The Rabbit Back Literature Society; or, The Infection

I went to see The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies this weekend with the intention of writing a Read It, Scene It post over it, but I’m too bitter to even try. Instead, let’s talk about my first read of 2015 and play a little game.

rabbit backThe Rabbit Back Literature Society

by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen, trans. Lola M. Rogers

Thomas Dunne Books, $25.99 hardbound, ISBN-10 125006192X, January 20, 2015

In this Finnish export, wealthy superstar children’s author Laura White resides in the snowy little town of Rabbit Back, which boasts an unusual amount of mythological statuary and rumors of magic creatures. From the citizenry of Rabbit Back, Laura White handpicked and trained nine children who all grew up to become wildly successful authors. Ella Malina, a substitute teacher, finds her grandest dreams coming true when she’s selected as the tenth member of the Rabbit Back Literature Society. All seems magical, until Laura White dramatically vanishes at a party before Ella’s training can even begin. All seems adorable, until Ella learns she’s the second tenth member, and that the original tenth member died and the other nine aren’t sure how. Determined to learn the truth, Ella engages the other Society members in bouts of The Game, a sort of Truth or Dare with no dare option. She gains their stories, but she must spill her secrets and thoughts in return, to be used later in her fellow members’ writings. The deeper Ella digs, the more disturbing and confusing the story becomes to her. Meanwhile, while Laura White hasn’t turned up, children and adults all over town have nightmares about her dead body, and other hints of dark forces crop up. The other Society members could be complicit in murder or merely the adult survivors of mental torture by an evil J. K. Rowling clone.

I enjoyed parts and found myself wanting to skim others. Jääskeläinen frequently wanders into the wilderness of the human soul during The Game, and while some of what he brings up is interesting, some of it feels masturbatory and useless to this story. Although some would call the fantasy elements magical realism, they are strong enough that I’d term this “urban fantasy lite.”

But, in celebration of finishing it, I’d like to play a game! Not The Game, though. Giving someone else the power to do whatever they want to you in order to extract your deepest self, and the other person gets to decide when you’ve spilled enough of your guts? No thanks, pass. However, my favorite part of the story is that the Rabbit Back Library contains several “infected” books. They change, and not in a “books change every time you read them” Never Ending Story II kind of way. We’re talking Sonja shooting Raskolnikov in the street, here. So, here’s the game: If you could see any book get infected, what would it be, and how would the story change? Remember, it’s not necessarily about fixing an ending you don’t like; it’s about making the story different and strange.

Mine: Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Stevens drives to Miss Kenton’s rescue only to find that she doesn’t need rescuing. She’s left her husband and plans to open a girly revue in London–strictly high class stuff, you understand. Finally seizing happiness over propriety, Stevens begs her to allow him to manage the house staff, though obviously just the waiters and bouncers and whatnot, not the actual showgirls. She accepts. They marry one year later and run a clean and successful establishment until their comfortable retirement.

Your turn! Comment and tell me what book you want to see infected and its symptoms.

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