had a new book out based on a previously unpublishable novel of his very own and he was launching his book tour IN SEATTLE at the UW Bookstore, I HAD to go see if anyone could be as perfectly and hysterically bibliophilic and UKish as his books are. I mean, my God, a cheese tax? Grammasites? And what a fabulous goofwad he is-an obvious Oxbridge product with the poshest accent next to the Queen who is alarmingly familiar with the murder rate at Oxford.
As his new novel (like the Thursday Next series) is a crime comedy, he had a grand time abusing other crime writers for their crusty conventions (such as the tendency to make the villian an albino, which I had NEVER HEARD of before, but my friend Molly who happened to be there, too, has the albinism gene (!) and she thanked him for sticking up for her peeps) and shared, at length, his efforts to first be published with the book he was promoting. He admitted, however, that the book in its rejected form was not the same book now available for purchase and that, when he revisited the novel after being asked by his publisher to produce something else, anything else as he was now the most fabulous thing since Salman Rushdie, he found it was not the "shining literary masterpiece" he had thought it to be ten years ago when he wrote it, and it had to be pretty much completely rewritten.
When the topic wasn't his new book, he talked a great deal about his favorite pasttimes, including making up new words, a la Shakespeare. He lives in Wales and describes the winters in his home town as "being a bit like living in Tupperware...no shadows." So, he spends most of his time "scribernating". His teenage son talks in "mumblegrunt". His kids, and I imagine especially his teenage son, have no idea how lucky they are to have him as a father. He invented the best game EVER to play with them, "Find the superfluous (or absent) apostrophe." When out walking with his family, he'll stop when he sees a word with an unnecessary, misplaced or missing apostrophe, and then his kids have to FIND THE WORD! So cool.
He also described a game to us that I shall now play every time I get coffee. He calls it the Starbucks Challenge. The game doesn't have to be played only at Starbucks, of course, he said, but due to the ubiquitous nature of their stores, it makes sense to use their name. So, here's how the game is played:
When ordering your beverage , you have to place the order in such a way that the clerk cannot ask you any questions back. I shall now always order my drink this way:
"I would like a tall, non-fat, no foam caramel latte with no whipped cream, a cardboard sleeve, double-cupped and no pastry, sandwich or sale item."
The main problem with this game is that Mr. Fforde is convinced that the Starbucks folks are on to it, and will start asking completely unforseeable questions, such as, "Would you like your sandwich pressed in our new panini machine we just got today." They're tricky, those Starbucks bastards.
He also believes that we should ban Shakespeare. It would be the only way, he said, of getting teenagers to read it.
I can now worship from close up.