Thursday, May 20, 2010

"They keep an eye on...overtly free thespian interpretations"

I've decided I'm not clever enough to come up with my own witty titles, so I'll just take a quote out of whatever part of the book I'm in.

I have gone back and forth about what to write about. I realized I never write about the plot in these entries. And then I thought about a line in the play The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged about covering the plot of a play in a footnote and how academic papers gloss over the whole point of a book, the story, for the minutiae. Then I tried writing out the plot a few dif ways but I was getting bored with it. My original and at this point current point for this blog is to act as a book club or classroom and discuss the books assuming they've been read already. This way I can talk about certain moments within the story, which I think are more interesting. I figure if people comment there can be a dialogue about whatever part I wrote about or some other part or what have you. So instead of me writing out a plot summary, here's one from Wikipedia: The Eyre Affair plot.

I've been having trouble trying to decide what to write for this post. As I mentioned I tried a couple summaries but they just bored me. I tried finding a line or 2 I liked, but I couldn't find any I really wanted to talk about. I thought maybe I'd go over a character but it was hard for me to discuss them within this book and how far I've read, since I've read the whole series and know all the other times they pop up. I've written a few paragraphs and I keep deleting them because they aren't going anywhere. So I thought maybe I'd write about why I like this book so much and why I keep re-reading it.

It's on one level a crime drama. There's definitely a fascination with crime stories and most of the NYT Bestsellers fall into this category. Thursday is a veteran of the Crimean War, she was a police officer and now she's with special operations and she's looking for the person that stole a priceless manuscript, Martin Chuzzelwit.

On a different level, it's science fiction. This takes place in an alternate universe where re-egineered dodos are common enough that they're no longer on the endangered species list, there's an entire SpecOps group to police the timeline (SO-12 the ChronoGuard), Crimean War has been going on for over one hundred years and the main villain, Acheron Hades, "can lie in thought, deed, action and appearance" (27). Yet everyone is so blase about these things that it seems more realistic. Because the characters don't get caught up in how crazy things are, the reader doesn't. Even Hades is treated in this type of manner. He can make you turn your gun against yourself using what seems to be mind control, bullets flatten against him, he can project different appearances to disguise himself and while everyone knows he's unusual and dangerous, there is no questioning what he is or how he can do these things. There are those who are skeptical of his abilities but those who know them to be true don't question how he does it.

Then of course, the Prose Portal, which lets you enter any work of literature, and all of Mycroft's inventions are certainly at home in science fiction. But perhaps because of the focus of the book is a world where art is so important that it's hard to categorize the book as science fiction. It falls more comfortably, in my mind anyway, in Fantasy. I think it's the traveling into books that puts it there for me. There's no science that can be used to explain that (although I love the BookWorms). If not fantasy than definitely surrealism.

The book is also a satire, especially with the conglomerate Goliath. As described in the intro to chapter 7:

"...No one could argue that we owe a debt of gratitude to the Goliath Corporation. They helped us to rebuild after the Second War and it should not be forgotten. Of late, however, it seems as though the Goliath Corporation is falling far short of its promises of fairness and altruism. We are finding ourselves now in the unfortunate position of continuing to pay back a debt that has long since been paid -- with interest..." (71)

Goliath is a mega-corporation that has its hand in every piece of the government, including major interests in defense, which just like in our world, is big business. Goliath mimics 1984's Big Brother but because people aren't cowering in fear of Goliath it almost seems more real and more likely a scenario than other more forceful distopias like The Wanting Seed or Brave New World.

I guess what I like best about the book is the humor. There are references to all types of literature, lots of Shakespeare (which I obviously love), ridiculous character names like Jack Schitt and just the general tone of the book makes me laugh. A production of Richard III is treated like a showing of Rocky Horror with people yelling out lines and responses, and even getting in on the act. It's hard to capture the tone of the book in a few lines, since most of the jokes are spread out and the humor doesn't translate unless you've been reading. Here's an example of one of Mycroft's inventions: "In the early seventies he had developed an extraordinarily beautiful machine that did nothing more exciting than predict with staggering accuracy the number of pips in an unopened orange." (102) And of course I like the quote I used in the title.

Fforde, Jasper. The Eyre Affair. Penguin Group, New York. 2001