Thursday, July 9, 2009

Book Review: The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet

I'll start with what Stephen King said: "Here is a book that does the impossible. It combines Mark Twain, Thomas Pynchon, and Little Miss Sunshine. This book is a treasure."
I'd say definitely on the last two, maybe a little less of the first, but that by itself is a minor miracle. This book is narrated by a 12-year-old young science illustrator/mapmaker who jumps on a train and takes a trip to Washington D.C. to receive an award from the Smithsonian (and they have no idea he's 12). The science part is clearly not written for or by someone actually practicing science despite the central role it plays in the plot and the character's musings, and for that matter the parts that involve faith are similarly slightly distorted, but for the most part it's just a lot of fun to read and to look at. This is more literature and story than it is philosophy -- that is to say, it's a map, not the thing itself, which is one of the points. There is a wonderful amount of detailed, beautiful data, little maps and illustrations on just about every sidebar. For example, the narrator charts the effects that McDonald's has on his 12-year-old psyche, analyzing it while succumbing to it. This book has the good humor and surprises of Little Miss Sunshine, so much so that a few shocking mood changes enhance that quality rather than detract from it. Most of all, it's funny enough to make you laugh out loud, and well-paced enough to keep you reading late at night. Highly recommended. That is to say, wow.

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