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Jasper Fforde "Reading": First Among Sequels

Yesterday evening, along with our friend S., Nomi and I attended the Jasper Fforde "reading" sponsored by Brookline Booksmith.

For those of you unfamiliar with Fforde's work, he's the writer of the Thursday Next novels. Thursday lives in a parallel world similar to ours, but one in which literary characters can come out of their books and interact with people in the real world. Thursday Next works for Jurisfiction, charged with protecting the characters and stories of the books.

And there's no way any summary can fully explain the humor that can be found within Fforde's books. You'll just have to take my word for it. (Or check out Jasper Fforde.com: My Potted Precis, wherein he posts one-paragraph descriptions of his books, along with blurbs that say things like "a wild rush of outrageous notions and silly jokes and leaves you feeling pleasantly tipsy.")

Nomi and I had been to the Fforde reading that took place at Booksmith three years ago (August 18, 2004), so we knew what to expect. Back then, the reading was held in the basement of the bookstore; this time, Booksmith had moved the reading to the Coolidge Corner Theatre, to accommodate all the fans who would be attending. Although the reading wasn't scheduled to start until 6 pm, Nomi and I got there at 5:15 pm and managed to be first on line. Within 15 minutes, the line stretched down the block.

The festivities began even before the reading. Booksmith had arranged for "the world's shortest parade" first. Basically, one lucky winner got to march with Jasper Fforde from the bookstore to the theatre across the street. (They even got to stop for coffee first.) The "parade," such as it was, got to the front of the theatre a little before 6 pm, and Nomi snapped this photo:

Brookline's Shortest Parade Brookline's Shortest Parade
Photo copyright ©2007 by Nomi S. Burstein.

Shortly afterwards, we took seats in the auditorium and the "reading" began.

One doesn't attend a Fforde reading to hear him read from his books. Fforde rarely gets to the book. Instead, he delivers an impromptu, hour-long monologue, filled with humorous stuff about the jokes in his books, how he came to write the books, why it took so long to get the books published, etc. Again, I wish I could capture the flavor of his humor here, but much of it comes from his delivery. (Also, I don't want to give away his jokes, since they are his to tell, after all.) But here's a few snapshots to give you an idea of how his talk goes. At one point, Fforde, who lives in Wales, invited us to attempt to pronounce Welsh with him:

Pronounce Welsh With Jasper! Pronounce Welsh With Jasper!
Photo copyright ©2007 by Nomi S. Burstein.

At another point, he waxed rhapsodic about the movie popcorn gag at the end of Blazing Saddles:

Jasper Explains About Popcorn Jasper Explains About Popcorn
Photo copyright ©2007 by Nomi S. Burstein.

I will try to share one example of his humor, to give you an idea of the rest. During his talk, he discussed the principles he follows when writing his novels. In the spirit of phrases like "a pride of lions" or "a parliament of rooks," and knowing how politicians stand on their principles, he refers to the list as a "lack of principles" (Principle number four is "The never-ending pursuit of a lame joke," and he explained how he will sometimes create pages of buildup in his plots just to get to that lame joke.)

After the talk ended, we all headed over to Booksmith for the signing. Nomi and I have been on these long lines before, and sometimes we've waited over an hour to get our books signed. Fforde kept the line moving briskly, and yet still managed to be warm toward his fans. When we got to the table, we showed him one of the books he had signed for us three years ago, and he cheerfully signed not only his new novel but the other hardcover copies of his books we had acquired over the past three years. We now have a complete set of all Jasper Fforde hardcovers autographed (US editions).

Jasper Signing Books Jasper Signing Books
Photo copyright ©2007 by Nomi S. Burstein.

After he signed our books, we asked him to pose for a photo; the caption is his comment on his pose.

This is my serious face. "This is my serious face."
Photo copyright ©2007 by Nomi S. Burstein.

For those of you in the Boston area who are reading this today, before 12:30 PM EDT, Fforde is doing one more local signing, at the Copley Square Borders. Take a long lunch and go hear him. I promise you'll be laughing all the while.


Sounds like it was a great event, something I would have enjoyed.

I read and loved The Eyre Affair, but found the next book a little too twee for my taste. Perhaps I ought to try it again....
If you decide to give Fforde another change (and do), try his Nursery Crime series.
I got the book on Monday, and am about halfway through it (I didn't start until yesterday; it's not that I suddenly started reading slowly), but I don't have time to go to readings. Ah well.

I'm amused that I found it at the New England Mobile Bookfair on Monday, actually, since the release date was supposedly Tuesday, but I was looking for something else and found those instead, just starting to be shelved.
Color me blind with envy.
I've never been to one of his signings, although I've sent my books to them with other people (including my in-laws) and thus have all of them signed, except for First Among Sequels (Chicago doesn't get as many book tours as you might think). Mine aren't hardcovers, though. They are ARCs.
Jeez, what a friend. You couldn't have told me that before he was in New York City, so I'd actually want to go? Grumble grumble.
Um, here's the link to my post of July 10th, in which I linked to Fforde's page of appearances. In that post, I said, "Nomi and I went to hear Fforde speak the last time he was at Brookline Booksmith, and he is a hilarious speaker. We plan to go hear him again at Booksmith. If anyone is interested in joining us, let us know."

So I did in fact tell everyone that he is a great speaker.


I wil take your apology in small, unmarked bills. :-)
Thank you so much for this post. I read it around 11 AM on Friday, thought "I could get there if I got going," called Nomi who kindly told me where to find the Borders, got out and arrived there only a few minutes after his talk had started, and thus I got to hear him, and had a wonderful time. Thank you again. :-)

December 2016

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