While simultaneously reading, for the classes I teach, Toni Morrison's Sula (first read 30 years ago) and Beloved (new to me), I found that my brain was being exercised with labor and joy in much the same manner it is when reading Shakespeare, and so I thought, "Toni Morrison is as good as Shakespeare." There is just so much—too much—going on at any one time in a sentence or chapter of her work, much as one feels when reading Shakespeare. Pace Eliot, time past and time future are contained in time present, so that each moment of the book sends you hurtling back while you know you're being thrown forward toward events that will hearken back to the page on which you find yourself. This is greatness.
In other news, I finished Something Rotten and hereby pronounce it eminently enjoyable. It's the fourth in the Thursday Next series, but the first I've read. For someone with more time and who reads more quickly, I suggest beginning at the beginning (with The Eyre Affair). The volume I read is full of inventiveness, fun storytelling, and a host of references only appreciated by the at-least-moderately-well-read.
I've got 11,000 words, many of which will be tossed utterly or simply replaced or perhaps shuffled. Still, several thousand words are required to fill some narrative gaps, but I'm happy to report that I know what goes in the gaps, which makes for a welcome change. Most likely, a great winnowing will occur to make the whole thing tighter at some later date.
Still awaiting reviews. Though a prequel, it's quite different—in voice, plot, structure and themes . . . and arguably in genre— from the story it's meant to proceed, so I expect different responses.