The Well of Lost Plots

I don’t really feel like blogging anything which takes any effort at the moment. So despite having enough material from The Psychology of Personnel Selection, which I finished a few days ago, and Impact of Sleep and Sleep Disturbances on Obesity and Cancer, which I’ve yet to finish but have spent some time on, for at least a couple of posts, I’ll cover a novel instead. I read two novels this weekend, Harper Lee’s To kill a Mockingbird and Jasper Fforde’s The Well of Lost Plots – I’ll blog the book I liked best. I found Lee sort of boring in a way, although I don’t exactly think the book is awful (it’s probably overrated, but that’s different) – there was way too little George R.R. Martin in that book and way too much Tolkien.

Jasper Fforde’s book was brilliant though – I think I liked this one better than the second book in the series. I’ve added a few sample quotes from it below. If you haven’t read along for very long, here’s incidentally a post I wrote about the first book in Fforde’s series, The Eyre Affair.

“I found the correct door. It opened to a vast waiting room full of bored people who all clutched numbered tickets and stared vacantly at the ceiling. There was another door at the far end with a desk next to it manned by a single receptionist. He stared at my sheet when I presented it, sniffed and said:
‘How did you know I was single?’
‘Just then, in your description of me.’
‘I meant single as in solitary.'”


“‘Good. Item seven. The had had and that that problem. […] The use of had had and that that has to be strictly controlled; they can interrupt the ImaginoTransference quite dramatically, causing readers to go back over the sentence in confusion, something we try to avoid.’
‘Go on.’
‘It’s mostly just an unlicenced usage problem. At the last count David Copperfield alone had had had had sixty-three times, all but ten unapproved. Pilgrim’s Progress may also be a problem owing to its had had / that that ratio.’
‘So what’s the problem in Progress?’
‘That that had that that ten times but had had had had only thrice. Increased had had usage had had to be overlooked but not if the number exceeds that that that usage.’
‘Hmm,’ said the Bellman. ‘I thought had had had had TGC’s approval for use in Dickens? What’s the problem?’
‘Take the first had had and that that in the book by way of example,’ […] ‘You would have thought that that first had had had had good occasion to be seen as had, had you not? Had had had approval but had had had not; equally it is true to say that that that that had had approval but that that other that that had not.’
‘So the problem with that other that that was that—?’
‘That that other-other that that had had approval.'” (it doesn’t stop there, but I think you’ve got the general idea…)

“He handed me a letter. I unfolded it and read:

Dear Mr Spratt,

It has come to our attention that you may be attempting to give up the booze and reconcile with your wife. While we approve of this as a plot device to generate more friction and inner conflicts, we most strongly advise you not to carry it through to a happy reconciliation, as this would put you in direct contravention of Rule 11C of the Union of Sad Loner Detective’s Code, as ratified by the Union of Literary Detectives, and it will ultimately result in your expulsion from the association with subsequent loss of benefits.
I trust you will do the decent thing and halt this damaging and abnormal behaviour before it leads to your downfall.
PS. Despite repeated demands, you have failed to drive a classic car or pursue an unusual hobby. Please do so at once or face the consequences.”

“Fire was not an option in a published work; they had tried it once in Samuel Pepys’ Diary and burnt down half of London.” (relevant link)

“The twentieth century has seen books being written and published at an unprecedented rate – even the introduction of the Procrastination1.3 and Writer’sBlock2.4 Outlander viruses couldn’t slow the authors down.”


May 18, 2014 - Posted by | Books


  1. Have you read the Rolling Stone interview with George R.R. Martin?

    “Ruling is hard. This was maybe my answer to Tolkien, whom, as much as I admire him, I do quibble with. Lord of the Rings had a very medieval philosophy: that if the king was a good man, the land would prosper. We look at real history and it’s not that simple. Tolkien can say that Aragorn became king and reigned for a hundred years, and he was wise and good. But Tolkien doesn’t ask the question: What was Aragorn’s tax policy? Did he maintain a standing army? What did he do in times of flood and famine? And what about all these orcs? By the end of the war, Sauron is gone but all of the orcs aren’t gone – they’re in the mountains. Did Aragorn pursue a policy of systematic genocide and kill them? Even the little baby orcs, in their little orc cradles?”

    Comment by Stefan | May 19, 2014 | Reply

    • I’ve seen links to it before (e.g. here), but out of sheer laziness I haven’t actually read the interview – though I have read the quote you include in your comment. I’ll go have a look… (and thanks for the link)

      Comment by US | May 19, 2014 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: