If Gogol Wrote Charlotte’s Web …

1. You’ve probably already heard that the Litblog Co-Op has picked Sam Savage’s Firmin as its Autumn 2006 READ THIS! selection. That was five days ago, so imagine my surprise when I wandered into my neighborhood Barnes and Noble’s (in Forest Hills, Queens) and discovered this comic novel about a literary rat nowhere on the featured stacks, nowhere on the shelves … simply nowhere at all.

Now, there is strong anecdotal evidence that Litblog Co-Op recommendations drive book sales (though I’ve never seen hard numbers to back this up). But I wish — both as a member of the LBC and as a person who cares about literary fiction — that this effect were more immediate. The LBC works hard to produce these quarterly recommendations, and in the case of Firmin I think we’ve uncovered a real buried treasure. Why do I say “buried”? Well, the LBC doesn’t recommend books with big publicity budgets or sturdy fan bases. I know that Firmin is good enough to become a breakout hit, but this won’t happen unless interested readers make the effort to follow up on the LBC recommendation, order a copy, ask bookstores about it, pass the word around. This book is not a runaway success … YET. But it deserves to be, and if you read I feel very confident that you’ll agree.

I could talk more about the book itself here, but earlier this week I wrote up a quick summary for the Powells.com Blog, and I hate to repeat myself. Let’s just say that if Nikolai Gogol wrote Charlotte’s Web, the result might be something like Firmin. This book is smart, it’s sad and it’s funny. And if all this talking-up doesn’t get you curious, I don’t know what will.

Buy this book. And, hey, it’s October and you’re eventually going to start Christmas shopping. Think about Firmin as a stocking stuffer. You’ll make your family and friends happy, and you’ll make the LBC look good too. Do it for the rat.

2. Unlike Sam Savage, Richard Powers doesn’t actually need the publicity. But he’s getting it anyway, because Echo Maker really is that good. The final installment of the Echo Maker roundtable, featuring a thoughtful response by Mr. Powers himself, is now up.

3. Nice write-up on Tolstoy’s War and Peace today at Scott Esposito’s Conversational Reading. My only (minor) disagreement is that I’m not sure War and Peace is quite the Goliath it’s portrayed as here (Scott says it’s widely hailed as the greatest novel of all time, but I think this is more often said of Ulysses or Moby Dick or Don Quixote). Still, I love to see contemporary bloggers digging up the classics instead of shredding numbly through the hot new releases of the day, as we all tend to do way often.

11 Responses

  1. Ok, I’ll read Firmin,
    Ok, I’ll read Firmin, but…

    why is there a picture of Alf on the cover?

  2. Ha … Bill, that’s not Alf,
    Ha … Bill, that’s not Alf, that’s FIRMIN. He’s a rat. Get to know him, I think you’ll like him.

    The illustrations in the book are actually excellent, but I don’t think they reproduce very well in these tiny web graphics.

  3. Personally I’d rather read a
    Personally I’d rather read a book about ALF … or even better, watch the show than read a book. That Mrs. Ochmonek is a RIOT!

    Also, wasn’t there already a post about all this earlier? Or am I having deja vu all over again?

  4. Yes, you did see a post about
    Yes, you did see a post about this earlier. And I’m going to keep posting about this until everybody starts buying the book!

  5. How super, so now you really
    How super, so now you really !e!>are a lit blogger!

    I think I’ll save my money for some Cheetos. And the Alf box set.

  6. I’ll read it, for sure.And
    I’ll read it, for sure.

    And this time I’m not just placating you.

    Hey, I once had amnesia and deja vu at the same time. It seemed like I had forgotten the same thing before.

  7. Firecracker, you tell Alf for
    Firecracker, you tell Alf for me that he can kiss my ass. Firmin has GOT to be better than old lame Alf.

  8. I agreeThis is one of the
    I agree

    This is one of the best recent books I’ve picked up.

    I will say that I did not buy it. I got it in our local library. But I will buy it soon and put it on the reread shelf.

    I have also asked three bookstores where I live near Cleveland, two local independents and a big chain and none had even heard of it, let alone stock it. I told them to get it.

    (Where do I collect my brownie points?)

  9. It’s great whenever someone
    It’s great whenever someone asks their local library for a book. That means the library has to buy at least one copy!

    We should all go to libraries and request each other’s books.

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