A Certain Lack of Focus

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Affairs of the Eyre

eyreI finished reading The Eyre Affairby Jasper Fforde on the plane ride to Oregon (and let me tell you, that was annoying, I thought it would take me longer). Most of what I read isn't exactly literary, and in spite of extremely literary content, The Eyre Affair was no exception.

You see, the story is about a detective who specializes in literature crimes and a criminal who tries to take over the world (or something) by kidnapping Jane Eyre from the original manuscript, and therefor removing her from the Bronte story. It's very silly and fun, even an interesting concept, but it's not particularly deep or thought provoking.

Not that it needs to be, I'm not sure The Eyre Affair was quite my thing, but I can't deny that it was entertaining. I've always called Terry Pratchett TV for readers but even Pratchett, silly though it is, often touches deeper themes and makes you think if you're not careful. The Eyre Affair seems to be humor plain and simple. If you really wanted to argue that it was literature, I suppose you could claim it as a satire, but satire by definition attacks something, and I'd be hard pressed to say what The Eyre Affair could possibly be attacking.

detectiveI think the reason this wasn't my thing is more because of the weak story than it was because of the depth or lack thereof. Maybe I would have enjoyed the parody a bit more if I were into crime or detective stories, as it is I felt that even with a occasional side plots, (an estranged boyfriend, a kidnapped uncle, weird science) the crime chase wasn't gripping enough to keep me entirely engaged. Again, I don't really think it's intended to be, the story, along with the horrible puns (which are surprisingly inoffensive, I think because Fforde moves so quickly past them) and the ridiculous fantasy devices (a basketball used to plug up a hole which would cause a space-time divide) is meant as a light farce, not as a novel.

I'd read the second book, and the following ones, but it's not exactly next on my list. I think these are the sort of books I'll pick up when even my favorite children's books seem like a bit too much of a chore.

I did enjoy it, I got the occasional chuckle and had to appreciate some of the sillier ideas (true silliness inspires a certain respect). My favorite part about the book was the universe Fforde created, an earth where art and literature are less elevated to the point of being a part of popular culture. The main character is part of the literary division of the government/police because literature is so important that original manuscripts are frequently stolen (and people actually care!) and there are entire gangs and underground organizations dedicated to promoting various literary (and art) theories. shakespearePeople, people who aren't bored undergrads, engage in bar room arguments over literary techniques. There are machines outside grocery stores and airports, like the plastic egg machines, only instead of giving you a toy for a quarter they quote Shakespeare.

And I guess that's the greatest thing about this book. Who would have though, in today's TV society, anyone could get away with a silly light book about Jane Eyre?

*Pics are linked. You know.

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