September in the Reader's Den: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde - Wrap-up and Reading List
Welcome back to the Reader's Den for the final post in our discussion of The Eyre Affair by Japer Fforde. Did you enjoy this literary silliness? As mentioned in the earlier posts, this is the first novel in the Thursday Next series.
In The Eyre Affair, we see LiteraTec Thursday return a kidnapped Jane Eyre to her novel (the "original" version in which she doesn't marry Rochester) and, through mishap and intent, alter the ending of the book, leading to that long desired conclusion, "Reader, I married him." As the Thursday Next series proceeds, transit continues across the borders between the real and fictional worlds, and Thursday's meta-fictional adventures really take off when she becomes a jurisfiction agent in training under the guidance of a drag racing, sneaker shod Miss Havisham in the second novel in the series, Lost in a Good Book.
Meet the Author! The seventh Thursday Next novel, The Woman Who Died a Lot will be available in the U.S. on Tuesday, October 2nd, and Jasper Fforde will be appearing at Barnes & Noble on Broadway and 82nd Street to read from and sign copies of the book.
Suggestions for Further Reading:
Following The Eyre Affair, the Thursday Next series continues with:
- Lost in a Good Book
- The Well of Lost Plots
- Something Rotten
- First Among Sequels
- One of our Thursdays is Missing
- The Woman Who Died a Lot
If you appreciated the goofy satirical tone and inventiveness of The Eyre Affair, you might enjoy these other comic fantasy series:
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams. As the guide advises, "Don't panic!" You can borrow the books (a "trilogy in five parts"), audiobooks and recordings of the original BBC radio plays from which the novels were adapted. Downloadable eBooks and audiobooks are also available.
The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. It's not really necessary to start with the first book, The Color of Magic. You can drop into Discworld at any point with books and eBooks. You'll find many references to mythology and folklore in this series and some to Shakespeare as in The Eyre Affair.
If you enjoy encountering fictional characters who have left their familiar sphere, these are a few fantasy authors to try:
In Bill Willingham's Fables series, familiar characters from folklore and fairytales, exiled from their homelands, are hiding out in modern day New York, trying to stay clear of its "mundys' or mundane inhabitants. These graphic novels will show you another side of your favorite childhood friends. The series begins with Fables: Legends in Exile. The spin-off series Jack of Fables has Jack running into the Literals, who could mean extinction for any fictional folks.
Neil Gaiman frequently places figures from mythology and folklore into contemporary narratives, as in The Anansi Boys, the epic American Gods and the Sandman graphic novels, creating richly layered and evocative stories. In Sandman we meet Morpheus or Dream and his siblings Death, Destiny, Desire, Destruction, Despair and Delirium along with other nightmarish characters. There is humor in these stories as well, but they are much darker than the fantasy of The Eyre Affair or The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or Fables.
Dark humor can also be found in Gregory Maguire's versions of popular tales. He has revisted L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz, telling the full story of the Wicked Witch of the West and her descendants in Wicked, Son of a Witch, A Lion Among Men and Out of Oz. He has also given us new twists on Cinderella in Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and on Snow White in Mirror, Mirror.
The Classics: The inhabitants of the parallel England depicted in The Eyre Affair are fanatically devoted to literature, and the book is full of references to classic authors, particularly Shakespeare, Dickens, and, of course, Charlotte Brontë.
The character Jane Eyre may not have a frequently used adjective like oedipal or quixotic derived from her name, but she is ranked #61 in The Fictional 100: Ranking the Most Influential Characters in World Literature and Legend, making her an excellent target for meta-literary loopiness. If you are in now in the mood to read or reread Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, published in 1847, you can borrow a print copy or an audiobook or download an eBook or an eAudiobook (abridged) from NYPL.
A well-known novel written as a prequel to Jane Eyre is Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, which tells the story of Rochester's first wife from her perspective.
If you are interested in reading more about and inspired by the Brontës, see Robert Armitage’s post, The Passionate Brontës, which offers some excellent reading suggestions.
Acheron Hades's initial crime in The Eyre Affair is the theft of the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens. Hades expresses a dislike of the novel and also disparages Our Mutual Friend (which is rather a favorite of mine!) Miss Havisham from Great Expectations will figure prominently in future Thursday Next novels. 2012 is Charles Dickens's bicentennial. If you have an interest in Dickens, don't miss the Charles Dickens: A Key to Character exhibition and companion lecture series at the Stephen A. Schwarzman building. If you'd like to read more about the life and work of Charles Dickens, try one of the titles on our list, What a Life! Selected Biographies of Charles Dickens.
Shakespeare is pop culture in the alternate world of The Eyre Affair, with Will Speak machines playing recordings of the bard’s monologues for a coin, weekly performances of Richard III with audience participation and a copy of the complete works a required item in hotel rooms. Did you catch all the Shakespeare references? This webpage, Allusions to Shakespeare in The Eyre Affair may come in handy. If you enjoy reading fiction inspired by Shakespeare, try some of the novels on Ryan Donovan's Fiction Based on Shakespeare list.
And in case you have the urge to travel into a poem, here’s a link to “The Daffodils” by William Wordsworth, the poem in which Mycroft’s wife Polly becomes trapped when Hades steals the prose portal, and to "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe, where the evil Jack Schitt of the Goliath Corporation is imprisoned. "The Daffodils" is included in standard anthologies of English poetry, such as The Norton Anthology of Poetry, available to borrow from NYPL, and the 1904 edition of The Oxford Book of English Verse, which you can download for free through the Internet Archive.
The Eyre Affair appears on NYPL's New, Old and Retold list of novels for teens inspired by literary classics. There are many other clever and entertaining reads on the list, such as The Penelopiad, Margaret Atwood's bitingly hilarious version of Homer's Odyssey, told from the perspective of Penelope, not Odysseus, and John Gardner's Grendel, a retelling of the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf from the monster's point of view. The Sandman graphic novels are also included on this list. The Fables graphic novels appear on the New, Old and Retold, Part II list.
What reading would you recommend to someone who enjoyed The Eyre Affair? Please share your ideas with us in the comments form below.
Thank you for joining me in the Reader's Den this month! Please join us in October for a discussion of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.