The most human anyone can be
Applying the Bus Test

Jasper Fforde writing flash

I've recently got my books sorted out, after phase three of The Great Study Move, so there's a right place for every book, but it sometimes takes a moment to remember what it is. And yes, sorry, there's so much fiction that I do have it arranged alphabetically by author. When I dropped Neil Gaiman into his slot I couldn't help wondering what the inhabitants of Mrs Gaskell's Cranford think of their new neighbour, green tentacles and all. And the more I looked along my shelves, the dafter it got.

It's like fan fic of the head, or Jasper Fforde writing flash. Walter Scott crossed with Vikram Seth could be interesting. I feel as if Swift's Gulliver's Travels maps onto Swift's Last Orders, in a mad sort of way, though it would have to be a very drunken Christmas paper game that married Heyer with Hemingway. I haven't read much recent Jeanette Winterson, but crossing Sexing the Cherry with What Ho, Jeeves! would be a technical challenge, whereas the spirit of Malory surely lives inside Olivia Manning's Balkan and Levant Trilogies, a world at once epic and painfully human.

Parody and pastiche are always fun, but I wonder if there's a bit more to it than that. It's hardly a quick route to a new novel, but it has made my brain spark off in odd ways. Why does Trollope (Anthony) write so ruthlessly about his own time, and Tremain so shrewdly and passionately about other peoples'? Measured by the bookshelf-inch, why do what the book trade calls genre authors like Dick Francis seem to write more than what it calls literary ones like Jonathan Franzen? Did Dickens (Monica) and does Trollope (Joanna) have as tricky a relationship with their own Great Ancestors as I do with mine? My fat little Everyman hardback of Tristram Shandy couldn't be more different from the slim and leggy Penguin of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and not because of the two centuries between their writing. And yet there's the baroque take on an everyday world, the delight in language, the fast-and-loose games with time and narrative...

Mind you, maybe it's really just a new paper game. Literary Consequences, anyone?

The Leopard met Judith Krantz in The Unbearable Lightness of Being. He said, 'Identity!' She said, 'Mr Phillips!' And the consequence was Uncle Silas and An Invitation to the Waltz.

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