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One of Our Thursdays Is Missing
Jasper Fforde
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INTRODUCTION

“This way to the denouement” (p. 30).

In her heart, Thursday Next accepted the truth: her series had become a bore. Of course, it wasn’t written Thursday’s fault. After “violent and gratuitous-sex Thursday” (p. 33) ran riot, real Thursday stepped in to replace her with someone “softer and kinder” (p. 31). ReadRates plummeted. But just as she’s feeling comfortably settled, written Thursday is drawn into a whirlpool of duplicity and pungent foreshadowing that threatens to shake the BookWorld to its very core.

Written Thursday was never interested in politics. Even after the Great Library BookWorld was remade according to a geographic model, her focus has remained on the workaday business of a “first-person protagonist . . . [in] a sixty-eight-setting five-book series at the speculative end of Fantasy” (p. 1).

It’s a tough job and managing the novels’ recalcitrant cast of characters keeps written Thursday far too busy for a rendezvous at the Inn Uendo with her Designated Love Interest, Whitby Jett. So she’s more than a little surprised when Commander Red Herring, “overall leader of the BookWorld Policing Agency” (p. 23), summons her to meet him in Conspiracy.

Her inherently suspicious journey takes a more sinister turn when she’s given cryptic warnings by a red-haired gentleman from Crime, has the first of many encounters with the ruthless Men in Plaid, and uncharacteristically confronts an angry mob of Conspiracy theorists.

When she at last meets with Herring, written Thursday-accompanied by her new butler, Sprockett-is tasked with investigating the crash of an unknown book for the Jurisfiction Accident Investigation Division (JAID). Since she botched her only other JAID investigation, written Thursday knows she’s been selected for a reason and vows “not [to] impugn my lack of competence by being irresponsibly accurate” (p. 110).

Yet, Sprockett uncovers more about the crash than written Thursday wants to know. Whatever-or whoever-brought down The Murders on the Hareng Rouge and scrubbed its ISBN went to great lengths to make it to look like an accident.

Moreover, written Thursday has a few secrets of her own: she is hopelessly in love with Landon, real Thursday’s very real husband in the Outland-and she knows that real Thursday is missing. Thus burdened, written Thursday travels to Jurisfiction Headquarters to file her report.

Once there, she learns the broader implications of her heroic namesake’s disappearance. Two neighboring genres, Racy Novel and Women’s Fiction, are threatening hostilities, and real Thursday is scheduled to negotiate the upcoming peace talks.

With real Thursday in jeopardy and war looming, written Thursday recalls the red-haired gentleman’s now meaningful words: “On occasion, people of talent are kept in reserve at times of crisis” (p. 41). But can she transcend her identity as “the dopey one who likes to hug a lot” (p. 49) in time to avert disaster?

Dazzlingly inventive and irresistibly funny, One of Our Thursdays Is Missing is another madcap excursion through Jasper Fforde’s beloved BookWorld and the unparalleled imagination of one of the most gifted humorists of our times.


ABOUT JASPER FFORDE

Jasper Fforde

Jasper Fforde is the author of five previous Thursday Next novels: The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, Something Rotten, and First Among Sequels. He is also the author of the novel Shades of Grey, as well as the Nursery Crime series, featuring Detective Jack Spratt, which includes The Big Over Easy and The Fourth Bear. He lives in Wales with his wife and four daughters.



A CONVERSATION WITH JASPER FFORDE

Q. “In years past, each book was carefully crafted to an infinitely fine degree, but that was in the days of limited reader sophistication. Today, with the plethora of experience through increased media exposure, most books are finished by the readers themselves” (p. 32). Is this a sentiment that you yourself espouse?

To a certain degree, I think this is true-many notions in my books have perhaps one foot based in Fforde’s musings. If I set a book in the plains of Mongolia and wrote it thirty years ago, some explanation and detailed description might be necessary. Today, I think I could get away with a lot less. Mention “Mongolian Plains” to many people these days, and yurts, horsemen, lined faces, and arid treeless desolation would probably pop into the mind. It’s a help in some ways, and a hindrance in others, as these pre-wrapped vignettes are often based on only a few shared sources. To get away from them, or bring variance into a setting, the unlearning and then relearning might be too difficult to do well, if at all.

Q. Do you have an e-reader? If so, how-if at all-has it changed your reading experience? If not, why not?

I have a Kindle, and although I’ve downloaded a few books onto it, I have not used it in anger. But I can see that these devices are here to stay, and I will try and accommodate this new textual device somewhere into my writing-just not sure where.

Q. How much input do you have on the book’s illustrations? Do you tell the illustrators exactly which scenes you want depicted?

Illustrators have three separate skill sets. To be able to draw, to be able to draw to brief, and to be able to complete on a deadline. Dylan Meconis and Bill Mudron who do my illustrations can do all of these. I send them a detailed letter explaining what I want, with reference pictures if required, and they come back with sketches of their ideas. This goes back and forth a bit until we have what we want, and they do the

final work. The great thing with these guys is that they always bring something more to the show-some detail that I hadn’t thought of. They’re fast, too. Oddly enough, Bill and Dylan were at a signing session of mine when they handed me some fan art. I was impressed, asked them for their e-mail-and they’ve been doing my illustrations ever since.

Q. Your depiction of goblins is bound to receive negative backlash from Goblin rights activists. Are you concerned?

Not at all. Nasty little creatures with poor hygiene and disgusting personal habits. Don’t shake hands with one-they rarely use toilet paper. Besides, to complain they’d have to first learn to read or actually care what we think of them-neither of which they want to do.

Q. Does your love of wordplay and-in One of Our Thursdays Is Missing-liberal use of malapropisms make your books a copy editor’s nightmare?

Frequently. Wasn’t sure about the Malaprop stuff, to be honest, but Thursday’s housekeeper was simply another Mrs. Danvers and she was switched out at short notice.

Q. Which Thursday is-thus far-your favorite?

I’ve always liked the “mildly confused” Thursday who needs her hand held, like in Lost in a Good Book when she finds about the BookWorld. I think that’s the reason I liked the Written Thursday in Oootim; it made her softer, and more prone to error and self-doubt. The real Thursday would have been able to find herself in a flash; the Written Thursday has her own demons and failings to confront.

Q. “Although I had not personally supposed that Thursday might battle the Daleks with Dr. Who in a literary landscape, in here it was very much business as usual” (p. 295). Is there Thursday Next fan fiction? If so, has such a match actually been written about?

There IS Thursday Next fan fiction, and the notion that fan fiction is not so much about mindless copying but a celebration is pretty much how I feel about it. I used to feel negative toward fan fiction, but only because I didn’t understand it. All creative endeavors, irrespective of content, is good. People can write what they want and no one should ever say they shouldn’t. Copyright issues are another thing, naturally-there’s a reason the characters I purloin for my books are all in the public domain. And no, I don’t think the Daleks have ever battled in Austenland.

Q. Your plotlines are “of a complexity that would gather plaudits from even the most intractable of political thrillers” (p. 335). With parallel worlds and multiple versions of many characters, what do you do to keep track of all the threads?

I write a very complex and overlong notebook that outlines every character, incident, plot thread, and order of events. To this I add all the descriptions necessary, and even divide it into chapters. Sadly, by this time I have no time to write the book itself, so send off the notebook to my publishers who publish that instead. All my books are actually detailed outlines of much better books I didn’t have time to write. Sorry.

Q. You have often cruelly threatened concluding the Thursday Next series. Is One of Our Thursdays Is Missing, in fact, the end?

Untrue; I have never threatened to curtail the Thursday Next series-quite the opposite. Books about books I can write forever. Indeed, some of my books are now based on previous books that I have written-One of Our Thursdays Is Missing is one of them: It makes little sense without knowing my previous Thursday Next books. I’m currently working on Thursday Next 7: Dark Reading Matter, to be published September 2012. The Thursday Next world is a seriously broad canvas.

Q. Considering the vast strides that have been made in computer generated imagery, is there any chance that Thursday Next might make the leap to the big-or little-screen?

Pretty small, to be honest. I write books for people who like stories, and stories for people who like books. Films, for the most part, are made for undiscerning fifteen-year-olds who want to watch Vin Diesel kill people. I think the Thursday Next series should remain as she is meant to be, and what she is all about-in books. It can be our little secret. HOWEVER, I never say never. Six one-hour episodes for TV for each Thursday Next book-now there’s a possibility. Hmmmm . . .


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. Immediately after the BookWorld is remade, written Thursday observes “the Cliffs of Irrationality . . . slowly being eroded away, while on the opposite shore the Sands of Science were slowly reclaiming salt marsh from the sea” (p. 13). Does this shift accurately reflect what is happening in the Real World?

  2. Early on, written Thursday is warned that, “One of our Thursdays is missing!” (p. 41) Jasper Fforde also uses it as the title of Thursday’s fifth adventure. To whom does the “our” refer?

  3. “The problem was, no published books liked anything self-published in the neighborhood. . . . Having something from Vanity close by would, they claimed, ’lower the tone of the prose’ ” (p. 53). Have you ever read a self-published book? If not, why not? If you have, did you consider it to be qualitatively comparable to books released by an established publisher?

  4. When Written Thursday is sent into the RealWorld, she is “most worried about meeting Landon. He was the man I was written to love and never meet. And now I was going to meet him” (p. 169). Is actually meeting the person you love an experience overrated by fiction?

  5. Just as she was about to kiss Landon, Written Thursday is brought back to the BookWorld four hours ahead of schedule. Did Professor Plum engineer her unexpected return? If so, why?

  6. Explaining her successful escape from Fan Fiction, Written Thursday tells Sprockett, “They shoot anyone trying to escape, and they check the causeway every half minute to make sure. You can’t possibly run the distance in less than four minutes, so the answer seemed quite obvious” (pp. 297-98). How did she do it?

  7. What elements of the BookWorld would you most like to incorporate into our own? What aspects of it do you find most terrifying?

  8. Do you agree with Fforde’s geographical rendering of Fiction Island? Is there a genre that you feel has been unfairly overlooked, or inappropriately included?

  9. The red-haired gentleman tells Written Thursday that, “For all its boundless color, depth, boldness, passion and humor, the RealWorld doesn’t appear to have any clearly discernible function” (p. 41). Yet, later she asks Landon if he’s “all right with the support role” and he answers, “Of course! It’s my function” (p. 236). What function does fiction play in your life? Is having a function necessary for happiness?

  10. Compassion is one of the novel’s predominant themes and a quality that Sprockett acquires by the end of the novel. Which better teaches compassion: fiction or the real world?

  11. What do you think of Written Thursday’s assertion that, “The BookWorld is as orderly as people in the RealWorld hope their own world to be-it isn’t a mirror, it’s an aspiration” (p. 359).