- Title: The Night Bookmobile
- Author: Audrey Niffenegger
- Publisher: Abrams ComicArts
- Release Date: September 2010
- Hardcover, 40 pages
- My Rating: 4/5 stars
- Synopsis (as quoted from Publishers Weekly): “After a fight with her boyfriend one night, Alexandra goes for a walk and comes upon a bookmobile. When she goes inside to look at the books, she discovers that it’s a library of her own reading history; every book she’s ever read, including her diary, is on the shelf. As her life continues, she searches for the bookmobile, but years go by before she finds it again. Meanwhile she becomes a librarian and a loner, eventually deciding that she wants to work in the bookmobile, though the price for doing so is high. […] At heart this romantic, melancholy tale is a paean to reading and to the life one person lives through books.”
For this Fearless Friday, I’m venturing into a genre I don’t ordinarily read: the graphic novel. I love art, I love all things visual, how they provoke me. But I think I’ve always preferred the written word over the illustrated version because the worlds I imagined in my head were always superior. My only previous experience in this genre is with Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons…unless you count a minor obsession with Wonder Woman’s representation in comics over the years (the creator’s wife went to Mount Holyoke College so we have a lot of archival materials on the subject), which I don’t. So when I read the synopsis of this book online, I immediately thought it would be a good choice for this whole Fearless Friday project. Enough of a change to be interesting, but a subject close enough that I could definitely relate to it. (I’m not a big sci-fi person either and the graphic novels I was browsing before all kind of seem to lean that way. Am I wrong in that generalization? I’m very earthy, thank you very much.) And hey, SPOILER ALERT for the rest of my review!
*happy sighs* Where do I start with this review? One of my favorite quotes is from Jorge Luis Borges: “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” The idea of Heaven…or in this case The Night Bookmobile, appearing as if from a dream, is lovely. I would be just as heartbroken as Lexi to lose contact with it:
“Have you ever found your heart’s desire and then lost it? I had seen myself, a portrait of myself as a reader. My childhood: hours spent in airless classrooms, days home sick from school reading Nancy Drew, forbidden books read secretly late at night. Teenage years reading – trying to read – books I’d heard were important, Naked Lunch and The Fountainhead, Ulysses, and Women In Love . . . It was as though I had dreamt the perfect lover, who vanished as I woke, leaving me pining and surly.”
Lexi goes on to become a librarian in real life, but she longs to work for The Library…The Library of The Night Bookmobile. After her very own Librarian of all these years, Mr. Oppenheimer, repeatedly tries to dissuade her from it – saying “You don’t know what you’re asking” – Lexi commits suicide. It’s a sudden dark turn in the plot and the childlike vibrancy of the art makes it all the more spooky. It works though. She becomes a Librarian but her collection is gone. Mr. Oppenheimer tells her, “Only living people can be readers.” They walk off hand-in-hand to get Lexi acquainted with her new Reader.
The Afterword is an essential read, as Niffenegger goes into the source material for this book and later reveals that this is just the first installment of a full-length graphic novel she has planned. Confession: I’m kind of in love. When does it come out? Someone please stop me from adding Niffenegger’s previous graphic novels, The Adventuress and The Three Incestuous Sisters, to my Amazon.Com shopping cart. Seriously. I need an intervention. And I’m glad I picked up a used copy of The Time Traveler’s Wife at the last library sale, because the beautiful writing in such a limited space here makes me want to see what she can do with an entire novel’s worth of space to fill.
I don’t think I’m accurately conveying how much I loved this book. It’s a love letter to libraries, filled with all the hopes and fears and sadness and light of humanity. A fairy tale, in the olden style. Read it; Love it too.
FYI: If you enjoyed this book, you should also go see the movie The Book Of Eli. And vice versa. I promise it’s all worth it!
And pssst… My Worthy Causes page has been updated. Please spread the love!