Saturday, March 28, 2009

Fictional characters are signing book deals
From Kurt Vonnegut's Kilgore Trout to Lauren Child's Ruby Redfort and JK Rowling's Beedle the Bard, characters in books are launching literary careers of their own

'Authorised' to sign £1m book deal ... Lauren Child. Photograph: Martin Godwin/Guardian

The most well-rounded fictional characters behave pretty much as we do in real life: between whatever extraordinary episodes make them worthy of their narrative, they eat, sleep, love and, of course, read.
The point at which things start getting complicated, though, is when the made-up books that fictional characters write and read make the leap through "the fourth wall" into the real world. And they're doing so with increasing frequency.
The latest book-within-a-book to make it on to our shelves will be the adventures of Ruby Redfort. Ruby is a children's book character who up until now has only appeared within the pages of Clarice Bean, the popular series created by Lauren Child.

According to HarperCollins, Child has been "authorised" by Ruby Redfort's creator Patricia F Maplin Stacey – herself, of course, a Child creation – to write and relaunch Ruby's adventures in this corner of reality.
And Child is by no means the first author to travel down this twisty, metatextual route. Those Harry Potter fans hungry for anything that would propel them deeper into the boy wizard's universe snapped up copies of three books that made the leap from JK Rowling's world into our own. The most recent offering, The Tales of the Beedle Bard (which appeared in the Potter books as a volume of fairytales), followed on the heels of two Potterverse reference books: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Quidditch Through the Ages, a kind of Wisden for Hogwarts's favourite team sport. All three raised huge amounts of money for very real charities, it should be noted. And perhaps one of the best-realised examples is by Steve Aylett, whose biography of fictional writer Jeff Lint has become a modern cult classic. Among Lint's work was the surreal comic book The Caterer, which Aylett lovingly produced as a real, US-format comic book for sale, rendered in pitch-perfect 70s style, even down to the colour separation printing and Comics Code Authority stamp on the cover.

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