Saturday, January 18, 2014

Lost in a good book

('Lost in  a Good Book' is the first Jasper Fforde novel I read; I bought it at Atlanta airport judged purely by the name and the cover, choice hastened by limited time, my impending flight, and nothing to read.  It's actually the second book in the Thursday Next series, and I'd highly recommend all of them to anyone who likes to push the limits of their imagination; but my Mum probably wouldn't because they gave her horrifying nightmares (although she still read on...). I am catching up on the series - reading book number 6 at the moment, and reminding myself how much I love these books and can get completely lost in them. We both saw Jasper Fforde speak at Bookfest in August 2011, in Edinburgh, and he was as engaging and entertaining in person as his books are to read.)

After writing about our natural ability to balance and adapt our bodies' movements almost unconsciously, I really feel compelled to share a little excerpt from 'One of Our Thursdays is Missing', the book I am reading just now.

To set the scene: the series features 'BookWorld' where everything that has ever been written exists; and where all written and fictional characters live.  Just go with it - it's too wonderfully complex and imaginatively crafted to even attempt to explain in one sentence (I recommend reading the books for more detail!).  In this particular part of the book, one of the fictional characters is crossing over to the 'RealWorld' for the first time.  On arriving, she struggles to walk, (because gravity is not usually a detail written into books by authors):

     "'Why does my face feel all draggy?' I asked. 'The underneath of my arms, too, and my boobs -   everything feels all, well, weighted down.'
     'That'll be gravity,' said Square with a sigh.
     'We have gravity in the BookWorld,' I said.  ' It's not like this.'
     'No, we just talk as though gravity existed. There's a huge difference...'"
     (One of Our Thursdays is Missing, p198)

After mastering the art of walking, and balancing (which takes a few pages of hilarious description and observation), she has to master another challenge: crowds.

I can empathise with this.  In fact, I can empathise with this so much that I feel it would be a fair conclusion to reach if, after reading this book, I decide I am actually fictional.  Somehow, I have escaped from BookWorld (or been transferred by the Blue Fairy); had my memory erased (it happens); and now my body is trying to figure out how to exist in the RealWorld. (It's really not much crazier sounding than waking up from an anaesthetic and telling the nurse I came from Scotland to have surgery in Kentucky... she thought it was the medication talking; when she found out it was true she actually said, "wow, you really do live in Scotland." Yup. I bet she hears some funny stories though...)

Back to the book. The crowd lesson:

     "'...By using subtle sensory cues and working to a set of basic rules, you can enter a crowd all heading in different directions and come out the other side, without touching anyone or causing an accident.'
     'How?' I said, looking suspiciously at the swirling mass of humanity."
          (One of Our Thursdays is Missing, p203)

Personally, I think that only applies to some people - the bit about actually using the subtle cues... In fact, I can guarantee that some people (the swirling ones, maybe!) don't even pick up on less subtle cues - like the big, black, blatantly obvious sling-contraption I have attached to me frequently (my arm is not strapped in now, but if I am going to be out, or on my feet a lot, with the weight of my arm pulling on my nerves, the nerve specialist recommends a similar support with just the 'cushion'.  Since my sling collection is big enough, we adapted this one to do the same thing).  If I saw someone wearing this (or a cast, or with a walking stick, or in a wheelchair - whatever), I would carefully step around them/ make sure I was not in their way/ hold a door open/ realise they might be going slowly - at anything - for a reason!

But in my people-dodging experiences (my preferred term for crowds these days)... I have indeed been forced to sidestep, stop, or (when there is no other option) make some sort of "excuse me/ look out/ ahem"  -type noise as someone (always bigger... everyone's bigger...) comes hurtling towards me along the pavement, eyes down, usually looking at their phone.  I have even had to 'jump' (ouch!) out of the way to avoid being bumped (sorer ouch!).  Walking and texting is dangerous!  Imagine we were all doing it and just assuming other people would jump out the way! Everyone would just be walking along bumping into each other... 

How can you miss this??!!

And back to my favourite part of the story:

     "'The old "back and forth" happens a lot when real and fictional people meet,' said Square when I had returned to where he was waiting for me.  'If the Outlanders had any idea we were among them, it would be the surest way to tell...'"
               (One of Our Thursdays is Missing, p204)

Postcard of 'BookWorld', Jasper Fforde© & tea-bag-tag to fit

'A relaxed mind is a creative mind'


  1. This post is so true! I hate it when people don't pay attention and don't watch where they are going. I joke around that I should wrap neon yellow construction caution tape around me. It drives me nuts when people see the big bulky brace but they still won't hold a door open. If I saw someone in the brace I would hold the door for them.

    I also got a good laugh when you said the nurse thought the meds were "talking" when you said you came from Scotland for surgery. I had the same thing happen only it happened in the state I live in. I explained to my recovery nurse I had surgery in Kentucky and she kept telling me I'm not in Kentucky, I'm in Illinois. When my mom came back and validated everything the nurse was like oh, you really did have surgery in Kentucky.

    1. Yes! I have considered spraying the sling neon pink, someone else suggested I bedazzle it - don't even think it would make a difference.

      It took my mum to assure the nurse too, I suppose they must hear a lot of funny stories when people are disoriented though. I didn't know the nurse didn't believe me at the time, I guess she thought she was just humoring my silly story! I 'woke up' with the hiccups (severely painful jolt to consciousness), everything is pretty clear after that.