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by Connie Ogle

31 Jul 2007

First Among Sequels: A Thursday Next Novel

First Among Sequels: A Thursday Next Novel
by Jasper Fforde
Viking ($24.95)

There is simply so much you don’t know about fiction: Thomas Hardy’s novels used to be hilarious, but someone made off with the humor. There was once a shocking outbreak of sensible behavior in Othello. Only 15 pianos exist in literature, and so they must be endlessly shuffled from Bleak House to The Mill on the Floss to Heart of Darkness and so on. Mistakes happen; one piano ended up in Miss Bates’ parlor in Emma, and Frank Churchill had to take the rap for dumping it there.

Such unsettling events occur regularly in the Bookworld, born in the furiously agile imagination of Jasper Fforde, creator Thursday Next of Jurisfiction, a literary detective whose adventures stretch uproariously across four novels (The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots and Something Rotten). Fforde has shaken up genres—fantasy, comedy, crime, sci fi, parody, literary criticism—and come up with a superb mishmash with lots of affectionate in-jokes for any book lover.

In the aptly titled First Among Sequels—tough call, but there’s a good chance it’s the best of Fforde’s novels—Thursday is no longer working SpecOps, or at least not to her husband Landen’s knowledge. He thinks she’s laying carpet, but she’s still leaping in and out of assorted prose and contending with non-literary mayhem. The genre wars continue, with Racy Novel’s threats to drop a dirty bomb into “Mrs. Dalloway.” Time may be coming to an end. The ruling Commonsense Party is running up an ominously high Stupidity Surplus (“Instead of drifting from one crisis to the next and appeasing the nation with a steady stream of knee-jerk legislation and headline-grabbing but arguably pointless initiatives, they had been resolutely building a raft of considered long-term plans that concentrated on unity, fairness, and tolerance”).

Worst of all is the introduction of Reality Book Shows, which will rewrite the classics based on audience approval. First up: Pride and Prejudice.

Fforde, also author of the even sillier Nursery Crimes series, is not even close to running out of targets. His satire is relentless and inspired; even his throwaway one-liners hit home: “The MAWk-15H virus has once again resurfaced in Dickens, particularly in the Death of Little Nell, which is now so uncomfortably saccharine that even our own dear, gentle, patient, noble Nell complained.”

Thursday may face a threat against reading in the Bookworld, but in the real world, thanks to the witty Fforde, she can rest assured that the demise of the book has never seemed more unlikely.

Connie Ogle
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

by Chris Barsanti

30 Jul 2007

An old truism goes that when Catholics sin, they go to confession, but when Protestants sin, they go out and buy a book (it didn’t say anything about what Mormons do). If that rule still applies today, then Protestants are doing a whole lot of sinning. Buried in this BBC News story about how Wal-Mart will soon be stocking an entire line of Bible-based action figures like Goliath and Sampson (a simultaneously surprising and yet terrifying prospect), is this little nugget: Sales of religious books in America went up 5.6% in 2006. And apparently Christian book-buyers spend half as much again on books as the average American. So whatever those atheists, and other non-Christian religious types are doing with their time, it doesn’t appear to be reading.

by Michael Merschel

29 Jul 2007

GRAPEVINE, Texas—Publisher Nan A. Talese took up a fresh defense of A Million Little Pieces this weekend, defending the “essential truth” of the discredited memoir—while criticizing Oprah Winfrey and her fans.

Asked about the book during a session at the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Writers Conference of the Southwest on Saturday, Talese said her experience with author James Frey had not changed the way she handled memoirs.

“I’m afraid I’m unapologetic of the whole thing,” she said. “And the only person who should be apologetic is Oprah Winfrey,” who she says exhibited “fiercely bad manners—you don’t stone someone in public, which is just what she did.”

Calling Winfrey’s behavior “mean and self-serving,” Talese said that readers should be able to decide for themselves about whether to believe an author, and that Frey was clear about how believable he was.

by Nikki Tranter

27 Jul 2007

Don’t you just love Kate McCulley?

NPR’s Talk of the Nation introduced me to her last week, and now I’m officially addicted to her blog, The Grammar Vandal. McCulley is a 22-year-old Bostononian who goes around the city correcting grammar mistakes on signs. Her passion is a beautiful thing. She mentions, openly and honestly, during the NPR interview that “bad grammar is a sign of a person who isn’t educated”, and that she considers herself a “vigilante”. Some of her best work includes sticking as apostrophe adhesive on a sign reading “Professors Row”, and raising a local farmer to hero status on her blog for his correctly-worded “Farmers’ Market Today” sign.

Someone needs to employ this woman to travel the world correcting linguistic wrongs. I’d love for her to clean up my town—we’re constantly choking on, among other things, restaurant menus displaying “hamburger’s”, “parmigana/parmagiana/parmagina”, and even, believe it or not, “sapghetti” (it’s written in huge letters on a walkway!). And I thought it was only backwards hick towns like mine that suffered this level of grammar-cancer.

Fight on, Grammar Vandal! We need you.


by Chris Barsanti

23 Jul 2007

Everyone at the airport had extra baggage with them this weekend, namely the 750-odd-page hardcover Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Some readers had just started, others seemed to be over halfway through already, their faces a mask of exhaustion and anticipation. If it seemed like a race, that’s because it was. The point was to finish the book as fast as humanly possible before the ending or any major plot points were ruined by the professional spoilers who were eagerly posting pages on the Internet and spreading the word as fast as possible. (Anecdotal evidence points to adolescent kids, the same kind who like to tell their younger classmates that Santa Claus doesn’t exist—when, that is, they take a second from pulling the wings off flies—shouting out plot spoilers at the midnight release parties.) In some sense, it wasn’t necessary, as most all the rumors floated before the books went on sale turned out not to be actual spoilers but just snarky guesses. For some reason all this guesswork was deemed grand entertainment by many, including the irritating pair of fellow travelers sitting near me who demanded to know, “Who dies?!”

In any case, the weekend is over, the sales totals are still being counted and exclaimed over (8.3 million!), and the book is finished; what next but the hangover? As someone who has never quite felt comfortable with the term “guilty pleasure,” I do find that to be the term that came up in my mind time and again upon completion of each J. K. Rowling book, and now that I have closed the cover on the series as a whole and thought of the books that I could have read in the same time period, I can safely say: I think I wasted my time.

//Mixed media

Indie Horror Month 2015: 'Dark Echo'

// Moving Pixels

"Dark Echo drops you into a pitch back maze and then renders your core tools of navigation into something quite life threatening.

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