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Excerpt from The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Librarianist

A Novel

by Patrick deWitt

The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt X
The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2023, 352 pages

    Paperback:
    Jun 5, 2024, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Chloe Pfeiffer
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About this Book

Print Excerpt

1
2005–2006

THE MORNING OF THE DAY BOB COMET FIRST CAME TO THE GAMBELL-Reed Senior Center, he awoke in his mint-colored house in Portland, Oregon, in a state of disappointment at the fact of a dream interrupted. He had again been dreaming of the Hotel Elba, a long-gone coastal location he'd visited at eleven years of age in the middle 1940s. Bob was not known for his recall, and it was an ongoing curiosity to him that he could maintain so vivid a sense of place after so many years had passed. More surprising still was the emotion that accompanied the visuals; this dream always flooded his brain with the chemical announcing the onset of profound romantic love, though he'd not known that experience during his time at the hotel. He lay in his bed now, lingering over the feeling of love as it ebbed away from him.

Bob sat up and held his head at a tilt and looked at nothing. He was a retired librarian, seventy-one years of age, and not unhappy. His health was sound and he spent his days reading, cooking, eating, tidying, and walking. The walks were often miles long, and he set out with no destination in mind, choosing his routes improvisationally and according to any potentially promising sound or visual taking place down any potentially promising street. Once he'd witnessed an apartment fire downtown; the hook-and-ladder brigade had saved a baby from an uppermost window and the crowd on the sidewalk had cheered and cried and this was highly exciting for Bob. Another time, in the southeast quadrant, he'd watched a deranged man determinedly ripping out the flower beds in front of a veterinarian's clinic while dogs looked on from the windows, craning their necks and barking their sense of offense. Most days there was not so much to report or look upon, but it was always good to be in motion, and good to be out among the population, even if he only rarely interacted with any one person. He had no friends, per se; his phone did not ring, and he had no family, and if there was a knock on the door it was a solicitor; but this absence didn't bother him, and he felt no craving for company. Bob had long given up on the notion of knowing anyone, or of being known. He communicated with the world partly by walking through it, but mainly by reading about it. Bob had read novels exclusively and dedicatedly from childhood and through to the present.

On this day, Bob was fed and out the door before nine o'clock in the morning. He had dressed according to the weatherman's prediction but the weatherman was off, and so Bob had gone into the world unprepared for the cold and wet. He enjoyed being outdoors in poor weather but only if he was properly outfitted; in particular he disliked having cold hands, which he did have now, and so he entered a 7-Eleven, pouring himself a cup of coffee and lingering by the newspaper rack, warming himself while gleaning what news he could by the headlines. The cashier was a boy of twenty, friendly but distracted by a woman standing at the rear of the store facing a bank of glass doors which gave way to the refrigerated beverages. She wore a matching pink sweat suit, bright white sneakers, a mesh-back baseball hat, and a pair of dark sunglasses, and she was standing still as statuary. It was the outfit of a toddler or a teenager, but the woman had a shock of frizzy white hair coming out from under the cap, and must have been in her sixties or seventies. The cashier appeared concerned, and Bob asked in a whisper, "Everything all right?"

"I don't think it is," the cashier whispered back. "I mean, she doesn't seem to be on anything, and her clothes are clean. But she's been watching the energy drinks for forty-five minutes, and I'm worried she's going to freak out."

"Have you tried talking to her?"

"I asked if I could help her find something. No response."

"Want me to go check in with her?"

"What if she freaks out?"

Excerpted from The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt. Copyright © 2023 by Patrick deWitt. Excerpted by permission of Ecco. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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