The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet

The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet

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by Reif Larsen
     
 

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When 12-year-old genius map-maker T.S. Spivet receives an unexpected phone call from the Smithsonian, life as normal—if you consider mapping dinner table conversation normal—is interrupted and a wild cross-country adventure begins. During his journey, T.S. discovers a secret family history in his luggage. And the farther he travels, the greater he

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Overview

When 12-year-old genius map-maker T.S. Spivet receives an unexpected phone call from the Smithsonian, life as normal—if you consider mapping dinner table conversation normal—is interrupted and a wild cross-country adventure begins. During his journey, T.S. discovers a secret family history in his luggage. And the farther he travels, the greater he understands home. All that he has learned is tested when he arrives at the capital and is welcomed into science's inner circle only to find that fame seems to overshadow ideas. T.S. struggles to find a way to map the delicate lessons learned about family and self, and questions whether there is a definitive way to communicate the ebbs and tides of heartbreak, loss, and loneliness in this exhilarating, funny, endlessly charming, and unbearably poignant debut novel.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Fans of Wes Anderson will find much to love in the offbeat characters and small (and sometimes not so small) touches of magic thrown into the mix during the cross-country, train-hopping adventure of a 12-year-old mapmaking prodigy, T.S. Spivet. After the death of T.S.'s brother, Layton, T.S. receives a call from the Smithsonian informing him that he has won the prestigious Baird award, prompting him to hop a freight train to Washington, D.C., to accept the prize. Along the way, he meets a possibly sentient Winnebago, a homicidal preacher, a racist trucker and members of the secretive Megatherium Club, among many others. All this is interwoven with the journals of his mother and her effort to come to grips with the matriarchal line of scientists in the family. Dense notes, many dozens of illustrations and narrative elaborations connected to the main text via dotted lines are on nearly every page. For the most part, they work well, though sometimes the extra material confuses more than clarifies. Larsen is undeniably talented, though his unique vision and style make for a love-it or hate-it proposition. (May)

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Library Journal

Tecumseh Sparrow Spivet is a mapmaker whose highly accomplished drawings have appeared in exhibitions at the Smithsonian and have garnered him the coveted Baird Prize, for which he is asked to come to Washington, DC, and deliver an acceptance speech. Unbeknown to everyone, T.S. Spivet is a 12-year-old boy who lives on a Montana ranch with his cowboy father, scientist mother, and bored teenage sister. Unwilling to forgo his award by revealing his age, T.S. secretly hops a freight train and travels to DC. Among the bizarre and impractical items he brings along is his mother's notebook, in which she has written a partially fictional account of their ancestor Emma Osterville, who struggled to be a scientist in a misogynistic environment. Emma's story in some ways parallels T.S.'s, as they both battle narrow-minded thinking in the world of science. Debut novelist Larsen's writing is as detailed and absorbing as a map, and while the ending is a bit of a stretch, the overall story is a delightful and poignant adventure. Recommended for all fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ1/09.]
—Joy Humphrey

Kirkus Reviews
A coming-of-age novel that works very hard to charm. T.S. Spivet makes maps: of his bedroom, of his dreams, of his sister shucking corn on the front porch. T.S. is precocious, having established a considerable reputation by the age of 12. His career, however, is a secret from his parents, a taciturn rancher and an entomologist T.S. calls "Dr. Clair." So when the Smithsonian wants to give him a prestigious award for his work, T.S. declines the honor. Out on the ranch with his cowboy father, though, trying to fill the place in his family left by the death of his more rustic brother, T.S. has an epiphany: He is not like his father; he does not belong in Montana. So he hops a freight train and heads out across America. That T.S. learns a lot-about himself, his family and the world beyond his boyhood home-should go without saying. In its essence, this is an oft-told story, and the particular brand of quirkiness Larsen employs has become quite familiar too. The most distinctive feature here is the marginalia: Pages are bordered with T.S.'s charts, diagrams and explanatory comments. Reaction to the novel will, one suspects, be mixed. Those who are as scientifically minded as the protagonist will be irritated by the details Larsen gets wrong. It's jarring to read that the Spivet family has a photo of Linnaeus hanging in their home, since the father of modern taxonomy died in 1778. More persistently troubling is the fact that T.S. is characterized throughout as a cartographer, but most of his annotated illustrations fall well outside the standard definition of cartography. Not all drawings are maps. Readers used to the textual trickery of David Foster Wallace or Mark Z. Danielewski are likely tofind T.S.'s pictures and musings merely precious. But there's certainly an audience for heartfelt whimsy, and for an easy read that appears to be smart. Only sales will tell if Larsen's debut was worth the hefty advance paid by the publisher. Agent: Denise Shannon/Denise Shannon Literary Agency
From the Publisher
"Miraculous... The novel is a cabinet of wonders, an odyssey of self-discovery, a family romance, a symphony of topography, geology and American history. The book hardly seems able to stay between its covers, bulging as it is with so many astonishments, so many crossings of fictional lines... Read it and marvel. In doing so, we gain a map of the world, a vision of our own troubled heads and hearts, a legend for our own bewildered epoch." - Bookpage

"Intellectually provocative." - Booklist

"Two predictions about The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet: readers are going to love it as much as I did, and few if any will have experienced anything like it. I'm flabbergasted by Reif Larsen's talent, and I was warmed by his generosity—if this book were a mug of Sundy's magic juice, I would surely hold it in two hands. The drawings that cascade and tumble through the pages could be a gimmick—cutie-poo tatting on the edge of a lace doily—and in the hands of a lesser novelist, that might have been the case. But because T.S. is such a vivid and realistic character (in spite of his Asperger's/OCD tics, not because of them), they add texture, humanity, and humor. This is a very funny book. I laughed until tears ran down my face when T.S. explains how to win at Oregon Trail, and if he were a real boy, I would seek him out so he could teach me how to win at the old Pitfall Harry game. Here is a book that does the impossible: it combines Mark Twain, Thomas Pynchon, and Little Miss Sunshine . Good novels entertain; great ones come as a gift to the readers who are lucky enough to find them. This book is a treasure." - Stephen King

"A seductive book, a tactile 3-D delight - Maclean's

"A cracking tale of adventure" - Winnipeg Free Press

"Like nothing you've ever picked up before...steeped in poignancy, humour and wisdom" - Vanity Fair

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594202179
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/05/2009
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
525,386
Product dimensions:
7.90(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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From the Publisher
“Two predictions about The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet: readers are going to love it as much as I did, and few if any will have experienced anything like it. I'm flabbergasted by Reif Larsen's talent, and I was warmed by his generosity. Here is a book that does the impossible: it combines Mark Twain, Thomas Pynchon, and Little Miss Sunshine. Good novels entertain; great ones come as a gift to the readers who are lucky enough to find them. This book is a treasure.”—Stephen King

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