Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sunday Salon: Reading Retrospective (July 2002), or the month in which I discovered Jasper Fforde

It's time for another reading retrospective, and a look back at what I was reading 7 years ago this month. A mixture of genres but the highlight of the month was definitely discovering the bizarre, wacky imagination of Jasper Fforde and spending some time in the world of Literary Detectives, pet dodo birds, and chasing down slippery fictional characters. I devoured both the first and second books in the series, back to back, but would have to wait for the following summer for the third book in the series to be published.

What I read in July 2002, with my brief comments at the time:

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
Classic. Found it a little long (due to my mood) but it was an interesting, detailed account of New York's high society at the turn of the century with all of its back-stabbing, and lost loves/hopes. 6/10

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
So much fun! What an imagination Fforde has! Clever and witty, with a great main character. 9/10

Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde
Brilliant!! Even wackier than The Eyre Affair, but just as witty & clever. I can't wait for next installment! 9.5/10

An Italian Affair by Laura Fraser
Travel lit. Enjoyed the descriptions of places I would love to visit, and the development of their relationship. The narrative voice "you" instead of "I" was a little annoying, but an easy, quick read. 6/10

The Bad Beginning (Book the First) by Lemony Snicket
Kidlit. Enjoyable, without the predictable happy ending typical of children's stories. Well-written, a good beginning to the series. 6.5/10

The Reptile Room (Book the Second) by Lemony Snicket
Kidlit. Continues the story of the Baudelaire children smoothly. Would prefer not to have the author's interjections but otherwise clever, wry humour. 7/10

The Umbrella Man and other stories by Roald Dahl
As often the case with short story collections, I liked some but not others. Some of the stories were clever and unexpected, but some of them were predictable, and (too?) simple. 6/10

I don't remember much of The Age of Innocence and should probably read it again someday. I was obviously not in the mood for a slower-paced classic at the time, as I spent the rest of the month reading fun, light books. I'd definitely like to read the Thursday Next series again and I think that might be a plan for next year when the sixth book in the series comes out.

Returning to 2009, I spent a few days this week in Riga, Latvia, trying to unravel the conspiracy and corruption that led to the murder of a colleague. The Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell was a great way to pass the time during my train commutes this past week. In fact I almost wished the journey home had taken just a little bit longer on Friday as I arrived at our station with just a few pages to go. So as soon as I got in the door I sat down on the sofa, ignored the cats vying for my attention, and finished it off.

Earlier in the week I also started Shakespeare Wrote for Money by Nick Hornby, which I've been dipping into here and there, reading a column or two at bedtime. I fully enjoyed the other two collections of his column for the Believer magazine and this one promises to be more of the same. Then this weekend I also started The Flight of Icarus by Raymond Queneau. Even though I've only read a few pages so far, I have high expectations. From the back cover:
In late-nineteenth-century Paris, the writer Hubert is shocked to discover that Icarus, the protagonist of the new novel he's working on, has vanished. Looking for him among the manuscripts of his rivals does not solve the mystery, so a detective is hired to find the runaway character, who is now in Montparnasse, where he learns to drink absinthe and is picked up by a friendly prostitute.
These hilarious adventures make Queneau's novel, presented in the form of a script and parodying various genres, one of the best literary jokes in modern literature.

Doesn't that sound great?

Coming up this week, a few new books to tell you about and a review of Best Intentions by Emily Listfield.

What are you reading? Anything fun?


  1. i haven't read any of jasper fforde's work but i've seen the eyre affair mentioned all over the place! i may have to give him a shot :)

    as for me, i'm curling up with henry miller's tropic of cancer and ninni holmqvist's the unit (a lot like ishiguro's never let me go conceptually).

    i hope you're having a relaxing sunday, nat!

  2. I've only read The Eyre Affair, but I just picked up Lost in a Good Book and can't wait to sink my teeth in. Do you usually read multiple authors in the same month or back to back? I tend to spread mine out, but only so I don't run out of material by that author!

  3. Glad you discovered Jasper Fforde (in my blog header, I am reading The Eyre Affair hee hee)!

    He gets better with every book!

  4. Great post -- it has been a few years since I read anything by Fforde. Not sure why I stopped, but you have convinced me to reread The Eyre Affair! I am looking forward to your review of Best Intentions. I reviewed this a few months ago and really enjoyed it. Have a great week.

  5. Okay, now that I've seen that Jasper Fforde cover all those Book Depository bookmarks suddenly make sense :P I've yet to discover him, but I bet the month I do will be a fun one.

    I tried to read Shakespeare Wrote for Money slowly, but no luck. You have more willpower than I do :P

  6. I adored The Eyre Affair. I can't believe I still haven't gotten around to reading the rest of the series.

    I read the first three Lemony Snicket books back to back, which I think was a mistake. They were so similar to one another. I thought they were fun, but I haven't really felt inclined to continue with the series.

    I've been wondering about Henning Mankell. It sounds like his books are must reads.

    I hope you have a great week, Nat!

  7. How great it would be to read Jasper Fforde for the first time again! I remember that I smiled constantly for days, the book was that amusing!

  8. Any month that yields a discovery like Jasper Fforde is a good one in my book. :) I discovered him in July of 2007, myself.

  9. I loved The Age of Innocence when I read it, but I do think you have to be in the right mood.

    Have fun with that Nick Hornby.

  10. This reminds me that I really must read more Fforde! I keep saying that and not actually doing so..

  11. I remember discovering Fford and being very taken with is books. They are just so much fun and a book lover's dream.

    I'm so glad you're reading Shakespeare Wrote For Money. I had so much fun reading Hornby's three essay collections earlier this year. Definitely a treat and I discovered some other great books because of him.

  12. Lena - Thanks! Jasper Fforde's books are a lot of fun. Definitely give The Eyre Affair a try sometime. :)

    gautami tripathy - I read a fair amount of serious stuff too, but it's nice to throw some fun stuff in the mix now and then.

    Trish - I usually spread them out too. It's only very occasionally that I'll read them back to back. I think in this case, since the 2nd book was already out I just couldn't wait! :P

    Sumthinblue - That's a great picture! I still haven't read First Among Sequels but have read the rest, and they are all pretty fun!

    Jess - The more I think about it, I think I'm definitely going to re-read the series next year.

    Nymeth - LOL. I got one of the car bookmarks in my recent order. :P
    As for Shakespeare Wrote for Money, I think it helps that I've been pretty tired when I go to bed so can't manage much at a time before my eyes start shutting on their own accord. Besides, I know it's the last one so I'm enjoying savouring it.

    Wendy - Such a fun book, and series! And I agree about the Lemony Snicket books. I think I read up to the 4th one or so, but the repetitiveness made me kind of lose interest. I actually have several of the books though so should try to read them all someday.

    mariel - It won't be quite like reading them for the first time but hopefully since it's been so long, re-reading them will be just as fun. He really does have such a great imagination!

    Memory - True. Any month with a Jasper Fforde book is a pretty good one. :)

    Nancy - I find that I do have to be in the right mood, especially for classics. I've mostly forgotten it now so I really should try to read The Age of Innocence again sometime.

    Kailana - It's easy to do with so many other books to tempt us!

    Carl - I'm thoroughly enjoying Shakespeare Wrote for Money but sad too that it's the last one.


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