Something Rotten – Jasper Fforde, discussion questions

• After two years of being head of Jurisfiction, Thursday decides that she needs to return to the real world. What are her reasons for returning to the real world? What does the real world have to offer her that the BookWorld does not?

The real world has reality to offer as well as; breakfast, a more specific sensory experience, taste, smell and most importantly to Thursday the remainder of her family and potentially Landen.

• Is Hamlet a “ditherer”? Is he the most indecisive character in Shakespeare? Why do people find him so fascinating? What are his “inner motivations”?

I honestly couldn’t say as I have yet to read Hamlet, as Fforde has portrayed him, absolutely he is a ditherer of the first class, but I quite like that about him, I also like his fondness for Battenberg, as all the fictioneers living under Wednesday’s house do. It’s a spectacularly peculiar quirk, yet one that is easily relatable to.

I wonder if he so fascinating because he is so human, a perhaps ironic thing to say about an entirely fictional character, he has betrayal on all sides and he is far more sympathetic than someone like Macbeth might have been.

Thursdsay explains the imaginotransference technology of books to Hamlet by saying, “Well, each interpretation of an event, setting, or character is unique to each of those who read it because they clothe the author’s description with the memory of their own experiences.” Do you agree with this statement? What characteristics do the best novels have in common? Is the readers’ ability to connect the characters to their personal lives the most important aspect?

Yes I agree, but would also add that the same book can be an entirely different experience for the same reader each time they read it. For example, one of my favourite books is Little Women, I’ve red it 12 or more times, and every time I feel something different or spot something new, or approach a scene in a different way than I did the last time I read it, or the time before that. Sometimes this difference is based on my mood at the time, where I am reading, why I have chosen to re-read it or all of the above. The best novels are re-readable and often difficult to put down at all. Well written, developed, plotted out…. And all my reasons seem very contrived and non-specific. Try again. I like novels where you become involved with the characters, whether you like them or not may not be the point, but it’s whether you then become interested to know what happens next is the important thing. If you are indifferent to the events taking place in the novel, then odds are it’s not a book that’s inspiring you very much. I’m not sure if a connection to the personal lives of the characters is necessarily the most important but it can go a long way into securing that particular readership. It’s different for everybody and that is what is so truly fantastic about fiction.

• In this alternate reality, the politically ambitious Yorrick Kaine chooses Denmark as the totally improbable scapegoat for all of England’s ailments, in order to deflect attention from the real issues plaguing the country. Politicians have faux debates on a show called Evade the Question Time. Is this satirical bit an overly cynical view of government or a social commentary based on truth?

I loved the Evade the Question time segment of the novel; I thought it an especially fine piece of social commentary. I think it is what made me laugh the most. I do not think it is overly cynical at all, in the current climate I think it particularly apt, when does a politician ever tell the truth when they can coat it in bullshit.

• Why does Granny Next decide to serve her sentence living in young Thursday’s time? Without her help, how would Thursday’s life have played out differently?

Granny Next stayed with Thursday because she had already stayed with Thursday (‘Granny’ next stayed with Granny Next when she was Thursday the first time around… think about it, it’s a fate thing) and therefore has to play her part in the cycle otherwise it would collapse. Without Granny’s help she would probably have never defeated Aornis, though she would still have ended in gingham, since that was a prison sentence and won’t be revoked. Then again not having Granny’s help wouldn’t have happened they are in a perpetual time loop.

• Why do Stig and his Neanderthal comrades agree to play for the Swindon Mallets? What does the Neanderthal community have at stake? Why is this important to them?

They play because Stig asked them to do so as a favour to him and Thursday, no more or less than that. Thursday helped Stig to collect the blueprints remaining from the gene sequencing of the Neanderthals and therefore giving him the opportunity to potentially help his people procreate. They have no desire or need to win, the fate of the humans means very little to them.

Goliath has become a corporate religion, complete with professional apologists. Is this more or less frightening than its previous incarnation as a multinational, omnipotent corporation? What does Goliath gain from re-actualizing Landen Parke-Laine, Thursday’s previously eradicated husband?

I find this idea much more frightening because the general public are getting sucked in more readily because as a company labelling themselves a religion they come across as far less threatening and for reasonable. It would also be harder to disagree with what they are doing, or at least to take a stand against. Goliath has Thursday on their side, or at least not meddling in their affairs which is something they hanker after quite mightily. Essentially there is nothing beneficial to them about the re-actualizing of Landen barring how that would affect Thursday, they care nothing for him as an individual.

• In a character battle such as the one that Kaine and the Cat formerly known as Cheshire fight, the battling possibilities are endless. What characters would you call upon to fight for you?

I am finding this question ridiculously difficult to answer… the Red Queen, because her form of logic would throw her opponent into a tizzy… I think that is all I can suggest barring the ones that the Cat formerly known as Cheshire utilises. How very unoriginal of me.

• Though Thursday and her father are in very different lines of work—he’s a ChronoGuard officer and she’s a Jurisfiction officer—both police the progression of time and fiction in order to preserve the integrity of the outcome. Are time and fiction linear? What are the similarities and differences between their two lines of work?

I think we as a society desire time to be linear but I don’t think it especially is, after all the concept of progressional time in a literal sense is an entirely human concept, marking it into sizeable chunks and counting them down, in order to gain a better handhold on the concept of change, manipulating it to meet our own desires for conformity and understanding of a complex idea.

Is fiction linear? It can be, but look how a novel can jump around within its own time frame and continue to make sense. You can have flash backs, flash forwards etc does this negate the idea of linear time or because it is fiction, is this just how we are allowed to visualise it for ease of storytelling not because that is how time actually progresses.

• Does Thursday have the right to escape death by trading places with Cindy? Is there such a thing as fate in Thursday’s world, a world in which ChronoGuard officers police history and the almost dead may escape “the way station of Southside”?

Is it even Thursday’s choice? I feel that Thursday would have gone ahead with it, because that is the type of person she is, she is a willing participant who knows the risks, but because of her father also knows about times malleability and how fate might not be quite so simple. Ultimately I think the choice was taken away from her.

There are many definitions of fate to my mind, so yes I think it is possible, look at the example of the 7 Irma Cohen’s, when she is back in the time stream the same surroundings occur in there entirety, it is only the ultimate ending of the Neanderthal driver pulling a gun that has been changed.


About Nerdsbian

I am a nerd for ALL seasons. Ravenclaw...natch. I am a genderqueer Librarian who unsurprisingly likes reading...a lot. But I also love being outside too...sometimes even reading at the same time. Also animals, any and all of them. Never yet met one that didn't get on with me and vice versa. I do a couple of different voluntary jobs (animal charity related), I am a Brownie Leader and have recently completed my MA.
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