Friday, August 9, 2013

How to Read Classics without Orphans or Undiscovered Uncles

Imagine a world where people actually cared about literature. A world where an entire government agency was created to protect literature.

In this world Baconians knock on doors and hand out pamphlets that explain why Sir Francis Bacon was the real author of Shakespeare's plays. And people could easily give evidence as to why he was not. For a few cents, one can watch puppets recite a scene from a Shakespeare play.

This is a world in which no one would ask, "What do you do with a B.A. in English?"

Maybe a few of us would like this kind of world--despite the cloning of extinct creatures like dodos and mammoths, and the overbearing corporation that pretty much runs everything. Well, maybe not.

But I, like most others who have whiled away the hours with Dickens, Melville, and the Brontes, would like a little more credit for the power of literature. Except we don't actually want to keep reading classics over and over. And really, we might not want to read Bleak House or The Mill on the Floss. Man, life is too complicated now to get bogged down in all of that misfortune and infidelity.

Thank you, Jasper Fforde, for coming along with a quirky alternate 1985 and giving us Thursday Next of England's Special Operations Literatech Division.

The series starts with Thursday Next jumping into the original manuscript of Jane Eyre to stop a supervillain from murdering Jane and destroying the book forever. Instead, Thursday manages to change the ending of the book (from the bland ending in which Jane joins St. John in India), and facilitates the destruction of Thornfield Hall, the blinding of Edward Rochester, and the dramatic death of Bertha Rochester.

Oh, the great Gothic romance has never been greater than Jane Eyre.

We later spend time with Miss Havisham in during Thursday Next's Jurisfiction training, hang out with Hamlet, get to know Miss Tiggywinkle, and listen to Beatrice and Benedick bicker in high Tudor English.

I am on book five of seven, which is Thursday Next: First Among Sequels. Confusing, I know.

If anyone is interested in reading about classics, but not reading classics, or reading about writing, but not actually writing, then I recommend Thursday Next. Since it took me a while to figure out the order of the books, I will list them for you here:

The Eyre Affair
Lost in a Good Book
The Well of Lost Plots
Something Rotten
Thursday Next: First Among Sequels
One of Our Thursdays Is Missing
The Woman Who Died a Lot

Now, I need to go back to the world where earning advanced degrees in English literature means grading punctuation worksheets and giving advice on MLA format.