A good friend introduced me to Jasper Fforde when I was in college. It wasn’t the sort of thing I normally would have picked up (as it wasn’t in the sci-fi/fantasy section), but she said I absolutely had to read this book, so I did (I read really fast… thus I’m usually willing to oblige an enthusiastic recommendation).
Seldom has any author made me laugh so hard or so often. Each chapter begins with a “quote” that has very little to do with the book or the chapter you’re about to read, however, they are hilarious. For example:
“There are two schools of thought about the resilience of time. The first is that time is highly volatile, with every small event altering the possible outcome of the earth’s future. The other view is that time is rigid, and no matter how hard you try it will alwayas spring back toward a determined present. Myself, I do not worry about such trivialities. I simply sell ties to anyone who wants to buy one…” – Fforde The Eyre Affair
See? Subtle, witty, hilarious.
What Fforde writes is most accurately known as “Meta-Fiction.” What is meta-fiction? Well, a hoighty-toighty definition would be:
“Metafiction is a term given to fictional writing which self-consciously and systematically draws attention to its status as an artifact in order to pose questions about the relationship between fiction and reality. In proving a critique of their own methods of construction, such writings not only examine the fundamental structures of narrative fiction, they also explore the possible fictionality of the world outside the literary fictional text.” -Patricia Waugh
More plainly, it is a genre in which the characters either interact with the reader, or enter into other books themselves in order to interact with the characters there.
Blurb for The Eyre Affair:
Meet Thurday Next, who lives in Great Britain circa 1985 (but not OUR 1985!) where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously: it’s a bibliophile’s dream. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned operative of the Jurisfiction department. But when someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature and plucks Jane Eyre from the pages of Brontë’s novel, Thursday is faced with the challenge of her career.
If you enjoy laugh out loud witty humor and a lot of imagination, you will love the Thursday Next novels. I was unable to put them down!
You do not have to have read all the classics to be able to follow along, though a general familiarity is definitely helpful. If you start with The Eyre Affair, you do not have to have read Jane Eyre… but again, knowing the general story line (and particularly how the novel ENDS) is advisable.
For more information on Jasper Fforde, or to get a sampling of his sense of humor, you can visit his website here: http://www.jasperfforde.com/index2.html