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Firmin Kindle Edition

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Length: 168 pages
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Savage's sentimental debut concerns the coming-of-age of a well-read rat in 1960s Boston. In the basement of Pembroke Books, a bookstore on Scollay Square, Firmin is the runt of the litter born to Mama Flo, who makes confetti of Moby-Dick and Don Quixote for her offspring's cradle. Soon left to fend for himself, Firmin finds that books are his only friends, and he becomes a hopeless romantic, devouring Great Books—sometimes literally. Aware from his frightful reflection that he is no Fred Astaire (his hero), he watches nebbishy bookstore owner Norman Shine from afar and imagines his love is returned until Norman tries to poison him. Thereafter he becomes the pet of a solitary sci-fi writer, Jerry Magoon, a smart slob and drinker who teaches Firmin about jazz, moviegoing and the writer's life. Alas, their world is threatened by extinction with the renovation of Scollay Square, which forces the closing of the bookstore and Firmin's beloved Rialto Theater. With this alternately whimsical and earnest paean to the joys of literature, Savage embodies writerly self-doubts and yearning in a precocious rat: "I have had a hard time facing up to the blank stupidity of an ordinary, unstoried life." (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In Savage's darkly comic debut, the titular metropolitan lowlife is a rat, albeit one with lofty literary ambitions. The runt of 13 siblings spawned in the basement of a shambolic Boston bookshop, Firmin survives his lean first weeks by munching on the edges of books. He quickly develops a predilection for actually reading them, too. Soon he's perusing everything from Joyce to compendiums of dirty jokes and even developing a secret fondness for the bookshop's owner, Norman. Tutored by a sign-language book, Firmin tries to communicate with Norman and his human brethren with predictably disastrous results until an obscure science fiction author, who writes about rats and lives above the bookshop, takes him in as a pet. There Firmin enjoys a brief respite of security, writing odes in his head and dreaming of glory, until the wrecking ball threatens the decaying neighborhood. Blending philosophy and abundant literary references with originality, Savage crafts a small comic gem about the costs and rewards of literary illusions. Carl Hays
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 3275 KB
  • Print Length: 168 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B00C4GTLZ8
  • Publisher: Delta; Reprint edition (August 24, 2011)
  • Publication Date: August 24, 2011
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005FH03U0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,459,472 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Zinta Aistars on June 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
Who would have thought a rodent might be so entertaining? Yet we've grown up on such tales of humanized mice and rats. Why not a highly literate one? Even while the ever clever and articulate Firmin declares: "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."

Peppery vermin, isn't he? Such is Firmin's charm. Born the runt in a litter of 13 rats to poor, ignorant, inebriated mother rat Flo, he resorts to eating the tasty paper of book pages that Flo has used to make their nest, tucked away in the back shelves of a Boston bookstore. His siblings, who nurse first, have only disdain for him, and Firmin soon finds his own way in the world, maneuvering by story. From eating books, he evolves to insatiable consumer of books, reading through all the classics, all the sciences, current and historical events, children's stories, romances, plays. He reads it all.

To be a literate rat makes Firmin painfully aware of his odd place in the world. He calls it his "vast canyon of loneliness." He suffers at his inability to fit into the world about which he reads, at his inability to express himself in spoken language. Author Sam Savage writes some of his most poignant lines in describing for us that vast canyon of loneliness in Firmin due to his inability to communicate:

"Despite my intelligence, my tact, the delicacy and refinement of my feelings, my growing erudition, I remained a creature of great disabilities. Reading is one thing, speaking is another... Loquacious to the point of chatter, I was condemned to silence. The fact is, I had no voice.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Eileen on September 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
Firmin is the runt of a rat litter, brought into the world in a corner of a bookstore basement in the decrepit Boston neighborhood of Scollay Square. Unable to win the competition for his mother's milk, he finds nourishment from books - first by eating them and later by reading them. Poor Firmin - he has the sensibilities, love of literature and ideas, and fanciful dreams of a human, but he is trapped in the body of a loathsome rodent! Alienated from his own species and desperate to find human love and respect, he experiences disappointing relationships with two humans and builds an elaborate fantasy world to help him cope.

Filled with delightful illustrations of Firmin's trials and tribulations, this book anthropomorphizes a rat in a uniquely touching, startling, and humorous way. Readers will recognize traces of Firmin in themselves, and will undoubtedly wish that they were as well read as he is. This is a fascinating and creative little story with a big homage to literature. Highly recommended.

Eileen Rieback
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Bluestalking Reader VINE VOICE on February 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
From Firmin:

"This is the saddest story I have ever heard. It begins, like all true stories, who knows where. Looking for the beginning is like trying to discover the source of a river. You paddle upstream for months under a burning sun, between towering green walls of dripping jungle, soggy maps disintegrating in your hands. You are driven half mad by false hopes, malicious swarms of biting insects, and the tricks of memory, and all you reach in the end - the ultima Thule of the whole ridiculous quest - is a damp spot in the jungle or, in the case of a story, some perfectly meaningless word or gesture. And yet, at some more or less arbitrary place along the way between the damp spot and the sea the cartographer inserts the point of his compass, and there the Amazon begins."

I never thought I'd be moved by a rat. A rat! That most slithering, scheming of nocturnal creatures. They spread the bubonic plague, and who knows what else besides. They're dirty, they eat garbage and humans have a natural fear of them. They make my skin crawl. I didn't think a rat could ever move me nearly to tears.

Meet Firmin, a most unusual rat. He was born inauspiciously, as rats generally are, one of thirteen babies born to an alcoholic mother. The runt of the litter, he's the only one born with his eyes open, a fact that's significant. Firmin and his siblings are born in the basement of a bookshop. The room is packed, unsurprisingly, with books. His mother chooses one, in this case Joyce's Finnegans Wake, to shred for their bed. On this book Firmin cuts his literary teeth, and that's no exaggeration.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Debra Hamel VINE VOICE on September 13, 2006
Format: Paperback
Firmin, the unusually literate rat who gives Sam Savage's little gem of a book its title, was born during the Kennedy administration in the cellar of a bookstore. Pembroke Books, the beloved charge of its Friar Tuckish owner Norman, sat near an x-rated theater in the squalor of Boston's blighted Scollay Square. The circumstances of Firmin's birth, both geographic and familial, largely defined his life.

Born the 13th of 13 children to a 12-teated, alcoholic mother, Firmin was frequently compelled by virtue of his relatively diminutive size and strength to assuage his hunger by gnawing on books--a pathetic situation which, however, resulted in the singular fact and blessing of his life, his "lexical hypertrophy," heightened mental acuity coupled with an uncanny ability to read at super-human, let alone super-rodent speeds. At the same time, Firmin's early introduction to the "velvet-skinned beings" who featured in the local theater's midnight showings confused his sexuality and cemented his perverse identification with the humans whose literature he was devouring in both senses.

Firmin being an anthropomorphized rat, you'll be tempted to think that Savage's novel is just another cute contribution to "rat literature"--a genre, by the way, which Firmin himself despises. Don't be fooled. Firmin is caustic and cynical, his story imbued with a sense of tragedy. Early on, for example, we learn that Norman--the first human whom Firmin ever loved--has somehow failed him. In the last quarter of the book the mood grows even more somber. Savage exhibits an uncanny ability to channel the inner life of our tragic narrator: Firmin is a very believable character, a creature of elevated sensibilities mired in the ugly realities of a rat's world.
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