I am currently in the middle of several novels, namely The two pound tram, This Present Darkness, Middlemarch, The Humbling, Club Dead, Mort and If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler. This in itself it not particularly unusual, but the fact that I have no desire to finish any of them is. It’s not that they are all bad books, although some of them are, make no mistake, it’s just that I’m not attached to any of them. None of them have reached into my soul and pulled me forcefully into their respective worlds. I realize that escapism isn’t the only reason to read, but it never hurts.
This brings me to the book that I did manage to finish, which is all about popping in and out of books not in the manner that I just haven’t managed recently, but in a much more literal, literary way. Lost in a Good Book is the second in the Thursday Next series about the literary police both inside and out of novels that keep books from being vandalized. It isn’t so much crayola on the covers that they are worried about but the changing of plot or pagesurfers who take up residence in the background.
It started with the Eyre Affair, a lovely and clever book that sets to correct the ending of Jane Eyre without even knowing that it has gone wrong. The Eyre Affair is linguistically clever and has a fully immersive world that shares more in common with Alice in Wonderland than anything found on this side of the novel. While the world is the same, Lost in a Good Book loses all the forward movement for nearly the first half, where those who haven’t read the prequel, or like me haven’t read it in a while stutter and stall feeling like we jumped in mid-shelf. This might be exactly what Fforde wanted though; that shock of not knowing, with the narrator assuming that you do.
In fact most of the book reads like one long inside joke, making me feel clever when I got it and plebeian when I didn’t. The main character doesn’t manage to escape this feel either, sometimes she just doesn’t get the joke, for course, they aren’t meant for her so that should come as no great surprise. What she believes is the real world is in the midst of the Crimean war, and has been for 20 years, although she does occasionally make trips into our ‘real world’
There are some wonderful secondary characters that inhabit all, some, or one of the worlds. Miss Haversham from Great Expectations is wonderful both in and out of her own book, and the trial scene set in the background of Kafta’s The Trial is a moment of genius, no doubt. But all in all the book is too clever for its own good and plays too fast and loose with plot devices.
One of the most memorable is the coincidence pockets, were everything is directly related to the main characters to make them move in a certain inevitable direction, which may or may not be under a piano conveniently being hoisted into a second story window. Now that I think about it, I’ve never seen a piano being hoisted into a second story window that hasn’t fallen on someone. There has to be a better way to get a piano upstairs