Jasper Fforde is the author of four previous Thursday Next novels: The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, and Something Rotten. He is also the author of the Nursery Crimes Series, featuring Big Over Easy and Fourth Bear. All of Jasper Fforde's books are available from Penguin. He lives in Wales.
Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).
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Fforde's first novel, The Eyre Affair, received 76 rejection letters before it was published.
Fforde tells us in our interview that he got the idea for Pickwick, Thursday's pet dodo, from a visit to the Oxford Natural History Museum. "There was a stuffed dodo there and a withered foot and beak -- the only physical evidence aside from bones that they were ever alive at all," Fforde recalls. "I wandered for a bit and then asked the woman at the museum shop if I could buy a dodo home-cloning kit. She told me to come back in 20 years. That weekend, I wrote in Pickwick."
Fforde continued to reveal another fun fact: "The name of Thursday's husband, Landen Parke-Laine, comes from what happens if you are playing Monopoly and land on the first of the blue set -- a U.S. translation might be 'Landen Boarde-Walke.' Hence, his parents' names, mentioned in Lost in a Good Book, are 'Houson Parke-Laine' and 'Billden Parke-Laine.' "
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In the spring of 2003, Jasper Fforde answered some of our questions.
What was the book that most influenced your life -- and why?
Probably Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, as it was the first book I remember picking up to read of my own volition, aged perhaps eight or nine. The Cheshire Cat's nonsequitous behavior, the Duchess, the "off with his head!" Queen of Hearts, and croquet with flamingos and hedgehogs are as familiar to me as my own backyard. I think the mix of highbrow and nonsense greatly appealed to me; Lewis Carroll was an extremely intelligent man yet could make humorous connections in his writings that are as fresh, full of genuine charm and as delightful now as they were in the late 19th century. I still have that very same copy of Alice in my library today.
What are your ten favorite books -- and why?
Always a tricky one, this. Ten excellent books that I can read again and again (in no particular order):
Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll -- Nonsense of the highest order, yet to be surpassed; extraordinary invention on many levels. Read it as a child and later as an adult -- you'll get different things from it. Special Mention: The Jabberwock wearing spats and a tunic in John Tenniel's excellent illustration.
Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome -- A book that I still laugh out loud whilst reading. Fresh and joyous self-deprecating humor of lazy Victorian gentleman going for a cruise on the Thames in the late 19th century. I challenge anyone to read the "Taking Two Cheeses by Train" story without smirking. Special Mention: Montmorency the dog, cooking with a spirit stove and trying to open a tin.
Diary of a Nobody by Bert and Weedon Grossmith -- Again, a book of infinite charm written over 100 years ago but still relevant to us today. Follow Charles Pooter, a middle-class clerk as he attempts social climbing, dealing with his dissolute son Lupin and all the "fads" of the time, with highly amusing consequences. Special Mention: the Pooter's odd friends, Cumming and Gowing, parlor games, the bootscraper incident, and the Mansion House Ball spelling mistake.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut -- A bizarre and surreal story that spans time-travel, the bombing of Dresden, and conventions of optometrists with a style, pace, and verve that is extraordinary. Special Mention: the Tralfamadorian's centipede view of the life cycle of a human.
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller -- Much has been written about this book, and it is all true. One of the finest books of the 20th century, if not the finest. Especially notable for the way in which the narrative unfolds as we go from character to character. The section where Milo Minderbinder explains to Yossarian how he can sell eggs cheaper than he bought them for and still make a profit is quite simply a delight. Special Mention: the catch itself. It's the best there is.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee -- Made a great impression on me when I first read it aged 12 and still makes me angry and frustrated after the verdict -- you can feel the heat in the courtroom! Special Mention: the truth about Boo Radley.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry -- Allegorical children's book that continues to enthrall and delight. Oddly, Saint-Exupéry wrote and illustrated this on a whim; the rest of his writing is good, but does not reach the heights of Prince. Perhaps because he wasn't trying and the door opened to his heart. Special Mention: the rose, the fox, and the baobab trees. I never looked at one the same way ever again.
Summer Lightning by P. G. Wodehouse -- I mention this one book although I dearly love all of Wodehouse's writing. Summer Lightning is probably the most indicative of his work. A story set at Blandings Castle in Shropshire In the '20s, it has all the Wodehouse elements: Forbidden love trysts in the rose garden, idiot sons, fearful aunts, damaging unpublished memoirs, theft, intrigue, pretty dancers, and an impostor –- there is always at least one at Castle Blandings. Special Mention: Empress Blandings, winner of the Shropshire Fat Pig Competition...Lord Emsworth hopes.
Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh -- Again, I mention this book, but his others are equally good, Scoop being my next favorite. Decline and Fall has an episodic quality that I enjoy immensely and snaps along with a dry humor to die for. Special Mention: Captain Grimes and Margot Beste-Chetwynde -- comic creations with depth and humor.
The Calculus Affair by Herge George Remi -- I'm a longtime Tintin fan, and he remains a big inspiration for storytelling. The Calculus Affair is one of the later books and probably the best. By this time Herge's illustrations, characterization, and humor was never better. The story about secret inventions and kidnappings by foreign powers just snaps along at a breakneck speed. Tank, helicopter, and car chases -- this book is like a movie on paper! Special Mention: The locations drawn in the book are for real. You can visit them.
Again, in no particular order:
The Third Man -- Orson Welles, murder, mystery, and zinger lines in postwar Vienna.
2001: A Space Odyssey -- Kubrick's Arthur C. Clarke story. An overlong yet strangely compelling space saga.
Harvey -- Hapless drunk James Stewart adventures with 6'3" rabbit/pooka.
Always -- Firefighting love story with Catalinas, Audrey Hepburn, and Holly Hunter by Steven Spielberg.
Some Like It Hot --The situation comedy par excellence from Billy Wilder.
Sunset Boulevard -- Cock a snook at Hollywood with style, verve, and the best line in movies: "I am still big. It's the pictures that got smaller!" -- Billy Wilder
Chinatown -- Roman Polanski's film of a script by Robert Towne that is probably the finest ever written. Houston, Nicholson, and Dunaway have never been better.
Raiders of the Lost Ark -- High-quality action-adventure from Steven Spielberg that brings forth gasps and laughs with equal intensity.
The Man with Two Brains -- A comedy with a wonderfully ludicrous plot concerning a brain surgeon and a serial killer who turns out to be Merv Griffin. Fantastic deadpan buffoonery from Steve Martin.
The Sting -- Redford/Newman paired once again. Amusing, surprising, and atmospheric. Scott Joplin would have been proud.
Strictly Ballroom -- Simply told yet delightful ballroom comedy from Baz Lurhmann.
Blood Simple -- "Dead in the heart of Texas." Thriller from the Coens with more twists and turns than a switchback.
The Outlaw Josey Wales -- Phil Kaufman the unsung hero of this postCivil War epic from Clint Eastwood.
Shakespeare in Love -- Delightfully full of acting and Shakespearean in-jokes and more talent in cast and crew than you can shake a stick at.
Toy Story -- Fun and hijinxs on the bedroom floor from Pixar. Lots about friendship and fitting in -- and just great fun. Apparently, Woody now does voice-overs for Tom Hanks.
Richard III -- Olivier hamming it up with a hideous false nose but immensely enjoyable nonetheless. And Gielgud as Clarence, too! Richard III made funny -- only Olivier can do this!
Laurence of Arabia -- David Lean could not have brought T. E. Lawrence's story to the screen any better. Peter O'Toole is stupendous -- deserves the honorary Oscar like no other!
The Name of the Rose -- Umberto Eco's homage to Sherlock Holmes brought to the screen. Murder and mayhem in 13th-century Italy. Get 007 on the case....
I have a very varied taste in music. Everything from rap to classical to Latino to Rat Pack to jazz. I'm very fond of Vivaldi, much like Miss Havisham, and Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Pachelbel. Curiously, I also have an inexplicable soft spot for '70s music: Diana Ross, Blondie, ELO, SuperTramp, BeeGees -- you name it.
What are your favorite books to give -- and get -- as gifts?
Favorite books to get are usually reference books, as I do like facts. To give -- my own ones. Is that pompous? I expect it is.
What are you working on now?
The fourth book in the Thursday Next series.
What else to you want your readers to know?
Likes: My partner, my children, bread-and-butter pudding, fresh bread, travel, movies, sculpture, books, airplanes, dogs, and wide-open spaces.
Dislikes: Instant coffee, whelks, okra, marzipan, pompous people, traffic jams, Daphne Farquitt novels.
Interests: Stuff. Anything that we humans get up to. Art, history, archaeology, architecture.
Comedy, invention, satire. Broad interests!
Hobbies: Aviation -- big one, this. I have a pilot's license and fly whenever I can, the flying wires of my 1937 Tiger Moth singing a delicate symphony in the slipstream above the hills and valleys of Wales....
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