Israel Armstrongthe hapless duffle coat wearing, navel-gazing librarian who solves crimes and domestic problems whilst driving a mobile library around the north coast of Irelandfinds himself on the brink of thirty. But any celebration, planned or otherwise, must be put on hold when a troubled teenagerthe daughter of a local politicianmysteriously vanishes. Israel suspects the girl's disappearance has something to do with his lending her American Pastoral from the library's special "Unshelved" category. Now he has to find the lost teen before he's run out of townwhile he attempts to recover from his recent breakup with his girlfriend, Gloria, and tries to figure out where in Tumdrum a Jewish vegetarian might celebrate his thirtieth birthday.
The Bad Book Affair
Here we are, then, said George, opening the creaking, paint-flaking, hinge-rusted, wood-rotting brace-and-ledge door to the former chicken coop that was now home to Israel Armstrong (BA, (Hons.)), certainly Tumdrums and possibly Irelands only English Jewish vegetarian mobile librarian.
The king of Siam, said Ted, striding in. Lets have a look at him, then.
Israel lay on his metal-framed bed in the middle of the room, dirty quilt pulled up around him, broken-backed books everywhere, empty bottles of wine and Jumping Jack cider stacked around like giddy sentinels. A row of broad shouldered peanut butter jars stood lined up on top of the rickety shelves next to the bed, staring down disapprovingly at the squalor below.
Israel raised his head wearily and dismissively from his book as George and Ted entered.
Quite a sight, eh? said George.
Ach, for goodness sake,...
Mr. Sansom's fourth in the Mobile Library Series is a 3-D book. No, it is not a pop-up book. Nor is it so described because the characters and their small town in Northern Ireland come forward fully formed like Venus from the sea, although that is certainly part of it. It's because in addition to depth and definitude, Sansom adds a third dimension: daftness. Daftness is such a rarified dimension, a stratum where only the immensely gifted can survive. Here is where Sansom thrives. The characters, the plot, the town of Tumdrum are daft indeed. But it's a smart, snappy, literate daftness that reveals insights into the scope of life... I laughed longer and harder at Sansom's incisive and intelligent wit than I have since, perhaps, reading Catch 22. I enjoyed it so much that upon completion of this book I immediately read its three pre-quels.
(Reviewed by Donna Chavez).
Full Review (1219 words).
Ian Sansom on Libraries, Writing, and Flapjacks
On his website Ian Sansom speaks about the role libraries have played in his life:
"Libraries are places where you go to invent and reinvent yourself, or maybe just to use the toilet, if they have toilet facilities, and to find out how other people have reinvented themselves, and what they've written on the walls, and the desks, and in the books; they're a wonderful hiding place, but also a way back out into the world. The whole point of a library is that you don't have to buy the books you read. You don't have to undergo the agony of going into bookshops, those brightly-lit half-houses of the soul, and shelling out your hard-earned cash for something that in all likelihood is only going to be ...
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