I’ll have to beg your indulgence this week, blog-followers. It’s possible bordering on likely that this post will veer between vaguely garbled and totally unintelligible. My brain is in a state of even more addledness than usual, for two reasons.
One, I woke up this morning to find the world outside my bedroom window covered in a disconcertingly thick layer of the nasty cold white stuff.
And two, I’ve been reading Jasper Fforde.
Snow. Not just a picturesque sugar-frosting, but inches of the damned stuff. What’s that about? It’s April, for goodness sake. Spring. Last week it felt almost like summer – clear blue sky, temperature in the high sixties, balmy breeze, trees covered in blossom. Now it’s leaden grey sky, temperature in the thirties, north wind with arctic knives in it, daffodils flattened under an icy blanket.
Fortunately it’s picked a week when there’s nowhere I have to go and I don’t have to take the car out, so I suppose it’s not all bad. I must have mentioned the many and huge advantages of an office twenty yards from my house; days like today are when I like it best.
But snow. In April. Just when we thought winter was in retreat and we could breathe easy for a few months. Is this the shape of vacation yet to come? We’re coming to the States in a few weeks, and I still haven’t forgotten the year we visited Colorado and crossed the Vail Pass the last week in May, through almost a foot of it – enough to bring the TV cameras out. This time we’re coming to the east coast, Niagara, New York State, maybe some of New England. Any thoughts on places to avoid for weather-related purposes in early June will be welcome.
As if that wasn’t enough to addle my brain, I’ve just finished the latest in Jasper Fforde’s hilarious and mindbending Thursday Next series. I kid you not, this series gets under your defences and leaves you wondering what’s real, what’s fictional, and what the hell the difference is anyway.
If you’ve read him, you’ll understand. If you haven’t, it’s impossible to explain what he does, except that he manipulates fiction in a way that shines a searing satirical light on fiction, reality and the nature of imagination and still manages to amuse, entertain and beguile. When he’s not making me laugh, he scares me a little; he’s one of those authors who leaves me wondering what arcane knowledge he’s party to which ordinary folk can’t access.
Before matters meteorological and Ffordian invaded my consciousness, today’s subject for discussion was going to be authors, and whether readers should, for their own comfort, steer clear of situations in which they might make the acquaintance of their favourites. It came up in conversation the other day, with friends who are almost as bookaholic as I am, and I wanted to float it for a wider audience. (Well, there were only two other people in the conversation, and I sometimes get as many as three comments on my post. That counts as a wider audience, doesn’t it?) So I’ll just touch on it briefly, and see if it provokes a reaction.
I’ve been to quite a few festivals, conventions and other book-related events over the years, and met quite a few authors as a result. A couple have become good friends, and I’m on ‘Hi, how’s it going?’ terms with several more. And I read their books. Not out of duty of friendship, but because they’re great books. I wonder, though, if I would have started to read their books without that initial impetus provided by meeting them and getting along with them.
And the other side of the coin: a couple of times I’ve met people whose books I’ve begun to read, found that they weren’t people I could get along with at all – and stopped reading them. (No, I’m not going to name names; I can’t afford the legal fees. But authors are people in all their infinite variety after all.)
So here’s my question. Maybe even two questions. Does acquaintance with the author affect the experience of reading the books? And should I allow acquaintance with the author to affect that experience? Or should the books stand on my bookshelves on their own merits?
That’s three questions, isn’t it? I said my brain was addled.