the library

The great idea behind Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series is that what happens in fiction is real. This is something we’ve all suspected at some gut level. There is just no way, once we’ve closed the book, that Jane and Mr. Rochester ceased to exist. They are too solid, they live, they breathe. We may not be looking, but we have no doubt that their lives go on, off the page.

So what is a library, then but a waystation for traveling from reality to reality? What would such a way station look like?

I closed the book and carefully placed it in my pocket and looked around. I was in a long, dark, wood-paneled corridor lined with bookshelves that reached from teh richly carpeted floor to the vaulted ceiling. The carpet was elegantly patterened with geometric designed and the ceiling was decorated with sculpted reliefs that depicted scenes from the classics, each cornice supporting the marble bust of an author. High above me, spaced at regular intervals, were finely decorated circular apertures through which light gained entry and reflected off the polished wood, reinforcing the serious mood of the library. running down the center of the corridor was a long row of reading tables, each with a green-shaded brass lamp. The library appeared endless; in both directions the corridor banished into darkness with no definable end. But this wasn’t important. Describing the library would be like going to see a Turner and commenting on the frame. On all of the walls, end after end, shelf after shelf, were books. Hundreds, thousands, millions of books. Hardbacks, paperbacks, leather-bound, uncorrected proofs, handwritten manuscripts, everything. I stepped closed and rested my fingertips lightly against the pristine volumes. They felt warm to the touch, so I leaned closer and pressed my ear to the spines. I could hear a distant hum, the rumble of machinery, people talking, traffic, seagulls, laughter, waves on rocks, wind in the winter branches of trees, disant thunder, heavy rain, children playing, a blacksmith’s hammer–a million sounds all happening together. And then, in a revelatory moment, the clouds slid back from my mind and a crystal-clear understanding of the very nature of books shone upon me. They weren’t just collections of words arranged neatly on a page to give the impression of reality–each of these volumes was reality. The similarity of these books to the copies I had read back home was no more than the similarity a photograph has to its subject. These books were alive!

–Thursday Next, Lost in a Good Book

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