Distributed by: Ingram Book Group
Price: $14.95 | trade / b&w illustrations
Trade Paperback Original: 164 pages
Publication Date: April, 2006
Trim Size: 5 x 7 3/4
Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife
A darkly comic rat's tale of exile, unrequited love, and the redemptive power of literature. Unforgettable!
Set in the 1960s, this richly allegorical story follows a literate rat through his life in Boston's Scollay Square during the last days of its famous bookstores and infamous burlesque houses. Born in a bookstore, Firmin's only nourishment comes from his nest of shredded books. Absorbing more than pulp and glue, he miraculously learns to read and soon begins to identify more with humans than rodents. Unlovely and unable to speak, Firmin's attempts to befriend people result in both comical and harrowing misunderstandings. Through a series of misadventures and against a backdrop of urban destruction, Firmin is led deep into his own imaginative soula place where Ginger Rogers holds him tight and tattered books, storied neighborhoods, and down-and-out rats alike can find people who adore them. Brimming with charm and a wistful nostalgia for a world that once treasured authors and their books, Firmin is a darkly comic fantasy for everyone who has been transformedfor better or for worseby an early diet of great literature.
A native of South Carolina, Sam Savage now lives in Madison. This is his first novel.
Illustrator Michael Mikolowski is an artist who lives just outside of Detroit.
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"Firmin is a hero in the Dickensian mode...with the sardonic shadings of Vonnegut, and the same explicit tenderness....Savage has captured the essential tragedy of a world in which the artistic impulse kneels before the bulldozer. . . . [A] moving and wildly inventive novel."
"Granted consciousness and a deft way with English, [Firmin] uses his bottom-up point of view to briskly recount the foibles of human and literary life, as both are endangered by the cleansing rampages of urban renewal in 1960s Boston."
"A deeply philosophical rumination on the joys of a literary life...Firmin offers a humane, thought-provoking look at what it means to be human from the most inhuman of narrators."
"A direct descendent of Orwell's Animal Farm, Savage's Firmin...expose[s] our flaws, fractures, and infinite follies."
"If a rat who imagines himself to be Fred Astaire, studies phrenology, conflates his dreams and reality, and prefers paperback books sounds a little too precious, fear not...First-time novelist Savage dispenses with cute creatures and delivers a rodent's rodent. And, in the process, an exquisite homage to lives lived between the pages of a book."
"Firmin, the debut novel by Sam Savage, gives us the funny and strangely touching story of [a] melancholic and intellectual rat and, in showing us the artist in the rat, makes us understand the rat in every artist....Firmin's beloved Scollay Square is headed for destruction and with it the food scraps, hiding places and fringe culture that sustain him. When the wrecking ball and the ghost of his beloved Ginger Rogers come to claim Firmin, Savage makes us ponder what all has been plowed under in the name of eradicating blight, both in our cities and in ourselves."
"An intriguing satire...With this darkly charming book, Savage has let his imagination out of the cage."
"A tale not to be missed."
"A witty novella and a powerful homage to a life lived through and around books... Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife merits repeated readings for Savage has filled its pages with much food for thought. This gem of a book should be a treasured addition to any bibliophile's bookshelf."
"Fun and provocative."
"A smart, playful, painful, and ultimately compelling exploration of, oddly enough, what it means to be human in an often inhuman world."
"Alternately comic and tragic, but always infused with a love of books, and of the funny, hairless creatures who create and love them."
"A wry and remarkably thoughtful book about the state of imagination in American society....Firmin challenges our narrative assumptions by presenting us with a tale told by a rat, signifying perhaps both nothing and everything, about the relationship between reality and fiction. It can be read as a literal entertainment or a multilayered parable about gentrification and the palliatives and pitfalls of imagination."
"[A] wonderfully weird, wise and heartfelt tale."
"Savage's writing is exquisite...a very tasty read."
"[An] alternately whimsical and earnest paean to the joys of literature."
"Blending philosophy and abundant literary references with originality, Savage crafts a small comic gem about the costs and rewards of literary illusions."
"A cleverly written memoir of the colorful lives and distinct shops of a Boston borough...Recommended for many collections."
"A rat's life may be brutish and short, but not necessarily without style."
Powell's Books Daily Dose Recommendation
"A profound study of alienation and the heartbreaking obscurity of the outsider, Firmin is also a piercing commentary on the human condition in an ever-changing society. Savage weaves an inventive and dreamlike tale, by turns hilarious and startlingly moving, completely outlandish yet utterly credible, and sure to bring a smile of deep satisfaction to its readers."
"[Firmin] ingests books, he becomes addicted to books, and this love dominates his life, perhaps ruins it. Willy-nilly quoting Jeeves and Shakespeare, Firmin is aware of his tragedyhe reads, he thinks, he dreams of life beyond rat-dom, but he can't speak, just squeak....Witty and sad, Firmin's tale is for anyone who loves words."
"Firmin is an amazing little gem, finding that rare and delicate balance between playful and wise. It's also a moving exploration of the incomparable pleasures and pains of living in this harsh world as an introspective, observant, and sensitive human being (even if you're a rat)."
"Deeply enchanting and poignant, without precious whimsy."
"A unique novel...The author, Sam Savage, is to fiction what Gary Larson is to cartooningoff the wall. You have to read Firmin!"
"This novelabout a literate rat who lives in a bookstore and befriends a Kilgore Trout-like sci-fi authoris a dash of humanist magical realism."
"How can you not like a book that has, as its main characters, a rat and a bookstore owner limned warmly yet creepily against a backdrop of the demise of Boston's infamous Scollay Square in the 1960s? The tale is told by Firmin, the rat, who begins life as a runt, thirteenth in a litter nested in Norman, the bookseller's, basement. Firmin eats books to survive (his mother lacks a thirteenth nipple), devouring everything from the Bhagavad-Gita to comic strips to Irish history to astronomy, beginning with Finnegans Wake, 'the world's most unread masterpiece.' Although at first he is indiscriminate'My devourings at first were crude, orgiastic, unfocused, piggya mouthful of Faulkner was a mouthful of Flaubert as far as I was concerned'Firmin eventually becomes what he eats: 'I read the diary of Anne Frank, I became Anne Frank.' His adventures in eating, reading and skulking around Boston are pretty hilarious, irreverent, and more than a little dark and Kafka-oid: 'I got on conversational terms with all the Big Ones. Dostoevsky and Strindberg, for example. In them I was quick to recognize fellow sufferers, hysterics like me. And from them I learned a valuable lessonthat no matter how small you are, your madness can be as big as anyone's.' I urge you to read this great little (148 pages) book. Firmin is the greatest rat since Templeton."
"Every booklover will want to have [Firmin] on his or her shelf....This book is quirky, literate, humorous and sometimes sad, but never ordinary. If you're looking for something of an escape yourself, or a gift for someone else, this is it."
"Firmin is the kind of novel that pulls readers in with its very premisethe absurdity and zaniness leaving me to wonder how in the world it could possibly be pulled off in a believable and meaningful way. Yet it happens. In ways almost too difficult to describe in a few short sentences, the novel continues to pull and work within your head. I kept waiting for the moment when I'd say, 'Okay, enough, this just isn't working,' but I loved the book more and more with each page."