Thursday, April 24, 2014

Eyre affair

I am perched in a window, four floors up. I am not at work or at leisure. I am in the in-between world for an indefinite amount of time, living on sunflower seeds and handwritten blog posts.

I knew I was coming to this nether world so I brought the most comfortable book I could think of, The Eyre Affair. I've only read it eleven or twelve times. There's life in it yet, tiny, overlooked details to spot from out my long acquaintance, the joy of watching its vast underworkings, the beautiful rhythm of the familiar ride.

Some books sweep me away on a wave of tone and leave me infected with a fever of voice, a strange music cadence, a flooding sense. I love the delirium of these books and how it feels like their very language is seeping for days into every sentence I touch. But I perhaps love even more the kind of book Jasper Fforde so perfectly expresses: a magnificence of plot and character and a relentless sense that our world is being commented on, teased, and explained within. All of it is sewn so neatly together that strain as I might to spot the tiny perfect stitches I end up bewildered. This makes me think of my favorite paintings, where one can peer into the cream of brushwork or the blots of marks and color, down where it is all paint, and then step back and it is a world, an arm, a tree, and it seems hopeless to fathom how it was done. You go from one view to the other and cannot spot any trick or plan.

To my regret The Eyre Affair and its sequels and attendants will not be getting withing spitting distance of Canon. I can see how and why that is just from the enthusiastic quotes plastered across its paperback edition covers. All the giant East Coast Media is there singing its praises; the New York Times, their Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, the papers that we carry at my library even though they are from way out of town. It's like these reviewers know they've got something special, but they're not entirely sure what to do with it. So they hit the comparing sauce, and they hit it hard. Just the front and back covers gets The Eyre Affair compared to:

Monty Python
Harry Potter (Twice)
Stephen Hawking
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Bridget Jones
Nancy Drew
Dirty Harry
The Hitchhiker's Guide series
Lewis Carroll
Woody Allen

This all may seem like an illustrative shorthand. And clearly it must be fine stuff for cover marketing. But at heart, what they're really doing is passing the buck. 

The Cowards.

Here is my back of the book quote:

I have never seen anything like this book anywhere, and yet every last piece of it feels like an improvement on something I have loved in the past.


  1. Thank God! Someone who feels like I do about Fforde and The Eyre Affair! As a library minion, I have been handselling this series whenever I can, keeping in mind that this isn't for everyone. Oh, if only it were! That would probably play havoc with the stupidity surplus, but I'd be willing to risk it.

    Thanks again for the post. I guess I'll have to go through the series one more time!

    1. Oh! I like your advanced Ffordian reference (stupidity surplus!).

      I find that I do okay with recommending Eyre Affair but that everyone always seems to rage quit his books on the second or third in the series. Honestly, this baffles me completely.


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