That’s a rough quote from myself upon finishing Jasper Ffforde’s “The Well of Lost Plot”, a Thursday Next novel, this morning. My father gave me the first book, “The Eyre Affair,” on tape a month or so ago and I haven’t been able to stop reading the series yet. This series fits perfectly into the little world of my typical readings of which Pynchon sits prominently. In this world meta and post precede the word fiction to such an effect that one can barely see the noun but must focus on the signifier.
The next series can be summed up in something that seems like the rambling of a madman. Imagine 1985 but where the new emergent technology is no longer computers, which don’t exist, but rather technologies and abilities that allow one to enter the world of books which is no longer a rhetorical place but rather a very expansive but strangely small world where Miss Havisham can have a professional rivalry with the Red Queen. Other common place elements in this world include gang warfare between literary fans, time travel, the cloning of long gone species, vampires, werewolves, extreme taxes on cheese, and the domination of plays and literature over moving pictures.
To say the least this is quite a wonderful little fairy tale of a world that Fforde has created and of course this just makes up a small portion of the back story. The main plot, which follows Thursday Next, draws heavily from the adventure and spy genres.
Without revealing to much, its the plot that brings me to write this half-review. I have never before had to wait for the last twenty pages of a book to know what the true plot was. “The Eyre Affair” had been very blunt and had given us the basic premise fairly quickly allowing it to be a fun joy ride of adventure and I was caught off guard when I found myself over halfway through this book without really getting into something resembling a plot.
A genre that often does this same thing to me is mystery novels but if Fforde was attempting to make this book such he didn’t quite do it. The clues are few and far between for it to be such. Instead it made me feel as if I was watching a serial television series such as Doctor Who: tiny little stand alone plots that slowly reveal itty bitty portions of a larger plot.
While I did very much enjoy this book I find myself slightly empty right now. There’s something I expect from a novel and Fforde managed to hold that thing above my head. He’s still doing it and that’s why I already have the next book, “The Well of Lost Plots,” sitting on my desk.
Now of course I should be used to this being a fan of Pynchon and all but with Pynchon there’s a clear agreement between him and the reader. He IS going to be HARD to read, figure out, understand, sometimes enjoy, and he will almost definitely not offer a true plot so you shouldn’t bother yourself looking for one but should rather just enjoy the artistry.
Fforde on the other hand doesn’t write literary art but rather paper back adventure books. The deal is often different here. In this deal the plot should be somewhat straight forward, at least by the last quarter of the book, the reality of the world remains somewhat intact, and the world is believable enough to create real suspense. Fforde doesn’t allow such things or rather he achieves the end results without following the normal rules. But in doing so he makes one painfully aware that they are reading a book.
Very painfully aware. And in this way Fforde may even be a better example of post-modern literature than the great Pynchon. Not a better author but just more on point with what he wants to do. He is not writing mystery novels about crimes and murders but rather about the written word. He’s making us not love his characters but rather to love plot devices, word-play, and other literary necessaries that are often over looked.
Fforde is writing a book and nothing more than that.