Sam Savage, Firmin, Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife

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My sister heard about this book recently and suggested I read it. Why? Not because of its literary merits… It has something to do with a rat who eats books, or did eat them before he got wiser and started reading them instead. I used to chew paper too and that is a long story that will not be told here.

Firmin was a pretty entertaining read. I wonder how the name Firmin was selected… it does have a lot of sounds in common with varmint, especially when you say it fast, or is that because I’m French?

Firmin’s interest in books does start with hunger and his desire to chew paper is more related to calming the pangs in his stomach.

Paper, on the other hand, I discovered early on, has a wonderful consistency and in some cases an agreeable taste. You can masticate a hunk of it for hours if you want, like gum.

Over time, his interest does shift to the written matter.

At first I just ate, happily gnawing and chewing, guided by the dictates of taste. But soon I began to read here and there around the edges of my meals. And as time passed I read more and chewed less until finally I was spending almost all my waking hours reading and chewed only on the margins. And oh, how I then regretted those dreadful holes! In some cases, where there were no other copies, I have had to wait years to fill the gaps. I am not proud of this.

Firmin names his affliction “biblio-bulimia.”

Firmin reads a lot and would love to discuss the books he reads, but being a rat, he does have the ability to talk to his great dismay. He does try to master sign language but that does not achieve the desired results (all he can say is “good-bye zipper”). Firmin does mention a great number of works he has read, sometimes by naming the authors or the works, or describing characters or key events or places in the book. Here is a sample of the authors and works mentioned:

 

Author
Nabokov
Tolstoy
Ford Madox Ford
Joyce
Faulkner
Flaubert
Ezra Pound
Baudelaire
Keats
Dostoyevsky
Strindbeg
Shakespeare
Marivaux
John Donne
Ruskin
Blake
Kierkegaard
Byron
Arthur Miller
John Steinbeck
Robert Frost
Robert Lowell
Asimov
Van Vogt

 

Works
Moby Dick
Don Quixote
Finnegan’s Wake
Oliver Twist
Huckleberry Finn
The Great Gatsby
Middlemarsh
Alice in Wonderland
Fathers and Sons
The Grapes of Wrath
Jane Eyre
Lady Chatterley’s Lover
Of Mice and Men
The Wind in the Willows
Hamlet
Doctor Zhivago
War and Peace
Death in Venice
The Catcher in the Rye
Fear and Trembling
Tropic of Cancer
Naked Lunch
Wuthering Heights
The Phantom of the Opera

Quite a well-read rat we have.

In the end, our rat gets old, the funky old writer who took him dies, and the building housing the bookstore where he spent most of his life is being demolished. It was good while it lasted.

This humorous little book definitely did not have a didactic approach but lists a fair number of books that considered classics or must reads, and I am afraid to say there are a few I was not familiar with… As well-read as I am, Firmin seems to have me beat.

Good-bye zipper.

 

References and other goodies

Savage, Sam. Firmin, Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife. Coffee House Press, Minneapolis, 2006.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/oct/04/fiction3

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/3558575/Firmin-when-all-else-fails-wait-for-your-rat.html

http://www.themorningnews.org/tob/2007/Round1Match3.php

http://www.themorningnews.org/tob/2007/Round1Match3Booth.php

http://www.themorningnews.org/tob/2007/Round2Match2.php

http://www.themorningnews.org/tob/2007/Round2Match2Booth.php

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One response »

  1. Pingback: 4 WHITETAIL DEER ANTLERS SHEDS CUT OFFS RACK MOUNT LOT KNIFE CHEW HORN TOY BONE | Steel Gardening Tools

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