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My thanks go to Jon Brierley for the following contribution to Nextian Lore, originally appearing on the Fforde Fforum to great applause, mine included.
JEEVES AND THE FICTIONAL CHARACTER
"Jeeves," I said, "rally round."
The man shimmered in, exuding braininess.
"What do you think of Thursday, Jeeves?"
"I have always found it a most agreeable day, sir, especially in summer."
"No, no. The name; Thursday. Do you not think it carries echoes of bells and trumpets and what-not?"
"Am I to understand it is the name of a young woman, sir?"
"The most beautiful woman I ever met. Jeeves; I am in love."
"Indeed, sir. I take it your acquaintance with the lady is of a recent nature, sir?"
"Last night, Jeeves. I saw her across a crowded room, and our eyes met, and I felt like that chap who wanted to be a glove."
"You are doubtless referring to Romeo, sir, in Shakespeare's play; would that I were a glove upon that hand."
"That's the chap. Well, I felt just like him when I set eyes on Miss Next."
"Miss Next, sir?"
I stopped and looked sharply at him. There had been a definite what-is-it in the way he had said 'Miss Next', as if he had just come across a pair of purple spats in my drawer. I drew myself up.
"Yes, Jeeves, Miss Thursday Next. Do I detect a note of disapproval in your voice?"
"By no means, sir. But if I might venture to remark -"
"Remark away, Jeeves, but have a care you do not bandy a woman's name."
"Indeed not, sir. I was merely about to point out that I understood Miss Next, despite her title, to be a married lady."
I sat down rather suddenly at this point.
"Married?" I said, a trifle weakly.
"Yes, sir. To a Mr. Park-Laine, I believe."
I brightened at this news.
"Now there, Jeeves, you are wrong. Miss Next - Thursday - distinctly told me that this Park-Laine character was completely out of the picture. I must say I didn't quite follow everything she told me, but I gathered that Mr. Park-Laine does not in fact even exist."
"This is technically correct, sir."
"Well, there you are then."
And then he dropped his other bombshell.
"However, sir, I gather that from Miss Next's point of view, you do not exist either."
I pinched myself on the leg, and it jolly well hurt.
"Ow," I said. "I feel substantial enough to me."
"Quite, sir. Miss Next, on the other hand, regards you as a fictional character."
I stopped aghast. In fact I felt like I'd stopped several ghasts.
"Fictional?" I repeated.
"Yes, sir. She thinks of you as no more than a figment of the imagination."
"She does, does she? Who's imagination, exactly?"
"A Mr Wodehouse, I believe."
I felt a bit deflated, I must admit. I was having difficulty summoning up any finer feelings for a beazel who thought I was fiction. As usual, Jeeves came to the rescue.
"If it is any consolation, sir, you might like to know that Miss Next is herself fictional."
"Really? Good heavens. Who writes her, then?"
"A Mr. Fforde, sir."
"No, Fforde, sir; with two fs."
"Ah. Well, you can tell him from me, he writes tough women."
At that point a nasty thought struck me.
"These books this two-fs person writes - I'm not likely to be in one, am I?"
"No, sir, nor I."
"That's a relief, anyway. Why not, though? Why this Next character, but not us?"
Jeeves smiled enigmatically.
"We're still in copyright, sir."