One of Our Thursdays Is Missing
(Sorry for the long wait for another update; in general I’d say I try quite hard not to let more than three days pass between updates, but due to personal stuff I wasn’t really able to find the time to blog anything over the last few days.)
The book mentioned in the post title is the sixth novel in the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde. I liked it better than the fifth book in the series, and this one is probably in my top three of the books in this series. In general I really like the books in this series; Fforde is playing around with a lot of ‘meta’ stuff other books are not playing around with, and the best way to illustrate this stuff is probably through quotes (so I’ve added some of those below). Part of why I liked this book better than the previous one is also that it further develops the universe in which the action takes place; in a way the previous book did not really do this, at least not in my opinion to nearly the same extent.
If you plan on reading this series, you should start from the beginning; you’ll get a lot less out of this book than you otherwise would if you are not familiar with the context.
I’ve added a little stuff from the book below – I have tried hard to not include any spoilers. The book is full of completely absurd stuff, and it has so much quote-worthy stuff that it would be easy for me to write at least another post or two like this one.
“‘I’m Alyona Ivanovna,’ said the third Russian with a trace of annoyance, ‘the rapacious old pawnbroker whose apparent greed and wealth lead you to murder.’
‘Are you sure you’re Ivanovna?’ asked Raskolnikov in a worried tone.
‘And you’re still alive?’
‘So it seems.’
He stared at the bloody axe.
‘Then who did I just kill?’
And they all looked at each other in confusion.”
“To a text-based life-form, unpredictable syntax and poor grammar are sources of huge discomfort. Ill-fitting grammar are like ill-fitting shoes. You can get used to it for a bit, but then one day your toes fall off and you can’t walk to the bathroom. Poor syntax is even worse. Change word order and sentence useless that for anyone Yoda except you have.”
“My book was first-person narrative, and if I wanted to have any sort of life outside my occasional readings – such as a date with Whitby or a secondary career – I needed someone to stand in for me.”
“reality was a pit of vipers for the unwary. Forget to breathe, miscalculate gravity or support the wrong god or football team and they’d be sending you home in a zinc coffin.”
“We fell silent for a moment as the tram rumbled on. I didn’t tell him that I yearned for the most under-appreciated luxury of the human race – free will. My life was by definition preordained. I had to do what I was written to do, say what I was written to say, without variance all day every day, whenever someone read me. Despite conversations like this where I could think philosophically rather than narratively, I could never shrug off the peculiar feeling that someone was controlling my movements, and eavesdropping on my every thought.”
“The queue to get out of Poetry was long, as always. The smuggling of Metaphor out of the genre was a serious problem […] The increased scarcity of raw Metaphor in Fiction had driven prices sky high, and people would take unbelievably foolish risks to smuggle it across. I’d heard stories of Metaphor being hidden in baggage, swallowed, even dressed up to look like ordinary objects whose meanings were then disguised to cloak the Metaphor. The problem then was trying to explain why you had a ‘Brooding Thunderstorm’ or ‘Broad sunlit uplands’ in your luggage. […] Distilling Metaphor out of raw euphemism was wasteful and expensive”
“‘The less people that know the better.’
‘Fewer. The fewer people that know the better.’
‘That’s what I meant.’
‘That’s what who meant?’
‘Wait – who’s speaking now?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘You must know.’
‘Damn. It must be me – you wouldn’t say “Damn”, would you?’
We both sat there for an empty moment, waiting for either a speech marker or a descriptive line. It was one of those things that happened every now and then in the Bookworld – akin to an empty, pregnant silence in the middle of an Outland dinner party. […] The taxi slowed down and stopped as the traffic ground to a halt. The cabby made some enquiries and found that a truckload of their had collided with a trailer containing there going in the opposite direction, and had spread the contents across the road.
‘Their will be a few hiccups after that,’ said the cabby, and I agreed. Homophone mishaps often seeped out into the RealWorld and infected the Outlanders, causing theire to be all manner of confusions.”
“Comedy was never straightforward. When all the good jokes had left, only the dubiously amusing stuff remained. Was the mimefield funny or not? To us, I think not. But it might have been funny to someone.” (well, this reader laughed…)
“I’m on leave and certainly not stealing military equipment, no ma’am.’ […] The clown sighed resignedly and opened his kitbag to reveal boxes of Military Grade Custard Pies. He wasn’t a very good smuggler. Few were.”
“‘[The Realworld is] highly disorderly,’ he explained, ‘not like here. There is no easily definable plot and you can run yourself ragged wondering what the significance of a chance encounter can be. You’ll also find that for the most part there is no shorthand to the narrative, so everything happens in a long and painfully drawn-out sequence. Apparently, the talk can be confusing – in general, most people just say the first thing that comes into their head.’
‘Is it as bad as they say?’
‘I’ve heard it’s worse. Here in the Bookworld we say what needs to be said for the story to proceed. Out there? Well, you can discount at least eighty per cent of chat as just meaningless drivel. […] The people to listen to are the ones who don’t say very much. […] above all, don’t be annoyed or distracted when random things happen to absolutely no purpose.’
‘There’s always a purpose,’ I said, amused by the notion of utter pointlessness, ‘even if you don’t understand what it is until much later.’
‘That’s a big difference between here and there,’ said Plum. ‘When things happen after a randomly pointless event, all that follows is simply unintended consequences, and not a coherent narrative thrust that propels the story forward.’
I rolled the idea of ‘unintended consequences’ around in my head.
‘Nope,’ I said finally, ‘you’ve got me on that one.’
‘It confuses me too,’ admitted Plum, ‘but that’s the RealWorld for you.'”
“It felt like covering for a character in a book without being told what the book was about, who was in it, or even what your character had been doing up until then. I’d done it twice in the BookWorld, so had some experience in these matters.”
“‘What about Red Herring, ma’am?’
‘I’m not sure. Is Red Herring a red herring? Or is it the fact that we’re meant to think Red Herring is a red herring that is actually the red herring?’
‘Or perhaps the fact that you’re meant to think Red Herring isn’t a red herring makes Red Herring a red herring after all.’
‘We’re talking serious meta-herrings here. Oh, craps, I’m lost again. Who’s talking now?'”
“‘Who is that?’ I asked as a man with his face obscured by a large pair of dark glasses hurried past and went below decks, followed by a porter carrying his suitcases.
‘He’s the mandatory MP-MC12: Mysterious Passenger in Cabin Twelve. All sweaty journeys upriver have to carry the full complement of odd characters. It’s a union thing.'”
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