Firmin (Paperback)

By Sam Savage

Delta, 9780385342650, 165pp.

Publication Date: December 30, 2008

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Description

In the basement of a Boston bookstore, Firmin is born in a shredded copy Finnegans Wake, nurtured on a diet of Zane Grey, Lady Chatterley's Lover, and Jane Eyre (which tastes a lot like lettuce). While his twelve siblings gnaw these books obliviously, for Firmin the words, thoughts, deeds, and hopes all the literature he consumes soon consume him. Emboldened by reading, intoxicated by curiosity, foraging for food, Firmin ventures out of his bookstore sanctuary, carrying with him all the yearnings and failings of humanity itself. It's a lot to ask of a rat especially when his home is on the verge of annihilation.
A novel that is by turns hilarious, tragic, and hopeful, Firmin is a masterpiece of literary imagination. For here, a tender soul, a vagabond and philosopher, struggles with mortality and meaning in a tale for anyone who has ever feasted on a book and then had to turn the final page.



About the Author

Sam Savage is a native of South Carolina now living in Madison, Wisconsin. He received his bachelor and doctoral degree from Yale University where he taught briefly, and has also worked as a bicycle mechanic, carpenter, commercial fisherman, and letterpress printer. This is his first novel.


Praise For Firmin

"Firmin is one of the most enjoyably surprising books I’ve read for a long time. It’s a work of great originality: whenever I thought it was going to be one sort of book, it gently swerved aside and became another. This suggests an uncertainty of purpose, but that’s not the impression at all. It’s held together by the character of the narrator himself, a rat of deep humanity and intelligence, and the final impression is one of delicate tragedy. This really is a book like nothing else."—Philip Pullman

“Delicious. Firmin is a book that is written for Readers, that is, for people who have the book passion and for whom books are as real as anything else in life. Realer, perhaps.” —Donna Leon

Surprising and moving meditation on the advantages (and disadvantages) of an entirely fictional life. Eloquent and witty, Firmin speaks for the book-loving rodent in all of us.” —Karen Joy Fowler, bestselling author of The Jane Austen Book Club

“[A] moving and wildly inventive novel…Firmin is a hero in the Dickensian mode…with the sardonic shadings of Vonnegut, and the same explicit tenderness.” —Los Angeles Times

“An alternately whimsical and earnest paean to the joys of literature.” —Publishers Weekly

"Mouth-wateringly creative, clever, unconventional and entertaining....Firmin is the kind of debut novel that exemplifies an author's raw creativity and passion for the art of writing, as much as the story. All readers will want to take a bite, both figuratively and literally, out of this page-turner."—BookBrowse.com



Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com

  1. Chapter One of Firmin begins, "I had always imagined that my life story…would have a great first line." How would your autobiography begin?
  2. Discuss anthropomorphism, the literary device that allows human characteristics to be assigned to non-human beings. Why do you think the author chose to employ this method in the novel? Would the story have been different if Firmin's tale was told by a third party?
  3. Continuing on this theme, why do you think the author chose a rat as his narrator? Could the story have been told from the vantage point of another animal? What makes Firmin so unique among his brethren in the wild kingdom?
  4. What did you think of the illustrations throughout the book? Did they enhance your reading experience?
  5. When Norman, the proprietor of Pembroke's Books, catches sight of Firmin in his perch in the store's ceiling, he sets out to kill the rat–upending Firmin's fantasy of developing a two-sided friendship with the man. Why did Firmin think he would be accepted as anything other than a rodent when Norman discovers him?
  6. Through Firmin's eyes, we see the city of Boston–particularly Scollay Square–in a time of upheaval and, ultimately, destruction. What was it like to read about the city from an animal's point of view? What did you learn?
  7. "Could it be that I, despite my unlikely appearance, have a Destiny?" (page 37) What was Firmin's destiny? Why do you suppose he was gifted with the ability to read?
  8. "The fact is, I had no voice," (page 40). Is there irony in the fact that Firmin could think, reason, and read, but was unable to communicate with any other beings than rats?
  9. Consider Firmin's propensity for capturing images in his mind and assigning captions to them. Why do you think he did this?
  10. Talk about Firmin's relationship with Jerry. How much of it was real, do you think? How much of it existed in Firmin's imagination?
  11. Near the end of Chapter Fifteen, Firmin says, "I had spent a lifetime looking at the world through cracks, and I was sick of it." What does he mean by this statement?
  12. Firmin hallucinates seeing Ginger Rogers in Jerry's apartment, with her telling him at one point, "Everyone has two jobs, Firmin, a day job and a night job, because everyone has two sides. You do, they do, I do. No one can escape it," (page 159). Do you agree with the sentiment that each person has two sides to their personality? What were Firmin's two sides?
  13. Discuss Firmin's slow trip back to his birth home, in the basement of the bookstore. Was it meaningful that he chose to return there?
  14. " 'But I'm loothing them that's here and all I lothe. Loonley in my loneness,' " (page 163). Here, Firmin quotes one of the ending lines in James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake. Is there significance in Sam Savage's choice to include this line in the ending of Firmin?
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