h, September 3, 2013 (view all comments by h)
I missed the buzz on this book and thus didn't come with the outsized expectations that others have. That's for the best, as always. I find it utterly charming and stimulating for something, like myself, who's interested in the relationship between words and images in books and art. But, that aside, it regularly makes me smile and even cringe at the coldness of our most intimate relationships. It does start out stronger than it ends, but don't let that keep you away. If you know David Foster Wallace's work, you're hear echoes in how Larsen depicts precocious, prodigy children. Take that as you will.
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Jem Wierenga, September 17, 2011 (view all comments by Jem Wierenga)
This book might be the defining example of why not every book could be put into an e-book format. The illustrations twined throughout the story simply couldn't be translated onto a digital screen. I have both a copy of this book in both paperback and hardcover, and I'd have to say even the softcover - though formatted bigger than a trade paperback - still can't give satisfactory weight this work, nearly an art book in itself, deserves.
While the plot resolves more abruptly than expected, the journey to reach the conclusion offered more than enough satisfaction in emotional honesty and illustrative wonderment. I can happily pick up my copy, cradle it between my crossed legs and open it to any page to read Larsen's words with enjoyment and delight in his pictures.
Very nice debut. I'm looking forward to more from him. If you're a fan of Jonathan Safran Foer or Jeffrey Eugenides, you might really like T.S. Spivet.
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Hobie, June 23, 2009 (view all comments by Hobie)
Books like this are great examples of how popular opinion and some nifty pictures get a book more buzz than it deserves. And a fine example of a children's book masquerading as adult fiction. Should be shelved in children's picture books. If your interested in experimental books others are more worthy reads.
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mm harper, June 17, 2009 (view all comments by mm harper)
Oh, the problem with endings. I can't count how many engaging novels I've read that kept me reading, and enraptured, until they slammed into a brick wall three-quarters of the way through.
I adored T.S. Spivet from page one--his family, his world, his maps. The diagrams fascinated me. They were sometimes funny, sometimes heart-wrenching, and always added another dimension to T.S.'s character. Even when the story suddenly swerved into the ditch, the maps and diagrams kept me interested, and kept T.S.'s spirit alive.
I really wish the author had allowed the character and the story to continue in the way it began, with solid supporting characterizations and solidly realistic situations. These are what allowed T.S. to be so wildly improbable a kid. Once we actually get to the Smithsonian, everything gets strange and pretty unbelievable.
However, I would recommend this book. Its many delights are worth putting up with a sloppy end. I look forward to Reid Larsen's next offering,
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nate hawthorn, May 17, 2009 (view all comments by nate hawthorn)
"The Selected Works of TS Spivet," though real neato to look at and flip through, is a highly unoriginal and tiresome first novel, a watered-down rip off, basically, of everything from, like, David Foster Wallace to Dave Eggers. That doesn't leave too wide a swathe to wade through, to be sure (um, David Foster Eggers and Dave Wallace are kind of the same writer, me thinks, though Eggers probably isn't as sad, what with the hot wife, the movies, and the publishing empire and all), but wide enough to do something original. Footnotes: check. Pithy, Safran Foer-esque writing: check. Weird/hipster name: check. Annoying narrator: check. That's what I got from "TS Spivet," along with a better understanding of why literature is dying (it's not dying, it just seems like that in the mainstream press) and why publishing houses can't pay real writers real advances (yes, I am a bitter writer whose advance could cover a pair of sneakers, if that). Lason's novel is the most recent and offensive example of what I can't help but calling the Literature of the Twit, annoying, smarter-than-thou writing with annoying, smarter-than-though characters/narrators. Think Safran Foer, but also DeLillo's lesser novels like "Endgame" and even Holden Caulfield. Here's hoping Larson's next outing ups the characterization and the writing, and downs the fancy fonts and distracting dioramas.
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Twelve-year-old T.S. Spivet draws maps of train routes and water tables, maps of loneliness, the resilience of memory, even a map of his sister shucking corn. Author Reif Larsen notes, "I think I'm gently expanding the definition of the word map." And about those maps: Larsen, the son of two artists, created them himself. "I got almost all the way through the draft before I realized that we needed to see T.S.'s maps and his diagrams," the novelist explains. "That's the territory of his heart." When T.S.'s work is honored by the Smithsonian the institute naturally assumes that T.S. is an adult he runs away from home in Divide, Montana, and hoboes his way to Washington, D.C. An adventure story, a family saga, and a format-busting beauty (T.S.'s drawings appear on more than half the pages, mostly in sidebars and cutaways alongside the main body of text), The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet is a revelation.
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by 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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
by Stephen King,
"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."
by Joy Humphrey, Library Journal,
"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."
by Tim Adams, The Guardian,
"A willfully original and diverting book, full of carefully penned ephemera, a bit like Schott's Miscellany written as a confessional novel."
"Miraculous... The novel is a cabinet of wonders, an odyssey of self-discovery, a family romance, a symphony of topography, geology and American history.... Read it and marvel."
by Gary Shteyngart,
"Fantastically charming, funny, and smart. I felt my brain growing as I read it. Who knew the combination of cartography and adolescence could prove to be so touching and so much fun?"
#LINK<Discover The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet for iPad.>#
A brilliant, boundary-leaping debut novel tracing twelve-year-old genius map maker T.S. Spivet's attempts to understand the ways of the world
When twelve-year-old genius cartographer T.S. Spivet receives an unexpected phone call from the Smithsonian announcing he has won the prestigious Baird Award, life as normal-if you consider mapping family dinner table conversation normal-is interrupted and a wild cross-country adventure begins, taking T.S. from his family ranch just north of Divide, Montana, to the museum's hallowed halls.
T.S. sets out alone, leaving before dawn with a plan to hop a freight train and hobo east. Once aboard, his adventures step into high gear and he meticulously maps, charts, and illustrates his exploits, documenting mythical wormholes in the Midwest, the urban phenomenon of "rims," and the pleasures of McDonald's, among other things. We come to see the world through T.S.'s eyes and in his thorough investigation of the outside world he also reveals himself.
As he travels away from the ranch and his family we learn how the journey also brings him closer to home. A secret family history found within his luggage tells the story of T.S.'s ancestors and their long-ago passage west, offering profound insight into the family he left behind and his role within it. As T.S. reads he discovers the sometimes shadowy boundary between fact and fiction and realizes that, for all his analytical rigor, the world around him is a mystery.
All that he has learned is tested when he arrives at the capital to claim his prize and is welcomed into science's inner circle. For all its shine, fame seems more highly valued than ideas in this new world and friends are hard to find.
T.S.'s trip begins at the Copper Top Ranch and the last known place he stands is Washington, D.C., but his journey's movement is far harder to track: How do you map the delicate lessons learned about family and self? How do you depict how it feels to first venture out on your own? Is there a definitive way to communicate the ebbs and tides of heartbreak, loss, loneliness, love? These are the questions that strike at the core of this very special debut.
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