Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Darcy's Story

For anyone, who is as obsessed with P & P as I am - and I'm certain there are many - the most natural thing is to wonder, after you've read P & P, what was going on in Darcy's head. What's his side of the story? His point of view, his opinions? Jane Austen told us one of the greatest love stories (I'm going out on a limb here, but I dare you to refute me) through the heroine's eyes. While Elizabeth is a practical and generally sensible story teller, it might seem very biased. Just the story-telling part of it. And because I like Mr. Darcy more than I like Elizabeth, for all the obvious reasons, I've always wondered, from probably my second reading of the book over ten years ago, what exactly was he thinking?

This book, Darcy's Story by Janet Aylmer, came out soon after the BBC adaptation of the classic. There are way too many around, if you ask me, and very few live up to the expectation. Many try to mimic Miss Austen because there is no other way to tell the story; some come close, most fail miserably.
Aylmer, a pseudonym apparently, is an Austen enthusiast, and obviously loves P & P enough to write something from the point of view of one of the most marvelous men in the world of literature. But, that's all there is to it. I appreciate the attempt, I really do. I love that there is more about the brother-sister relationship, and that Georgiana is given a bit more character. I love the insight into Darcy's heart; the differences in his perception of his interactions with Lizzie. I love it all. But it cannot compare to a lot of things that one takes away from the original.
Like, Darcy being a bit shy. He's reserved, perhaps, but he does speak his mind. He doesn't hesitate too much.

I think what did it for me with this book was that it borrowed heavily from the original. The lines used by Elizabeth are repeated in italics throughout the book, and though I understand the intention of it, I fail to see its significance because the only people reading this book would be P & P fanatics. No one else would understand it.

It was a fun read. Definitely one of the better companion novels because it does not stray too far off from the story, or give the characters too much of their own lives. I say this keeping in mind that I've read a lot of novels which would've made Miss Austen wish she'd never created her characters! I'd recommend it as a fun and quick read for a Darcy fan.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Thursday Next

A bookworm's treat! That's one of the best compliments I can give to any book, and this series of novels by Jasper Fforde deserves the title like no other in the postmodern literature movement!

A very literary inclined friend of mine suggested that I read this series. Or at least the first book, The Eyre Affair. She insisted that for someone who has grown up with English literature as the backbone for her love of books, this would definitely provide for interesting reading! And how right she was!

The protagonist, Thursday Next, is an agent with the Literary Division of SpecOps, daughter of Wednesday and Colonel Next, niece to Mycroft and Polly Next, one an inventor and the other a brilliant mathematician. They live in a world, an alternate (and republic) England, with George Fromby is President, where literature is taken seriously. So seriously that people are named, or change their names, to their favorite authors, and have to be tattooed with an identification number; like Milton 113, Milton 928, etc. Rallies and protests in favor of, or against, literary beliefs are rampant - especially those concerning the true authorship of Shakespearean plays, thefts of manuscripts, and mannequins of Shakespearean characters that will recite famous lines when payed.
It is also a rather technology savvy alternate universe, with extinct species brought back to life by genetic re-engineering - dodos, that are kept as pets - Pickwick, mammoths - that migrate through cities, Neanderthals - that are their own little community - are some; ducks, however are an unknown species, GraviTubes providing the fastest modes of transport between continents, time traveling ChronoGuards - who maintain the SHE, Standard History Eventline, and 'police the time stream against any unauthorized changes or usage'.
In this alternate universe, the Crimean War is still being waged in 1985, the time when the series begins, Russia still has a Czar, Wales is a Socialist Republic, the Goliath Corporation is the all powerful shadow government that seems to run everything, and Global Standard Deity is a religion.

[CAUTION: Spoiler alert - if you click on the links!!! I'm not giving away any part of the main story in my writing.]
This fantastically written series takes you through literature with a generally wonderful heap of satire, fantasy, intellect, romance and thrill. Jane Eyre ends the way it does only because Thursday enters the book to find and subsequently kill her archenemy Acheron Hades at Thornfield Hall by burning it down accidentally and calling out to Jane to return to Rochester, whom Thursday had met as a little child startling his horse and causing his injury when he first meets Jane. An accident in the book world causes Uriah Heep to be the obsequious insincere person he is in Dickens' book, and Mycroft, Thursday's brother, manages to insert himself into the Sherlock Holmes narrative and become Sherlock's brother.

Thursday's adventures/investigations take place in the real world and in the book world, into which she is inducted given her booking entering abilities. She is aided by people from the real world, her husband Landen Parke-LaineGranny Next, who cannot die until she has read the 10 most boring classics ever, her eccentric father, her partner Bowden Cable and boss, Victor Analogy, her son, Friday Next, who as a child spoke in Lorem Ipsum having been born in the BookWorld, and even her own personal stalker, Millon de Floss! There're other characters, like Spike Stoker - lone supernatural hunter, Stiggins - a Neanderthal, who make the odd appearance, mostly for the good.
Thursday eventually gets inducted into Jurisfiction, the Book World's internal judicial system and is mentored by the crazy car driving Miss Havisham. Her colleagues include adventurer Commander Bradshaw, who has a gorilla for a wife, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, who mentors a ruthless lord of the galaxy Emperor Zhark and the Cheshire Cat, now known as Unitary Authority of Warrington Cat.
As Thursday battles with misunderstandings in the real world, the politics and such, including dealing with  the recurring antagonist Aornis Hades, she brings in as much of her investigative skills into the Book World, thought to have been created by the Great Panjandrum, which operates under the Council of Genres, though the BookWorld's problems include freeing books from Grammasites and Bookworms, ensuring the Text Sea is amply supplied with words, catching page runners - like the Minotaur operating under the name of Norman Johnson, where communication is through Footnoterphones and certain genres are considered outcasts and others situated in more friendly areas of the BookWorld. Here's a very cool Map of the BookWorld, which makes sense in so many ways.

Jasper Fforde's writing makes sense to anyone with a background in British literature. He derives from the classics and modern novels, so it's quite a fun read! Of the two series that exist, the first being made up of The Eyre Affair, Lost in A Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots and Something Rotten and the second First Among Sequels and One of Our Thursdays Is Missing, I guess I like the first series more because of the building of characters, but the whole set is entertaining enough to hold your attention while you read through it and beyond. There is a good amount of drama and humor, some of which you might miss if you don't get the references. The very fact that I have remembered most of the above of the top of my head having read these books over four months ago attests to its impression on me. It is good writing and fantastic story telling. How I wish it were all true!!