Firmin is a lovely little book I first heard of from Michael Kindness. They’re sure called booksellers for something! I have read two books and bought one book since I started listening to their podcasts not so long ago.
I read Firmin soon after reading I Am a Cat, which is kinda cute because they’re both narrated by animals. I had the two books in front of me that time and was pondering which one I should read next: the cat in Japan or the rat in Boston, USA. I picked the cat first because of the read-along, but soon read Firmin anyway.
Firmin is a rat born in the basement of an old bookshop, located in Scollay Square, Boston. Upon chewing pages of books he acquires the miraculous ability to read and to be aware of the world surrounding him. The publisher took extra effort to add (subtract?) bitten mark of the book (as you can see on the image above). Cute!
“‘Good to eat is good to read’ became my motto.” ~ p40
My expectation was slightly a bit off, in that I was sort of expecting funny, while the rat is more melancholy. There were a couple of parts where I literally laughed out loud, but for most of the time he’s quite a sad rat. (The expectation was probably the one that took the star out of my rating, but you know what to expect now.)
“As you have probably guessed by now, I am a pretty depressive character myself and know all about the seventeen kinds of despair…” ~ p121
“He had no inkling of my true character, that I was in fact grossly cynical, moderately vicious, and a melancholy genius, or that I had read more books that he had.” ~ p143
But he’s thoughtful and has personality. He’s like a piece of intelligence trapped in a rat’s body, and he has problems with his own kind. You would feel for him, poor little thing.
“The only literature I cannot abide is rat literature, including mouse literature. I despise good-natured old Ratty in The Wind in the Willows. I piss down the throats of Mickey Mouse and Stuart Little. Affable, shuffling, cute, they stick in my craw like fish bones.” ~ p44
“And dreams of food are just like other dreams — you can live on them till you die.” ~ p17
I loved the description of the old second-hand bookshop and the owner. I liked how I also got a glimpse of old Boston, before the abolition of Scollay Square in particular. I’ve never been to the city, but it got me interested.
“Sometimes the books were arranged under signs, but sometimes they were just anywhere and everywhere. After I understood people better, I realized that this incredible disorder was one of the things that they loved about Pembroke Books. They did not come there just to buy a book, plunk down some cash and scram. They hung around. they called it browsing, but it was more like excavation or mining. I was surprised they didn’t come in with shovels. thy dug for treasures with bare hands, up to their armpits sometimes, and when they hauled some literary nugget from a mound of dross, they were much happier than if they had just walked in and bought it.” ~ p29
Firmin is a nice piece of quirky light fiction. It’s also a great book about books, like we all love.
2006, 181 pp
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.’
I have one more book to review for 2009, and will post my year wrap-up after that. I was out of town for the past 3 days so my schedule is a bit off. It was a great break though. I may post a couple of pictures later, just for you :).