In the basement of a Boston bookstore, Firmin is born in a shredded copy Finnegans Wake, nurtured on a diet of Zane Grey, Lady Chatterleys Lover, and Jane Eyre (which tastes a lot like lettuce). While his twelve siblings gnaw these books obliviously, for Firmin the words, thoughts, deeds, and hopesall the literature he consumessoon consume him. Emboldened by reading, intoxicated by curiosity, foraging for food, Firmin ventures out of his bookstore sanctuary, carrying with him all the yearnings and failings of humanity itself. Its a lot to ask of a ratespecially when his home is on the verge of annihilation.
A novel that is by turns hilarious, tragic, and hopeful, Firmin is a masterpiece of literary imagination. For here, a tender soul, a vagabond and philosopher, struggles with mortality and meaningin a tale for anyone who has ever feasted on a book and then had to turn the final page.
First published by Coffee House Press in 2006. Republished by Delta, a division of Random House, in 2009.
I had always imagined that my life story, if and when I wrote it, would have a great first line: something lyric like Nabokov's "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins"; or if I could not do lyric, then something sweeping like Tolstoy's "All happy families are alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." People remember those words even when they have forgotten everything else about the books. When it comes to openers, though, the best in my view has to be the beginning of Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier: "This is the saddest story I have ever heard." I've read that one dozens of times and it still knocks my socks off. Ford Madox Ford was a Big One.
In all my life struggling to write I have struggled with nothing so manfully - yes, that's the word, manfully - as with openers. It has always seemed to me that if I could just get that bit right all the rest would follow automatically. I thought of that first sentence as a kind of semantic womb stuffed ...
Though bite-size, this first novel by Sam Savage is mouth-wateringly creative, clever, unconventional and entertaining. Firmin the Rat was born in the basement of a bookstore, and from thenceforth constructs his entire schema of the world both around him and within him in terms of literature. His imagination is as wild as the author's, taking Firmin on flights of fancy that encapsulate the reader in a fantasy land that is hard to tear away from. He takes us around the world to cities like Paris, inside the intimate relationships of Hollywood stars such as Ginger Rogers, into the brains of literary greats including F. Scott Fitzgerald, and everywhere in between ....
Firmin is the kind of debut novel that exemplifies an author's raw creativity and passion for the art of writing, as much as the story. All readers will want to take a bite, both figuratively and literally, out of this page-turner. (Reviewed by Allison Stadd).
Full Review (964 words).
Though his book is wildly inventive, Savage is far from the first novelist to anthropomorphize a rat. Firmin stands out for presenting literature as sustenance for the body as well as the mind - as Firmin eats his way through the books, the thoughts, words and deeds contained consume him with intoxicating curiosity.
For every work of literature that contains a positive description of an anthropomorphized rat, there are probably at least a couple where rats come off less well; they seem to do especially poorly in books 'peopled' only by animals where they tend to be typecast as villains or outcasts.
From the rats of Hamlin to Dilbert's co-employee Ratbert, rats feature far and wide, ...
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