Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife

Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife

by Sam Savage, Michael Mikolowski
     
 

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"I had always imagined that my life story...would have a great first line: something 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.'... When it comes to openers, though, the best in my view has to be

Overview

"I had always imagined that my life story...would have a great first line: something 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.'... When it comes to openers, though, the best in my view has to be the first line of Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier: 'This is the saddest story I have ever heard.'"

So begins the remarkable tale of Firmin the rat. Born in a bookstore in a blighted 1960's Boston neighborhood, Firmin miraculously learns how to read by digesting his nest of books. Alienated from his family and unable to communicate with the humans he loves, Firmin quickly realizes that a literate rat is a lonely rat.

Following a harrowing misunderstanding with his hero, the bookseller, Firmin begins to risk the dangers of Scollay Square, finding solace in the Lovelies of the burlesque cinema. Finally adopted by a down-on-his-luck science fiction writer, the tide begins to turn, but soon they both face homelessness when the wrecking ball of urban renewal arrives.

In a series of misadventures, Firmin is ultimately led deep into his own imaginative soul—a place where Ginger Rogers can hold him tight and tattered books, storied neighborhoods, and down-and-out rats can find people who adore them.

A native of South Carolina, Sam Savage now lives in Madison, Wisconsin. This is his first novel.

Editorial Reviews

bn.com

Truth Stranger than Fiction is the first book to explore the direct relationship between slave narratives and realism in American fiction. It is a ground-breaking study, essential to the understanding of the history of American fictional realism, and should be read by all students and scholars of American literature. - Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard University

Publishers Weekly

Truth Stranger than Fiction is the first book to explore the direct relationship between slave narratives and realism in American fiction. It is a ground-breaking study, essential to the understanding of the history of American fictional realism, and should be read by all students and scholars of American literature. --Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard University

Library Journal
Savage's debut novel is an odd recollection of the Scollay Square of 1960s Boston from the perspective of a rat named Firmin. Firmin is not your typical rat. After discovering he's literate, he voraciously reads every book in Pembroke Books, a bookstore that attracts collectors and authors who discuss the qualities of first editions, books with special or unusual bindings, and erotica literature that the proprietor keeps locked in a safe. During a journey to the Boston Public Garden, Firmin is chased and beaten by a man with a walking stick. He is saved by bohemian writer Jerry Magoon, under whose care he recovers. The two share an unusual friendship and interests that include late-night trips to a theater that runs classic and pornographic films. Firmin's life changes when Jerry tragically falls down his apartment stairs. Suddenly alone and homeless, Firmin characterizes the experience of the human residents of Scollay Square after the city tears down its buildings. This is a cleverly written memoir of the colorful lives and distinct shops of a Boston borough that was sadly replaced by lackluster government offices. Recommended for many collections.-David A. Berona, Plymouth State Univ. Lib., NH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The autobiography of a rat, born in a bookstore, that learns to read. In a decrepit Boston neighborhood circa 1960, drunken soldiers spy Flo, a mama rat in search of a nest, and give chase. Detouring down a drain, Flo lands in the basement of Pembroke Books: New, Used, Rare, where she shreds the nearest volume, which happens to be Finnegans Wake, into a comfy pile, and gives birth to 13. Firmin, the runt always nudged off one of Flo's 12 teats by a bigger sibling, winds up eating Joyce's words. Soon he discovers he can read. Initially, Firmin admits, a mouthful of Faulkner is a mouthful of Flaubert, but as his taste (and his scavenging skill) improves, he begins to read more than he snacks so that when his siblings leave for more promising digs, Firmin remains, believing his love of humanity is a direct result of his early diet of literature. The object of Firmin's affection is the bookstore proprietor, Norman Shine, whom Firmin watches over from myriad observation points in the store. Firmin marvels at Norman's knowledge of books: There is no question too arcane or pedestrian for Shine. When he receives news that his establishment-in fact, the whole of Scollay Square-is to be demolished as part of an urban renewal project, Firmin grieves with his friend. But Norman, who eventually catches sight of Firmin, does not reciprocate, a reality Firmin registers on discovering a box of Rat Out in Firmin's favorite hideaway. Dejected, Firmin makes a mad daylight dash into the street, where he is attacked. A sci-fi writer who lives above the bookstore rescues Firmin. (His one published book chronicles a Rat Empire that overtakes Earth.) Simpatico, the two read and play Cole Porter on a toy piano asthe wrecking ball swings. An amusing diversion for bibliophiles and Willard fans; in Savage's debut, a rat's life may be brutish and short, but not necessarily without style.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781566891813
Publisher:
Coffee House Press
Publication date:
04/01/2006
Pages:
162
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.75(h) x 0.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

Augusta Rohrbach holds a joint appointment at the Bunting Fellowship Program and the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research at Harvard University.

Meet the Author

Sam Savage is the author of the bestseller Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife, an American Library Association Notable Book and Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award finalist. A native of South Carolina, Savage holds a PhD in philosophy from Yale University, was once an editor of a literary quarterly, and now lives in Madison, Wisconsin. Michael Mikolowski, illustrator of Firmin and editor of the now defunct arts and comic 'zine Meat City, is an artist who lives just outside of Detroit.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Madison, Wisconsin
Date of Birth:
November 9, 1940
Place of Birth:
Camden, South Carolina
Education:
B.A. in Philosophy, Yale, 1968; University of Heidelberg (2 years), Ph.D. in Philosophy, Yale, 1979
Website:
http://www.theoldrat.com

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