This is Pickwick, a dodo. She's a birthday pressie for Sarah, to whom I recently introduced the Thursday Next series of fantasy novels by Jasper Fforde.
Thursday is a literary detective who lives in a parallel world which is pretty similar to ours but with some notable exceptions. Books are so important to everyone that they are the subject of organised crime, fraud and extortion. Come Saturday night, there are city centre fights between opposing gangs - those who reckon Bacon wrote Shakespeare's plays, and those who credit Marlowe. It's 1985 but The Crimean War is still going, Wales is a socialist republic, croquet is the national sport and technology allows for extinct species to be cloned - hence Thursday's pet dodo, Pickwick.
I mentioned in a previous post that I'd heard about a book called The Eyre Affair, where characters jumped into the classic Jane Eyre (possibly my all-time favourite book) and messed about with the plot. I was intrigued and got hold of a copy - and absolutely loved it. It's incredibly funny, gripping and full of clever ideas, skewed logic and bad literary puns. The other books in the series - Lost In A Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots and Something Rotten - are all fantastic. Inside the BookWorld, characters from books amuse themselves however they like whilst not needed for the narrative (Marianne Dashwood has a fag break, Rochester shows Japanese tourists around Thornfield).
BookWorld is policed by Jurisfiction, whose many duties include catching PageRunners (characters who have got bored of their own book and run off to something more exciting) and running group anger management sessions for the cast of Wuthering Heights (faciliated by Jurisfiction operative Miss Havisham). Unpublished books languish in the Well of Lost Plots, constantly at risk of being broken up for Text.
Jasper Fforde's other novels, The Big Over Easy and his new release, The Fourth Bear (details here) are the first two in the Nursery Crime series. Those are still in my 'To Read' pile for when I've finished Something Rotten. A new Thursday Next book, The War of the Words, is due in July 2007.
Sarah (a librarian) and I met Jasper Fforde last night at his reading/signing for The Fourth Bear at Waterstones in Brighton and he's a Thoroughly Bluddy Nice Chap. S showed him her new dodo. I'd got it by mail order from the gift shop of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History (and accessorised with it with a name tag) - and Jasper said that he'd got the idea for cloned dodos from visiting that same museum years ago. Curiouser and curiouser...
Jasper's endlessly amusing official website is: www.jasperfforde.com
Independent: The Fourth Bear By Jasper Fforde
Wikipedia: Jasper Fforde
Writers Write: A Conversation With Jasper Fforde
January Magazine: Interview: Jasper Fforde
The Zone: Interview: Jasper Fforde
BBC Wiltshire: Jasper Fforde's alternative Swindon
British Council (Poland, 7th October 2005): Interview - Jasper Fforde