Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Next Best

I recently went back to the beginning of Jasper Fforde's smart, witty and laugh-out-loud funny fantasy series featuring intrepid literary detective Thursday Next, who toils to keep great books safe from those out to destroy them (trust me, it makes sense when you read the books), for an interview with the author.

Aside from its fearless, female protagonist, what I love most about this series (which presently totals five books, The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, Something Rotten and Thursday Next: First Among Sequels) is that it celebrates a world in which books are so central to life that kids trade cards featuring authors and fictional characters instead of sports heroes, and zealots go door to door not to preach religion but to try to persuade folks that Francis Bacon actually wrote Shakespeare's plays.

In fact, one of my favorite passages from the book I recently finished, Eyre Affair, involves crimes against Shakespeare:

"He opened the door a crack to reveal two officers in shirtsleeves who were interviewing a man dressed in tights and an embroidered jacket. ...

'Malin and Sole look after all crimes regarding Shakespeare. ... They keep an eye on forgery, illegal dealing and overly free thespian interpretations. The actor in with them was Graham Huxtable. He was putting on a felonious one-man performance of Twelfth Night. Persistent offender. He'll be fined and bound over. His Malvolio is truly frightful.' "

I realize that as a theater journalist I probably should be more supportive of innovative and unique interpretations of the Bard, but having sat through some truly awful and uninspired Shakespearean productions, sometimes I can't help wishing that "overly free thespian interpretations" were an arrestable crime.

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