Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I am a Very Slow Reader-Part 2

I'm not only a slow reader, but slow to pick up on "new" things.
The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet has been out for over a year but I only discovered it over the summer as one of the staff picks at the Maine Coast Bookshop.  Two things drew me in; one, the staff picks at this store have never let me down and two, it's a book about a cartographer!

The book is very enjoyable, however I find parts of it to be a bit of a reach. A 12 year old cartographer maybe, but one with such maturity and depth of knowledge (including an expertise in entomology) just seems a bit of a reach. Perhaps if Reif Larsen had made him 14 or 15 I might find this story easier to believe. The basic plot of the book is that a 12 year old prodigy who lives on a ranch in Montana named Tecumseh Sparrow Spivet is invited to the Smithsonian, unknown to his parents, to accept an award for his scientific work. The book is illustrated with some beautiful maps and illustrations, apparently these were an afterthought to the book.

Here is his map of the ranch in Montana. I could not find the original image online so I took this German version (note the building names) from the Fischerverlage publishing site.

T. S. Spivet's obsession with diagramming everything he sees, from the way his sister shucks corn, to male pattern baldness is borderline annoying but it makes for some fun marginalia. The map that begins Chapter 10, shows a large U.S. City and slightly gives away a bit of plot ahead of time if you recognize this street pattern.

 Even if you don't recognize this place chances are very high that if you're riding a train across the country you will get there as will the plot. The image above is from the Boston Globe review.

Overall, this is a clever and unique book that is an entertaining read for anyone, regardless of your knowledge of cartography, entomology or male pattern baldness.