- Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: Phoenix (1 Oct. 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0753826518
- ISBN-13: 978-0753826515
- Product Dimensions: 11 x 1.5 x 17.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 32 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,232,054 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Firmin: Adventures Of A Metropolitan Lowlife Paperback – 1 Oct 2008
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A darkly comic rat's tale of exile, unrequited love and the redemptive power of books.
About the Author
A native of South Carolina now living in Madison, Wisconsin, Sam Savage received his bachelor and doctoral degrees in Philosophy from Yale University where he taught briefly. He has worked as a bicycle mechanic, carpenter, commercial fisherman and letterpress printer. This is his first novel.
Top customer reviews
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I like the few illustrations this has, and the book cover, or frontispiece at the beginning of each chapter, but the story itself, although a good idea just doesn’t seem to hold together. Here then we meet Firmin, the runt of the litter who turns his attention to nibbling on books whilst waiting for a chance to get some milk from his mother. Especially when he chews upon Finnegans Wake, so he seems to become able to read and becomes quite literary. And thus we read of his life in a building in the former Scollay Square, Boston.
With a belief in the pseudo-science of phrenology so he judges people by the bumps he can see on their heads, and with his reading prowess so his head becomes slightly deformed, meaning that he hasn’t got the mobility in his neck of a normal rat. Suddenly being able to play the piano and trying to communicate with people through sign language though is a bit too far, as is his love of the nude female form, and this story definitely shows its limitations.
Reminding us all of the power and the enjoyment that can be gotten from the written word this makes an at times amusing, and entertaining enough read, but isn’t really something that you will want to come back to time and time again.
To his surprise, he finds them delicious, and as he chews more and more he starts to be able to tell the difference between the taste of various authors and publishers, between good and bad literature - and realises he is learning to read. This is the starting point for a strange life, filled with literature, the bookstore, the nearby cinema with its gyrating 'Lovelies' - and most of all, a desire to be understood by the humans he so admires.
So far so unusual, but this is much more than a book about a rat. In the beginning Firmin's poetic lyricism, his lapses into crudity and his odd ideas, built out of the books he has read and his permanent melancholic state, felt self conscious and overdone, hence my initial scepticism. But slowly I felt myself sinking into the world of this little creature, into his impossible dreams of something bigger than his life, into his hopeless quest for acceptance by the humans around him who see vermin, not Firmin. In telling his life story he veers between black humour and utter misery, yet in seeing us both through our literature and through observation of our lives and habits, peering in longingly, he cuts sharply through to the very core of human emotion and philosophy.
As the council's town redevelopment (read: demolishment) plans move slowly, ominously, ever-closer to the bookstore and to the life Firmin has built for himself, the reader can only allow themselves to be swept up in the tide of rising hopes and crushing disappointments, happiness and despair, friendship and loneliness, that make up the world of this little rat. Ultimately, of course, he is an allegorical figure pushing in vain against his own nature, his place in life, the weight of knowledge and the unstoppable forces that threaten to drown everything he holds dear - and finally bring him full circle.
The best advice I could offer would be to read it for yourself. Look at the heartbreakingly sweet, melancholic pictures dotted amongst the pages; feel the yearning and the intelligence oozing from each word, each moving sentence... You will never look at the world in quite the same way again.
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