marginalia || Firmin, by Sam Savage

Dwelling as I did each night in the mysterious interstices between reading and snacking, I had discovered a remarkable relation, a kind of preestablished harmony, between the taste and the literary quality of a book. To know if something was worth reading I had only to nibble a portion of the printed area. I learned to use the title page for this, leaving the text intact. “Good to eat is good to read” became my motto.

I was not able to take notes while I was reading Firmin by Sam Savage. [And so I apologize in advance for the haphazard post.] The most I could do was blindly pat my immediate radius for the Post-It flags to stick to pages, as reminder of moving scenes, and the passages that made me go Oh my.

I was submerged in Firmin’s story. It was bittersweet, sad and uplifting, and so very lovely. It’s a calm book, wait, no, not calm–tempered is probably the better word. Savage’s crafting of Firmin, how Firmin controlled the story, the language. Firmin’s intelligent, a little wry, his words lyrical, sometimes grave. A little wistful too. His very condition–A rat! In a bookshop! And he can read!–starts out so whimsical, almost like a child’s miracle–but eventually it’s just right, just true. Firmin is a rat that reads. Firmin is a rat who used to eat books, but eventually acquired the ability to read. What an awesome literal way of interpreting devouring and digestion and all the gestation-shiz that’s related to reading. Come on, people, this is epic. Aherm.

Inevitably, Firmin interacts with the human world–the one bigger [or smaller, as the way things sometimes seem]. But things didn’t turn out the way I expected them too–That is, I’d imagined our beloved rat would make friends with some dedicated reader, and learn how to talk, and he’d be the discovery of the century, and he’d be writing his own books. I was incredibly wrong. The story weaves in and out of Firmin’s exploits, his reflections on reading and the love of reading, and the caprices of the people around him. Firmin finds joy, and, of course, some sadness in his relationships with humans. The many ways persons can view a rat, after all.

[Bleep!] sometimes got home before me. He could see I was taking trips on my own, and he clearly di not mind. HE treated me like an equal. I would haul myself up through the hole, and Jerry, sitting at the table, would turn and say something like, “Lo, Ernie, how was your walk?” It broke my heart that at those moments I could not say, “Hi, [Bleep!], it was swell.”

Oh, my heart!

I had heard so much about it [see pseudo-footnote #02 below], even thought it was Ratatouille but for books. The novel shattered all my expectations. It is so not Ratatouille. This is not Disney, there is nothing cute about the novel. It’s heartwrenching and heartbreaking. All the adjectives that concern the heart and the things that make it glow, and eventually crush, and then make it glow brighter. Shiz like that, y’all.

It’s a poignant little heavyweight. How does literature sustain us? Would it be enough? How do we face the circumstances that threaten to wrench us away from what we love most? What about reading? What do we do with the people who break our hearts? How do we move on from heartbreak when the world has not deemed it necessary for us to be directly involved with aforementioned heartbreak? To the basics–How do we become more than what has Fate assigned us? That is, How awesome would it be if a rat could read?! Uh-huh.

_______

♦ That jagged edge on the top part of this book? It’s so awesome. I like my books interactive, haha. Someone painstakingly chewed on every single cover of these hardbound editions. My boyfriend, upon seeing it, said, “You’re book’s broken.” Heh. I loff it.

♦ I would never have read–or even heard about–Firmin, by Sam Savage, if it weren’t for Simon of Savidge Reads, and then later, Michelle of Su[shu]. [So it’s basically their fault for the damage to my piddling bank account.] And. It’s available here in the Philippines, darlings–I got mine at National, the Cubao Ginormous Branch. [And, no, I am not being compensated for that plug.] When I found it tucked away on a dark shelf, it was one of those I Can’t Believe This is Happening events that just brighten your day.

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10 comments

  1. Oh weee. I read this book late last year. A quirkly little book. I love that bite on the cover too! I was expecting it to be funny though, but it’s not really.

  2. […] You don’t have to think hard about who’s whom. As apologetic as I’ve been with my inability to share my experience of good books lately, well, I suppose I’m apologizing now because this […]

  3. Yes, yes, yes. I recently read this myself and fell hard. It is such a wonderfully told tail [sic] that I haven’t been able to write about it yet, and I gave up on taking notes three pages into it because I was just copying out the book itself. ::sigh::

    1. I just kept sticking Post-it notes to remind myself of the scenes and the beautiful languages. You’re right–I would have ended up copying the whole thing. I really had different expectations for this book. Reading it just knocked those expectations down–and man, this is such a lovely lovely book.

      Hi-five! :]

  4. I’m glad to hear that you love this book. It’s been on my wish list for awhile now. I can’t wait to read it.

    1. I hope you enjoy it when you read it. :) I tried to be coherent when I wrote my thoughts, but, man, this defies explanation, haha. Just a lovely little book.

  5. […] only regret is that I didn’t get to read the copy that Sasha read, with a bite taken out of it. But I can’t complain of that when it was simple bookish […]

  6. […] Firmin, by Sam Savage. […]

  7. […] The Cry of the Sloth by Sam Savage because it was the author’s one other novel aside from Firmin, which I liked a lot. And this one, it was okay. The story is told entirely with Andy […]

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