The Night Bookmobile

( 9 )

Overview

Audrey Niffenegger, the New York Times bestselling author of The Time Traveler?s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry, has crafted her first graphic novel after the success of her two critically acclaimed ?novels-in-pictures.? First serialized as a weekly column in the UK?s Guardian newspaper, The Night Bookmobile tells the story of a wistful woman who one night encounters a mysterious disappearing library on wheels that contains every book she has ever read. Seeing her history and most intimate self in this library, ...

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Overview

Audrey Niffenegger, the New York Times bestselling author of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry, has crafted her first graphic novel after the success of her two critically acclaimed “novels-in-pictures.” First serialized as a weekly column in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, The Night Bookmobile tells the story of a wistful woman who one night encounters a mysterious disappearing library on wheels that contains every book she has ever read. Seeing her history and most intimate self in this library, she embarks on a search for the bookmobile. But her search turns into an obsession, as she longs to be reunited with her own collection and memories.

 

The Night Bookmobile is a haunting tale of both transcendence and the passion for books, and features the evocative full-color pen-and-ink work of one of the world’s most beloved storytellers.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Novelist and visual artist Niffenegger brings the dark dreaminess that characterized her bestselling novels to her first full-length graphic novel. After a fight with her boyfriend one night, Alexandra goes for a walk and comes upon a bookmobile. When she goes inside to look at the books, she discovers that it’s a library of her own reading history; every book she’s ever read, including her diary, is on the shelf. As her life continues, she searches for the bookmobile, but years go by before she finds it again. Meanwhile she becomes a librarian and a loner, eventually deciding that she wants to work in the bookmobile, though the price for doing so is high. Niffenegger’s full-color art has a naïve tone, with sometimes stiff figures, and text written in childlike script. The simplicity of the images contrasts with sophisticated page layouts in which she plays with panels and perspective. The story was originally serialized in the Guardian, and in an afterword, Niffenegger reveals that the book is the first volume in a larger project. At heart this romantic, melancholy tale is a paean to reading and to the life one person lives through books. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Michael Jung PhD
When book lover Lexi discovers a large bookmobile on one of her nightly strolls, she eagerly boards it—and is amazed when she discovers it holds everything she's read in her life, from novels to telephone books to even her diary! Enchanted, Lexi spends an amazing night reacquainting herself with the books of her youth but is left with a terrible sense of loss when the bookmobile's mysterious owner Mr. Openshaw announces the library is closed and disappears for years. Longing to become part of the Night Bookmobile's world, Lexi withdraws from her friends and spends all of her time reading and searching—only to learn that working for the Night Bookmobile is a goal that may always lie out of her reach. How far will Lexi go to join a world that has already consumed so much of her life? And even if she succeeds, what will her choice cost her? Best known for her celebrated science fiction/romance novel The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffengger showcases both her writing and artistic talents in this graphic novel that examines the consequences and rewards of obsession. While the graphic novel can easily be mistaken for a child's picture book due to its size and shape, readers should be aware that this is not a light fantasy, as it deals with controversial issues such as obsession and suicide. That said, it is an absorbing work that will leave many readers puzzling over the nature of the bookmobile, and their reaction to Lexi's choices. Reviewer: Michael Jung, PhD
Library Journal
Pacing the 4 a.m. streets of Chicago after boyfriend trouble, Alexandra happens on a bookmobile, lit up and blaring "I Shot the Sheriff." And it's her bookmobile, as it houses every book she has ever read—plus every cereal box, letter, and scribble. Unfortunately, it closes at dawn, so she can't stay long, and librarian Mr. Openshaw explains that she cannot borrow anything and he cannot hire her. Deeply enthralled, Alexandra seeks the bookmobile again and again, even changing her life to become a librarian (and breaking up with the boyfriend). It is not just books she seeks, however, but her own books, her own past, her own identity. This story amounts to a parable about accepting the losses of adulthood, to let go of the wish to hold forever a complete remembrance and understanding of the self. VERDICT Niffenegger (The Time Traveler's Wife) has packed a captivating and eerie story into this short work, originally a webcomic for The Guardian and inspired by an H.G. Wells story. The clear-line color art emphasizes the mystical realism. A unique literary title recommended for adult collections.—M.C.
The Barnes & Noble Review

This first graphic novel by Audrey Niffenegger, the author of The Time Traveler's Wife, is a sugary, visual valentine to the joys of reading.

Her narrator, Alexandra, lives in Chicago with a somewhat surly boyfriend. She heads out for a walk in the wee hours of the morning after an argument and comes upon an "enormous battered Winnebago" blaring out Bob Marley music. The inside is filled with books. It's a bookmobile, modeled after those used by the Chicago Public Library. And it's only open from dusk to dawn.

Given Niffenegger's inclination toward the supernatural, it's no surprise that there's something magical about the place. Alexandra recognizes every book on the shelves -- the Judy Blumes, Agatha Christies, Jane Austens, and Paul Austers. She even finds her diary on the shelves. Yes, it's Alexandra's personal collection, everything she's read in her lifetime, including cereal boxes. At dawn Mr. Openshaw, the librarian, gently insists she leave.

Using subtle shifts in Alexandra's clothes and facial features, Niffenegger illustrates the passing of the years as her heroine withdraws into reading and sheds her boyfriend (he can't compete with the siren song of her elusive dream lover). It's nine years before Alexandra finds the night bookmobile again, and then only long enough to decide she wants to become a librarian. More years pass, and after yet another visit, Alexandra ponders all she has given up for reading and makes a fateful decision.

The Night Bookmobile captures a solitary booklover's enduring passion eloquently: "Each spine was an encapsulated memory, each book represented hours, days of pleasure of immersion in words."

--Jane Ciabattari

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780810996175
  • Publisher: Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/1/2010
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 350,282
  • Product dimensions: 11.80 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Audrey Niffenegger

Audrey Niffenegger is the author of the international bestseller The Time Traveler’s Wife, as well as Her Fearful Symmetry. She is also the author and illustrator of two Abrams “novels-in-pictures,” The Three Incestuous Sisters and The Adventuress. She lives in Chicago.

Biography

In her book Three Incestuous Sisters, Audrey Niffenegger tells the tale of a trio of sisters, each with her own special trait. There is blond Bettine, the beautiful one, blue-haired Ophile, the smart one, and then there's Clothilde. While hardly unintelligent and certainly not unattractive, it is still probably no coincidence that Niffenegger decided to cast her fellow redhead Clothilde as the talented one considering that she is so abundant in talent. A gifted illustrator and writer, Niffenegger is parlaying her quirky imagination into one of the most interesting bodies of work in contemporary literature.

Niffenegger's love of writing developed when she was a young girl, quietly spending her time writing and illustrating books as a hobby. Her wonderfully eccentric imaginativeness was in play from her earliest writing efforts. "My ‘first' novel was an epic about an imaginary road trip [sic] I went on with The Beatles," she explains on her website, "handwritten in turquoise marker, seventy pages long, which I wrote and illustrated when I was eleven."

Niffenegger's mini-magical mystery tour may have been her "first novel," but the first one to which the rest of the world would be privy came many years later. She had already established herself as a prominent artist whose work had been shown in the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Library of Congress, and the Houghton Library at Harvard University when The Time Traveler's Wife was published in 2003. "I wanted to write about a perfect marriage that is tested by something outside the control of the couple," Niffenegger told bookbrowse.com. "The title came to me out of the blue, and from the title sprang the characters, and from the characters came the story."

The Time Traveler's Wife, a sci-fi romance about the mercurial time traveler Henry and Clare, the wife who patiently awaits his return to the present, became a sensation upon its publication. This thoroughly original love story captured mass praise from USA Today, The Washington Post, People Magazine, and The Denver Post, not to mention celebrity couple Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt, who promptly purchased the rights to the book and are currently developing it into a motion picture.

Now that she had established herself as a talent to watch, Niffenegger finally had the opportunity to produce a book she would describe as "a fourteen-year labor of love." Three Incestuous Sisters: An Illustrated Novel, is a gorgeous, modern-gothic storybook about the love and rivalry shared between three women. With its minimal text, Niffenegger's chiefly uses her eerie illustrations to convey the sisters' story. Booklist summed up Three Incestuous Sisters quite succinctly by stating that "Niffenegger's grim yet erotic tale and stunningly moody gothic prints possess the sly subversion of Edward Gorey, the emotional valence of Edvard Munch, and her very own brilliant use of iconographic pattern, surprising perspective, and tensile line in the service of a delectable, otherworldly sensibility."

Now, Niffenegger is turning her attentions back to straight prose as she works on a new novel. "It's called Her Fearful Symmetry," she revealed in an online chat with the Hennepin County Library. "It's set in London's Highgate Cemetery, and features as many of the cliches of 19th century fiction as I can summon." Amazingly, with such a wide variety of styles in her still budding body of work -- from science fiction to fairy tale to her impending period piece -- Audrey Niffenegger's books still share a strong sense of unity, a distinctly peculiar and particular vision. "The thing that unites all my work is narrative," she said on her website. "I'm interested in telling stories, and I'm interested in creating a world that's recognizable to us as ours, but is filled with strangeness and slight changes in the rules of the universe."

Good To Know

In our interview, Niffenegger shared some fun facts about herself:

"My current job is teaching graduate students how to write, print type on letterpresses, and create limited-edition books by hand. I work for Columbia College's Center for Book and Paper Arts in Chicago. I helped to found the Center, and it is the center of my universe nine months of the year. The other three months I try to ignore the phone, and I do my own work."

"I make art. Readers can see some of it at Printworks Gallery in Chicago. They have a web site: printworkschicago.com."

"Almost all of the places mentioned in my book are real places that you can visit. The Newberry Library is open to people who have research projects that fit the collections of the Newberry. Vintage Vinyl is a real record store in Evanston. The Aragon Ballroom, South Haven, Michigan, Bookman's Alley, The Berghoff -- I heartily recommend them all."

"I collect taxidermy, skeletons, books (of course), comics (mostly Raw and post-Raw independent stuff, no superheroes). I only collect small taxidermy, no bison heads, my place isn't that big. I don't own a TV. I spend a lot of time hanging out with my boyfriend, Christopher Schneberger, and attending Avocet concerts (Avocet is the band Chris plays drums with). We travel a lot; my new book is set in London, so there's lots of research to do. I garden, in a rather haphazard way. I also enjoy finding, buying, and wearing vintage clothes. All in all, it's a pleasant life."

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    1. Hometown:
      Chicago, Illinois
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 13, 1963
    2. Place of Birth:
      South Haven, Michigan
    1. Education:
      B.F.A., School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 1985; M.F.A., Northwestern University, 1991

Customer Reviews

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( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 6, 2014

    Good

    This was good. That is quite the library. It makes you wonder while its many books, where to even start? That's quite the job though. Yet another book amongst books about books I'm breezing through.

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  • Posted January 14, 2012

    I'm a little teapot

    For those of us who have dreamed of the library, this is a glimpse into the mirror of our own souls. For those of you who haven't, it's an interesting tale.

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  • Posted May 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Found Story to be Lacking

    I picked this one up because it's about a library and I saw the nice blurb by Neil Gaiman on back. Unfortunately I didn't find it at all to be a story "perfectly told". The Night Bookmobile is the first of a larger work being titled The Library, as explained by the author in the "after words". Because of this I feel it's possible that my understanding of the story is in fact out of context until I read the completed book. But since it is published here as a single book, I also find it fair to review it based on itself alone. About the length of a child's picture book, the story follows a woman named Alexandra from a random night in her early adult life when she comes across a mysterious and almost magical-seeming bookmobile. She becomes obsessed with it's existence, its strange librarian Mr. Openshaw, and with finding it again when she realizes its visits are inconsistent. However the story never really makes sense. We never find out why Alexandra gives up so much of her daily life to pursue this bookmobile, or share enough time with her to fully connect. Even so, I could have accepted all of that vague plot and thought the book strange but intriguing had the ending not included her choice at the end to commit suicide just to become a night bookmobile librarian herself. The w.t.f moment of that was just too insane for me. It seemed like a weak attempt to be deep without sufficient storyline and as if it glorified books over life itself at that point. On the flip side I did like the idea of everyone's life being quietly documented through the books they've read, all by librarians on the other side so to speak. Exploring the concept of books as also having the ability to become a channel for checking out of present life and losing oneself in fantasy also made sense as the darker side of loneliness and using reading to live vicariously instead. But overall I still felt this book went dark without any logic or relatable context.

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    Posted December 20, 2010

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    Posted February 28, 2011

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    Posted December 10, 2010

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