Dear Mr. Fforde,
Jane Eyre has been my favorite book since I was 10. I still have the battered copy on my shelf next to three or four newer editions that I reread or lend out. It was the first book that I had to push through in order to understand, the first book that challenged me like no school-assigned reading had, because it was dense and hard and the really juice capital-R Romantic stuff wasn’t until the second half. But push through it I did, and I fell in love with a place I wanted to dive into and inhabit. I wanted Thornfield and Moorhouse all around me. But nobody I knew seemed to feel exactly the same way. Nobody I knew read books and reacted like they were amusement parks they longed to visit.
Then my dad handed me The Eyre Affair when I was 14. At first I was deeply suspicious – all other Eyre-inspired books I’d tried had been nothing more than bad fanfic with a publisher’s stamp on it. The Eyre Affair was about an alternate reality where Shakespeare is a religion, Literary Detectives investigate forgeries and scientists invent ways to go inside books. Where the first person narrator reminds us that any time we fall into a book so deeply we think we can see the colors and smell the sea, it’s because of our imagination, not necessarily the writer. I was thoroughly enraptured. Where the main character actually meets Mr. Rochester, lives in Millcote, loves Jane Eyre so much she’s willing to change the ending to make our heroine happy. Full evidence that an author could be silly and clever and ingenious and erudite all at once. And on purpose.
But for the next 4 years I thought it was a one-off miracle. Passing through the WTF College library I saw Jasper Fforde’s name on a book called The Well of Lost Plots (book 3 of Thursday’s adventures, as it turned out) and scooped up immediately. And realized that clearly I’d missed something. What I’d missed was Lost in a Good Book, and what I was about to discover afterward was Something Rotten. Now Thursday was jumping in and out of the entire world that lives behind books – what you described as "Opening up a plate in the page and then *sproing* all these wires coming out, and that’s where you are."
I followed you to the Nursery Crime Division, which were brilliantly set up by Well of Lost Plots even though you actually wrote them in the years before Thursday hit it big. They’re funny, and sweet, and lighter fare than the Next adventures, which made me care fiercely about Thursday and her entire world. Well, both of her worlds.
When I had the opportunity to hear you speak at Partners in Crime (independent bookstore in the West Village, AMAZING selection of mysteries, great relationships with authors, etc) on Tuesday, I was thrilled. Arrived early, picked up your new novel, started reading the first 25 or so pages while we all waited for you to come out. I knew I loved it when I tried to summarize it for Gigantor in a text message – "Social hierarchy determined by who can see what level of color, young man attempts to investigate the wtf, anarchy ensues?" – based on the flap copy.
Then you came out. And you were utterly disarming. Charming, friendly, casual. You told a story about your hotel and a goldfish, and then launched into an explanation of the world behind Shades of Grey with such enthusiasm. You write books the way I read them – getting drawn to an idea and then throwing your whole weight behind it to see where it goes. It was a delight to hear you speak about this world, to ask you a question about how to visualize this world and have you know exactly what I meant and have an answer for me. Where other authors are cagey or humorless about "their craft" and what a serious, serious business writing is, you were able to say "Yeah, I just really liked that pun" or "It’s just really funny that Col. Bradshaw’s wife is a gorilla," and give good advice to writers in the audience. You fielded the 3Q questions with grace – and maybe it’s just Stockholm syndrome, but I thought even your nerdiest fans were better-spoken and better-read than the average book-signing attendee.
The one exception was a guy who was only there because his wife read the books. His wife was stuck standing in the back, he stood in the tiny aisle of the 5 rows of seats to hold forth like an ASS about what makes bookstores profitable, something unbearable about Avatar and James Cameron and other stupid as #$%@ areas of general interest to nobody. (I would not talk to Jasper Fforde about this guy – although he might find L’Institut 3Q fascinating and imminently identifiable. He definitely has a character or two in his books that is clearly a 3Q with book jumping abilities.
I would love to have you teach me writing. I would love to listen to you talk about your writing for longer. Thank you for creating works I can both enjoy and aspire to, and being funny and sharp and oh-so-British. Your books are important to me as a writer and a reader, as a fangirl and a literary enthusiast, and I have never closed a Fforde book without a sigh of satisfaction, a twinge of regret that it’s over, and an eager rush to start the next journey.
Thanks for being as generous and warm in person as your writerly voice is in text. Thanks for Thursday Next, Miss Havisham the revolutionary, Pickwick the Dodo and Stig the Neanderthal.
MKP, the one who asked what the bookstore would look like if we could only see red.