Jasper Fforde: Background information when reading Shades of Grey

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Shades of Grey

by Jasper Fforde

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
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  • First Published:
    Dec 2009, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2011, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Jasper Fforde

Print Review

Jasper Fforde was born in London on January 11, 1961. His father was a prominent economist, while his mother did charity work and was a passionate reader. Fforde and his four siblings were raised in London and Wales. At the age of twelve Fforde was sent to Dartington Hall School, a progressive coeducational boarding school near Totnes, Devon, which he attended until his graduation in 1979.

As a child he shared his mother's love of reading, and by the age of eleven had become quite interested in film and television. While the young Fforde liked to watch Monty Python, he was particularly influenced by a commercial he saw for milk starring the actor Roger Moore. It showed what happened behind the scenes on a production set, and this commercial inspired Fforde's aspirations as a movie director.

Working as an odd-job man in 1981, he was painting and decorating at a producer's home when he mentioned his desire to break into the film industry. The producer gave him work making beverages and photocopying while a movie of "The Pirates of Penzance" was being filmed. Fforde got to meet Angela Lansbury, Linda Ronstadt, and Kevin Kline. He was hooked. He spent his early movie career as a focus puller (a member of the film crew responsible for keeping the camera properly focused), and for nineteen years held a variety of posts on such movies as "Goldeneye," "The Mask of Zorro" and "Entrapment." Harboring a desire to tell his own stories rather than help other people tell theirs, Fforde started writing in 1990, and spent ten years secretly penning novel after novel as he strove to find a style of his own that was a no-mans-land somewhere between the warring factions of Literary and Absurd.

After receiving 76 rejection letters from publishers, Fforde's first novel The Eyre Affair was taken on by Hodder & Stoughton and published in July 2001. It introduced literary detective Thursday Next, whose job includes spotting forgeries of Shakespeare's lost plays, mending holes in narrative plotlines, and rescuing characters that have been kidnapped from literary masterpieces. The novel garnered dozens of effusive reviews, and received high praise from the press, booksellers and readers throughout the UK. In the US The Eyre Affair was also an instant hit, entering the New York Times Bestseller List in its first week of publication.

Fforde's motivation for writing The Eyre Affair and its sequels was born out of his own appreciation of the classics. He told James Macgowan of the Ottawa Citizen, "I love literature. I love stories, actually. The point of using the classics in this kind of playful reverence is that I always felt the classics had become stuffy through being academized - is that what the word is? Jane Eyre is a study text, and it should never have been made a study text, as has Wuthering Heights and Shakespeare. I think people are in danger of seeing them as only that, when they aren't, they're just great stories."

In addition to the now six volumes in the Thursday Next series, Fforde also writes the Nursery Crime series featuring Jack Spratt of The Nursery Crime Division; and started a new series for children in 2010: The Last Dragonslayer.

In his spare time, Fforde loves to fly his 1937 DeHavilland biplane over the hills of Wales, where he lives with his wife, Mari Roberts, and their four children.

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Article by Kim Kovacs

This article was originally published in February 2010, and has been updated for the March 2011 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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