Thursday, August 19, 2010

Yes, Jasper Fforde does write crime fiction

The cover blurb for The Eyre Affair, first of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next novels, invokes Monty Python, Harry Potter, Stephen Hawking and Buffy the Vampire Slayer; the Wall Street Journal's reviewer was obviously doing some dedicated zeitgeist mining.

Neither that blurb nor any of the ones on the back cover mentions one of the richly imaginative Fforde's many inspirations: crime fiction — strange, since Thursday Next is a Literary Detective.

But that's all right. Several reviews quoted inside, safely away from the prying eyes of impulse buyers, number crime, suspense, hard-boiled mystery and, in a wince-inducing allusion, James Bond among the ingredients in Fforde's fantastic stew.

Having read Fforde's Nursery Crime novels, The Big Over Easy and The Fourth Bear, I am willing to bet this book, first in a series that comprises five novels so far, will be just as much fun and just as inventive in its integration of fantasy and science fiction with its obvious crime elements.

***
Visit Jasper Fforde's Web site. Read what I had to say about The Big Over Easy and The Fourth Bear.

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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28 Comments:

Anonymous Sebastian said...

Is infantile crap too strong a phrase to use to describe the man's work? I'm assuming he is a man. One never knows with the English.

August 19, 2010  
Blogger michael said...

Have to strongly disagree with Sebastian, Jasper Fforde is by far my favorite living author. While I found the Nursery Crimes series and Shades of Grey disappointing, the Thursday Next are near perfection.

Granted it helps to have a love for literary fiction but (since I don't) it is not vital. Also as any writer who writes humorous satire he is a writer that receives two types of reaction, mine or Sebastian.

The Thursday Next was his first series and involves a woman who discovers she can exist in the "real" world and the fictional one. Thursday's real world is an alternative universe from ours. The plots boarders on surreal and the characters even weirder. Imagine Hamlet helping to solve crimes.

I eagerly await his upcoming return to the series which is coming out in March (I think).

"The Eyre Affair", while not my favorite ("Something Rotten" is), is the perfect start to see who you agree with, Sebastian or me.

August 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Is infantile crap too strong a phrase to use to describe the man's work?

Yes.

August 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the comment, Michael, but who says I have to agree with either of you? I obviously don't share Sebastian's opinion, but I also enjoyed both Nursery Crimes books.

The Eyre Affair's resemblance in tone to those books, in fact, at least in its opening chapter, is what attracted me. I am pleased to see from Fforde's Web site that he has another Nursery Crimes novel planned, but not that I'll have to wait until 2012 for it.

August 19, 2010  
Blogger michael said...

I like everything Fforde writes, my disappointment was I felt the Nursery Crimes series was not as good as Thursday Next series. And yes the tone is much the same. I found the setting of the Nursery Crimes more limiting than adult literary fiction of Thursday Next.
Will be interested in reading about which you prefer.

August 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I suspect I'll have read a good number of the authors he has fun with in the Thursday Next series. But most of my reading is crime fiction, so I naturally feel a special attachment to the Nursery Crimes novels. But I am looking forward to this book.

August 19, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Peter, i just visited Jasper's webshite (that's not a pun, Peter, it's actually paronomasia). I pressed on a dozen links and didn't find a damn thing interesting in any of them. He may be hilariously funny but his website shoots him in the foot so often he doesn't have a leg to stand on.

August 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, the picture of the bus is pretty nice.

But I would agree that his Web site is not the best introduction to Jasper Fforde.

August 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Or maybe I like the bus just because it bears a striking resemblance to one I pictured right here.

August 19, 2010  
Blogger Yvette said...

THE EYRE AFFAIR is not my favorite of the Thursday Next books, but it's best to read it to get an intro into Thursday's world and set up what happens next. My favorites of the series are WELL OF LOST PLOTS, LOST IN A GOOD BOOK and SOMETHING ROTTEN. Those three, I think, are brilliant, inventive and often hilarious. It really does help though, if you've read several of the books alluded to in the stories. I didn't like SHADES OF GREY at first, but it grew on me. Now I can't wait to read the next in that series. As for the Nursery Crimes books, I like them very much, just not as much as Thursday's stuff. "Porridge, you know you want it." I mean, to me that is devilishly funny. But to truly appreciate these sorts of books I think you have to have a kind of bent for intelligent nonsense. Is there such a thing? Yeah, I think so.

August 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the note, and yes, I think there is such a thing as intelligent nonsense.

"Porridge, you know you want it" is a wonderful line -- rich with allusions, one might say.

It would be nice if reviewers could talk about Fforde without using the word literary, though. I wrote about the word recently, that its negative connotations are at least as strong as its positive ones.

August 19, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

I think Fforde might have an infantile aspect to his personality, judging by a stunt he played on my friend Rick Kleffel's radio show, but infantile isn't necessarily a bad thing in a humorist, especially if he's bright. I haven't read Fforde, which I hope to fix before too long.

August 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I suppose I should deny the possibility that Fforde could ever be infantile, but I can well imagine infantility being one face of his personality. The man is capable of pranksterish turns, at least in his writing.

August 19, 2010  
Anonymous J.R. Chase said...

Thanks very much - I hadn't considered a Fforde novel before but I'll check him out.

Great blog!

J.R. Chase
Chicago Squeeze

August 19, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

I thought this might include the prank I remember, but I think it was an earlier segment. In any case, go here and scroll on down to January 24th if you're interested.

August 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the note and the compliment, J.R. Enjoy Fforde.

August 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, Seana. I'll listen in tomorrow for the audio prank.

Meanwhile, no Fforde for me tonight. I left the book in a cafe this afternoon. I'll return and pick ot up tomorrow, I hope.

August 20, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

I don't think the prank is in this show. I think it's an earlier show that he replayed on the same night. In any case, it was an interesting interview.

August 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

My interest is piqued.

August 20, 2010  
Blogger Yvette said...

Going back to your grumble about the use of the word, 'literary' when reviewers talk Jasper Fforde's books, I'd say: I think the reason why the word is always included is because Fforde's books are meant for people who, at least, have done some sort of 'literary' reading, especially the English classics. It isn't strictly necessary, I suppose, but somehow I can't imagine someone reading Fforde's books with NO knowledge of the wellspring of his quotes, puns, ironies and jokes and enjoying them as much as I do. But maybe that's just prejudice on my part. In SOMETHING ROTTEN, a knowledge of Hamlet helps immensely in the enjoyment of the plot, also some knowledge of WWII and the deadly crackdown on Jews - the darker aspect that looms in SOMETHING ROTTEN.

August 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, no surprise there. I like allusions, such as the one in the title of "Something Rotten," but I'm always impressed when I recognize an allusion that would have worked even if I didn't recognize it. I just wish there wish there was some way to talk about books -- good ones, great ones -- without that word literary. It's one thing to talk about Fforde's literary allusions, another to talk about literary fiction.

That's my utopia, where one can talk about good books and bad books, serious ones and not serious ones, but never literary or non-literary ones.

August 20, 2010  
Blogger Yvette said...

Actually, Peter, I think we're on the same page. I too am a believer in the good book/bad book utopia. I read all sorts of books and my only criteria is that: is it good or not? The same argument could be made about the use of the word, 'genre'. But that's another story...

August 20, 2010  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Read one. Not my cup of tea, I'm afraid. Don't like Akunin either.

Maybe I don't like people being "clever" with crime novels. It suggests an attitude of intellectual distance that implies the genre is only good enough for educated people to have some fun with.

August 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Genre," at least as far as crime fiction, is less problematic than "literary." One may argue over whether a given novel is crime fiction or not (authors sometimes reject the label), but most people agree that the genre exists, that authors use or ring changes on a given set of inventions. And the existence of those conventions creates a ready-made label for any story that may meet none of them but happens to include a crime. It's a crime story.

So, I believe in crime (genre) fiction, and I believe in good fiction, bad fiction and literature. I just don't believe in "literary fiction."

August 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., I share your wariness over the word "clever" for the reasons you suggest. But fun can mitigate the noxious, distancing effects of cleverness, and Fforde is fun.

One has to be wary of slipping into anti-intellectualism, I think. If Fforde is a clever guy, and if he wants to have fun and even show off a bit, I'm not going to begrudge him that -- as long he keeps up the fun.

August 20, 2010  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Well, perhaps, but the trouble is that I'm bored easily.

August 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ha! Hyper-cleverness ought to be good for the easily bored -- always something going on to attract the attention.

August 20, 2010  
Anonymous Sebastian said...

But Fffforde isn't hyper-clever, Peter. He's a smart boy/person whose development was arrested at university. He's the sniggerer in the group. He's laughing at you for being taken with his silly jokes.

August 21, 2010  

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