The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet ~ Reif Larsen
Twelve year old T.S. Spivet has been living in Montana over the duration of his short life. His father is a rancher, a caricature of a western cowboy, while his mother is the obsessive, intellectual scientist, devoting her life to seeking out the rare, some might say nonexistent, Tiger Monk Beetle. His siblings are the boy and girl versions of two-dimensional ranch life, one aspiring to be a cowboy, himself, the other, longing for things far away, like her dream of walking down the red carpet, somewhere, anywhere.
Needless to say, aside from distracted and spaced out interactions with his mother, T.S. has never had what you or I might call, intense intellectual stimulation. This aside, his genius is hard at work in the corners of the ranch (and everywhere else), mapping various people, places and things. Dinner conversations, migration paths and facial expressions come to life under his talented pen.
A dream pieced together by lofty aspirations and things that will never come, is suddenly realized when T.S. picks up the phone and finds, on the other end, the Smithy. Oh, yes, the one and only Smithsonian. They would like to present him with the coveted Baird Award. Realizing his true potential, far away from ranch land and Girlpop, T.S. packs his bags and heads East on one of, what is I am sure, my favorite travel bit in literary history.
Though the book, as a whole, is almost entirely impossible to describe, the story is a familiar one of belonging, self-discovery and dreams realized (though, not always with the end we had in mind). There is a bizarre talent in Larsen’s writing that embodies the voice of a tenured, Smithsonian scholar, a sleazy, middle-aged politician and a wide-eyed, and twelve-year-old ranch kid cum Mapboy. There is such a close weave of all of these separate approaches and paths to life that the story seems to be told from inside of a head bearing all these voices, rather than via a simple pen to paper.
It’s not as complex as it seems (though, if you’re not one for tangential footnotes, this might not be your bag, baby) but, rather, just the right amount of complex. I have no idea why this book didn’t get a huge, standing ovation when it came out, though, maybe I have a few ideas. It’s a little bit quirky, a little bit oddball and, of course, there are the footnotes. Those slight oddities aside, this is really an incredible book along the lines of Eggers and Pynchon that needs to be read or at least tasted. My only frustration is that Larsen has no other books….yet.