Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Firmin by Sam Savage

It was a dark and stormy night...Boston, Scollay Square, 1960. Flo is alone and pregnant and being followed by drunken sailors. All she wants is a safe, dry place to rest. Escaping her pursuers, she ducks into a darkened used bookstore. Finding it free of people, she searches out a warm corner near the water heater, reaches for James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake and begins to shred it's pages as she builds a nest for her impending family.

Our narrator is Firmin. The thirteenth rat in this litter Flo has dropped. Being as Firmin is the runt and Flo has only twelve nipples to offer her young, our friend needs to use his wit to survive his own siblings. Nourishing himself on a steady diet of literature. First eating the pages. Soon reading the pages.

Sam Savage has created an interesting character in Firmin. Yes, he's a rat facing all of the pitfalls a rat encounters in it's short life. Scavanging for food while trying to avoid being seen by humans. But, as a result of his unexpected ability to read, this rat finds himself longing for some human qualities. Adventure, knowledge, romance...human contact.

Firmin has a generous, although, understated wit. He equates the taste of lettuce to Jane Austin. Firmin's narrative is often punctuated with book titles that fall into his mind as he describes various scenes.

This rat is also very dark. Savage's book is not a light read. This is 164 pages of character study touching on philosophy, humanity, mortality and the meaning of life through the eyes of a solitary creature longing for the world of social creatures.

As for we humans. Firmin is a bit of a cautionary tale concerning how, why and when we choose to read. With anything "addictive", when do we cross the threshold of entertainment or knowledge to escaping our everyday dull-drums. At what point should one pull there nose out of the pages of someone else's life (real or imagined) and remember to live ones own.

7 comments:

Cathy said...

I've been wanting to read this book, so it was good to see your review!

Staci said...

Great review..very insightful. It makes me want to read it!!

Gramma Ann said...

Thanks for popping by for a visit at my blog. I haven't heard of this book, but like you said, your reviews are of not so famous books. I hope "Firmin" lives a long and happy life!;)

Marie said...

Very thoughtful review. :-) Nice!

Ruth Ferguson said...

This books sounds delightful. Great way to introduce the character.

Terri B. said...

Thanks for stopping by. Great review of Firmin! I just picked this book up at the bookstore because it sounded intriguing (and I liked the drawings). I hadn't previously heard of it. It is next to read on my TBR pile.

Terri B. said...

I finished Firmin! Loved it and posted my review today. I linked to your review here.