Casting about for examples of literary farce, I was recently directed to Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series. I borrowed the second book in the series, Lost in a Good Book, from a friend and read it.
I missed quite a few things, not having read the first book in the series. To Fforde’s credit, despite his having created an absurd and sometimes unrecognizable world for this series, I didn’t feel at any point as though I was in fact Lost in the book. That’s a good thing. The narrative is snappy, the alternate reality terrifically odd, and the writing light.
Whether it qualified as farce is difficult to say; it wasn’t straight satire, and calling it a ‘comedy’ misses some important aspects of the storytelling. At the same time, creating an alternate (and absurd) reality changes the rules of farce somewhat. A character in a farce behaves absurdly and thinks nothing of it, and therein lies much of farce’s inherent humor. Here the characters think nothing of their absurd world, and simply react rationally within it. The setting itself is the farce; the characters are in fact acting rationally. That said, I can’t say that it is definitely not farce, and since farce is generally created for the stage or screen things will be different in a novel anyway. So perhaps what we have is something that is not not farce, but also not farce. Close enough for me. I once wrote the beginning of a story about superheroes inhabiting a world as absurd and off-kilter as Thursday Next’s. I didn’t try to categorize it at the time, but it would certainly fit into the same not-farce-but-not-not-farce category. That’s annoying and difficult to say and type.
So I read this farce, called Lost in a Good Book. I was not lost. But it was a good book. I look forward to reading the others in the series.