Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

A Timely Perspective on Life and Death

I just finished Something Rotten, the fourth book in Jasper Fforde's series of novels featuring Thursday Next, a British literary detective in an odd alternative universe. I recommend the stories . . . the flavor and style is rather like Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, and though not quite as funny as Douglas Adams, it's a great deal more clever when it comes to mixing cultural commentary with a mystery story.

The thing that makes these stories hard to talk about is that Fforde piles on enough weird premises for three or four of your usual fantasy/sci-fi/mystery novels. It might be enough he posits a world in which high literature is so wildly popular that a special section of the police is devoted to rooting out counterfeits . . . or that the Crimean War dragged on for hundreds of years . . . or that a special Chrono-Guard division of time-travelers bop about trying to fix anomolies in history . . . or that it's possible for people to enter into the world of fictional books and interact with the characters and even change the course of the classics. But that's all part of the basic premises of Fforde's stories . . . and remarkably, he squeezes all that in and still has time to make interesting characters and plots with dozens of interweaving threads.

(Warning: vague spoilers follow.)

The time-travel thing should not be too far out bounds for your usual sci-fi book . . . but Fforde did some interesting thing with it that I didn't expect. Of course you've got to have a few paradoxes, people meeting themselves and that sort of thing. But one thing that I didn't expect, and had never seen before, was that some of the characters in the series actually get to witness their own deaths. And even that in itself would not be too startling, except that they go on with their lives . . . because when you're jumping around time, death does not necessarily mean the end of life. Just because you saw someone die doesn't necessarily mean you won't see them again. It's never actually said, but the mood it evokes is a sort of afterlife without the afterlife . . . a way of looking upon death without fear or finality. And I have the vaguest intuition that God actually sees things that way. Death is real, but death is not the end . . . because all things, past, present, and future, are held for ever in eternity.


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