The Selected Works of T S Spivet is quite unique (ISBN 978-1-846-55277-9). It’s a novel by Reif Larsen and tells the story of 12 year old T S Spivet who maps everything he comes across. He draws the most illuminating, enlightening and thought provoking diagrams and maps and the novel is liberally illustrated with them down the margins of virtually every page. I can’t remember the last time I was so delighted by a book. Utterly engaging, charming, thought provoking, funny, and, in places, intensely moving.
The novel uses the device of the innocence of the child observer to great effect. You begin to look at the world anew after reading a book like this. The ordinary seems less ordinary. The world seems more full of wonder.
Here’s two or three short passages to illustrate something of the novel. As T S looks out over the landscape he spots a bird –
A red-tailed hawk swooped down into the rippling rapids of the river. It was gone for a full two seconds, completely submerged in the cold mountain water. I wondered how it felt beneath the surface, a creature trained for the air but now surrounded by liquid. Did he feel like a clumsy visitor as I did when I was underwater, staring at the minnows that lurked like flecks of light on our pond’s bottom? And then the hawk was already tearing back up into the air, droplets exploding off its pumping wings. There was a tiny silver fish in its beak. A perfect slip of a thing. The bird circled once and I strained to watch it move against the cliffs of the canyon, but it was already gone.
What I love about this observation is not just the detail which conjures up such a vivid image in your mind, but this kind of observation is special. It’s empathic observation. T S doesn’t just see, he uses his imagination and his memory to connect with the bird far more deeply than a simple description would do.
As the Montana born and bred T S reaches Chicago he is amazed by the cityscape. The passage is far too long to quote here but within the description is this –
As I watched I fell under the city’s spell of multiplicity and transience.
Wow! The “city’s spell of multiplicity and transience”! Goodness, that hits the nail on the head!
Finally, here’s what one of the characters says about maps –
A map does not just chart, it unlocks and formulates meaning; it forms bridges between here and there, between disparate ideas that we did not know were previously connected.
Absolutely. T S believes we all have a complete map of the world engraved into our brains when we are born and we spend our lives creating maps of what we see and experience and trying to figure out how to access that map.
Read this. It’s lovely. Really, it’s a sheer delight. It’s also unique. You’ll never have read a book quite like this one.
Reif Larson has an accompanying website – http://www.tsspivet.com/