just a very gentle pet whose only sound is a soft "Plock, plock..." I mean, I can just see it in my imagination. PICKWICK PAPERS, gotcha! Ha!

    Kathy, I don't have a PhD in ANYTHING, and I get along with these books just fine. :)

  9. John: The maps are the new configuration of BookWorld which has been revamped by...uh, BookWorld. I wouldn't mind attending one of the Fforde Fiestas myself. (I don't even own a Ford Fiesta car - ha!) I've never heard Fforde speak but I imagine that he could be a little scary. Brilliant people can be very intimidating. As I said, I also love Fforde's Nursery Crimes series: two books strong so far. AND of course, I loved SHADES OF GREY, once I got into it.


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