Posted 20 hours ago

The Librarianist

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Joined in 2023

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Sadly, this book is a bit painful for me. The book is really slow paced, and, if I was editor, I would have trimmed it significantly.

A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism. Many thanks to Ecco and NetGalley for the digital review copy of this novel. All opinions expressed in this review are my own. This novel is due to be released on July 4, 2023.

Between young Bob’s passive-sounding “Okay” (or silent shrugging) whenever anyone is speaking to him and his lifelong acceptance of happiness when it came (but reluctance to actively seek happiness or too keenly despair its loss), this seems less like “sadness” to me than a persistent character trait: Bob was made this way, and he doesn’t suffer for it. In what I thought was a really perceptive observation, deWitt writes that as an old man, sometimes Bob dreams of his days at the hotel and wakes with a vague feeling of having fallen in love (although those days were not romantic), and that feels like a really true description of nostalgia to me; and especially nostalgia for the most foundational experiences of what made us who we are (I'm sure there's a German word for that experience).

Now, deWitt has published an exceedingly gentle novel about the hushed life of a retired librarian in Portland, Ore. Readers waiting for another book as irrepressible and strange as “The Sisters Brothers” will have to keep waiting. Which is not to say that “The Librarianist” is without charm, only that it presumes a reservoir of goodwill and patience. Bob Comet is the non-humorous Leslie Jordan of a Wes Anderson film, and I was determined to give this book five stars based on the first half of the book alone. Sadly, the third part of the story saw my enthusiasm falter, and the last part ended with my expectations battling the reality of life and fiction.

Because although we are told (a number of times) that is how Bob views the world we are not really shown it; as we instead see Bob in a series of rather dramatic incidents (the elderly lady rescue and sudden discovery, the three-way relationship and rapid marriage, betrayal by and then death of his best friend, the cross-country runaway and then in the final section a hospital trip and closing revelations) which are more novelistic in themselves. By contrast we get very little information on the books that Bob reads – which means that for us our true impression is that Bob lives rather then reads. Weird and hilariously deadpan in just the way you’d expect from the author of The Sisters Brothers and French Exit, this was the pop of fun my summer needed. Okay, but if she starts freaking out, can you try to get her through the doors?” The cashier made a corralling gesture, arms out. “Once she’s in the parking lot she’s out of my domain.”

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