TBTW: When It’s a Jar by Tom Holt
When it’s a jar, it can’t be a door. Or can it? Perhaps, or it’s actually a donut.
Believe it or not, all of this could make sense to you, if you only read Tom Holt’s When It’s a Jar. This is one of those books in which nothing makes sense, and that is exactly how it’s supposed to be. Holt’s writing style, however, holds everything together, and makes it really hard to put the book down. In fact, I finished the book and didn’t even put it down as I put my shoes on to go recommend it to a friend. Literally.
Maurice lives a normal life. With the exception of the dragon he kills with a butter knife (it was handy!) and the fact that looking through a donut causes him to travel to another universe in the multiverse. As we follow Maurice from one universe to another, it gets a bit difficult. He visits a dozen or so. I think. I’m not sure. I tried to count but quickly lost track.
Regardless, each universe includes Maurice (in some way, shape, or form), his crush Stephanie, either a room filled with cardboard boxes or a jar (or both), a childhood frenemy George, and Theo Bernstein. I’ll be really honest, I’m still not totally sure what happens in this book. I’m pretty sure I could read it again and again and again (which I’d love to do, but it is due back at the library soon) and I still wouldn’t understand everything that was going on. But the prose… oh my goodness the prose. And the intelligent, tongue-in-cheek comments. And. Oh my.
“Time passed some more, like a hamster on a wheel, and he figured out a bit more of the basic elementary stuff, like existentialism and relativity.” (19)
It’s only the first section, and I’m already laughing out loud while I sit outside a restaurant waiting for my friends. They proceed to laugh when I read it to them, because I can’t help but brag about how great this book already is. Little did I know it would only get better:
“Without thinking, he started tidying the place up …. And then he stopped and thought: Yes, and there’s a dead dragon in the bedroom. True, but that was no reason to leave the rest of the place looking like a pigsty, not when you’ve got a girl coming around.” (41)
We start with some casual attention grabbing, I know physics kind of nonsense. I’ll be honest, I thought the author was a physicist and an author on the side when I read that. Primarily because a lot of physicists I know are also obsessed with philosophy, so the idea of existentialism and relativity being paired up isn’t really so absurd to me. But then, 20 pages later, he throws in some commentary about the lack of logic we use when a crush is involved. So perhaps Holt is actually a psychologist? In fact, he’s just British (and a lawyer by training, if not by practice.)
Very often, unfortunately, books are phenomenal for the first 30-50 pages and then everything goes downhill. Luckily for us, this isn’t the case with When It’s a Jar. Because Holt keeps up the incredible number of references to anything and everything throughout the novel, and it feels a bit like a Gilmore Girls episode. (The only thing that could have been better would have been an explicit mention of Gilmore Girls in the book…) Towards the middle, we discover the linguistic necessity for a word of “deliberate offence:”
“It’d have to start with a suitably projectile labial, followed by a vowel you could really put your hear and soul into, and terminating in a throaty guttural you could practically spit. Also, one syllable would be best. Anything longer would dissipate the effect.
Oh fulk, he thought.” (
Throw in a bit of linguistic literacy, and I realize that Tom Holt has basically written the novel that I always dreamed I’d be able to write. I could be angry about this fact. I can’t even be angry. Instead I’m off to the library to see what else of his I can grab. The problem with libraries is that they’re so big, and I tend to get distracted… but I think I’m likely to come out with another Tom Holt book – perhaps his other 2013 novel: Donought. (Did I mention he’s British?)