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Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  6,439 ratings  ·  814 reviews
Firmin is a rat born in a book (a shredded copy of Finneggans Wake), who finds the books he consumes also consume his soul. He becomes a vagabond and philosopher, struggling with mortality and meaning.

In the basement of a Boston bookstore, Firmin is born in a shredded copy Finnegans Wake, nurtured on a diet of Zane Grey, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and Jane Eyre (which tastes
Paperback, 162 pages
Published April 1st 2006 by Coffee House Press
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Average rating 3.49  · 
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 ·  6,439 ratings  ·  814 reviews

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so i bought this years ago and didn't read it. and then the new, even cuter edition came out so i had to get it again, but actually read it this time because i am a sucker for cool book design. and i'm glad, because it's not a cute book, despite its illustrations and little ratbite cutout. it's more sad than cute, and it is definitely not for kids. and i am a grown up!! (she says, eating all the candy from the basket daddy sent for easter...)

come to my blog!
Jan 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Again, I must be a voice of dissent here. I loved this novella. It is written from the perspective of a rat who was born in a bookstore to an alcoholic-mother in a litter of other rat-like rats. Firmin is of course different from his brothers and sisters: he possesses a yearning for knowledge and a loneliness that he obliquely recognizes as the loneliness of the human condition--particularly among those humans whose lives he vicariously observes. This makes him a liminal figure at home neither i ...more
James Barker
I adored this intelligent, quirky book. Yes, it's told from the POV of a rat but this is no 'Secret of Nimh.' The rat in question, Firmin, is the runt of a litter of 13 and, because this mother only has 12 nipples he has to play 'musical teats'.. with little success. Instead he has to sustain himself by nibbling classic books. Birthed by an alcoholic mother in the basement of a bookshop in Boston's Scolloy Square there are, thankfully, enough volumes to keep him full. But, in allowing the words ...more
May 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book really surprised me. When I saw it at Powell's Books, I knew right away I was the target audience. See that white chunk on the right side of the cover? It's a literal chunk taken out of the book. As though a rat had nibbled it. On the back, it said it was a book about Firmin, a rat who begins by consuming literature, but soon finds it consumes him. It's about a rat who loves books. Perfect for me. So I bought it, guessing it would be a fun, cute summer read, with little substance.

It is
Sep 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
Firmin is a story of a rat who lives in a bookstore, eats books (words) and understands the text of the stories he reads. When the bookstore is torn down to make way for urban renewal he goes in search of a new home.

Firmin is, at it's core, an outsider story about someone who never really fits into the world in which he finds himself.

I have a theory about helping people find books. I think all of us are ultimately searching for our story recreated and retold in many different ways, so my person
Stephanie Griffin
Nov 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone who has a soul.
Shelves: favorites
This amazing book, written by first-time novelist Sam Savage, blew me away with its intelligent writing and perceptive looks into the human condition. Yes, it’s from a rat’s perspective. Don’t let that deter you from reading one of the best books of the past two years.
Firmin discovers that he lives in a bookshop basement in a run-down part of a city. He nibbles on the pages of the books, but also learns to read voraciously. He closely observes the world of the bookshop and ventures out to nearby
Jun 16, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookcrossing
This book had all the ingredients to make me like it a lot and yet, it was just a little above the OK read.

A rat that lives in a bookshop and learns to read is undoubtedly an interesting theme. However, I found some parts of the book dragging for too long, more than once making me feel sleepy...

On the other hand, all the references to books were interesting, the account of the slow degradation of the neighborhood is very well achieved, the friendship of Firmin with the unsuccessful writer is f
Yasmin Moghadamnia
I mostly bought the book because of the cover design. I had honestly expected for it to be sort of a sweet story and an easy read. It wasn’t. I had stop at many sentences and just think about what I had just read. Fermin has a voice that belongs to all semi-crazy fucked up protagonists, in my opinion. He wines about all the same things, being left out, failing relationships because of a different image of the other person, and so on.
There is one freakishly cute feature of Fermin’s brain that I b
Dec 05, 2008 rated it it was ok
There is some genius behind this story, but unfortunately, it is a genius I do not fully appreciate. What started out as a desire to read a grown-up version of Ratatouille, turned into a much more contemplative Kafka Metamorphosis-esque narrative about literally being a low-life (a rodent) surrounded by humans occupying the same social status. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy parts of it. The author can comment a lot on the true nature of humans by disguising it as natural animal rat instinct - t ...more
Beautiful, tragic, and wildly creative. Firmin is a rat who is born on a shredded copy of Finnigan's Wake in the basement of a bookshop, and consequently falls in love with literature. Stuck in a sea of rats too simpleminded to understand his intellectual depths and humans he cannot communicate with, he struggles to find happiness.

This book made me laugh, cry, and think. But mostly, it spoke to my soul. I would recommend it to anyone who has ever found solace within the pages of a book.
Helen (Helena/Nell)
It's not an all-time classic, but it has something.

I liked the pictures of the little mousy-looking rats at the bottom of the pages -- the little dears.

I also liked the bite out of the top of the book, which reflects the way Firmin, the first-person narRATor, devours books, both literally and metaphorically.

Where it doesn't quite (sorry) bite is in the character of the narrator, which is not sufficiently distinctive. I like the situation; I like the idea; but the voice reminded me of a number
Sep 07, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2009
Living among (and devouring) books, possessing an enormous general knowledge, sipping coffee and wine, going to cinema, eating peanut butter, living in a writer's house, listening to good music and playing piano; tell me who wouldn't like that? Firmin is everything the average man cannot be, that's why we like him. So he's funny, witty, falsely thinking that others understand him (don't we all?) but his bohemian existence ends sadly and beyond Scollay Square's demolition I can see Savage's own d ...more
Mar 14, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a book I picked up from my travels. After reading the back of it I decided the premise sounded really quite different and interesting.
It is quite different being rather melancholy, at the same time it is fascinating. I cannot really go in to it without giving anything away however the writing style is both easy to read and conveys many deep and personal feelings at the same time. I think what appeals to me is that as the character explores reading you see how his life becomes more colo
Jul 26, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Not many
All I can say about this book is "Ehhh..." It wasn't the worst thing I've ever read, but it still didn't quite make it to my mediocre category either. As an avid reader, I was expecting to love the book-devouring rat, but it never quite got there.
Feb 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
I really loved this little novel; it spoke to the bibliophile in me. You would think that having a rat as the main character would turn you off but this was such a charming and heartwarming story and I highly recommend it.
Apr 06, 2016 rated it did not like it
I wanted to like this book but sadly I just couldn't get into it. I expected more from the main character and never connected with him.
Izabella (Pages Full of Stars)
3.5 stars

As soon as I saw that Firmin is a story about a rat born in a bookshop, I knew I had to pick it up. And I got a very quirky and crazy, but also slightly nostalgic little book. I guess you can read it however you want, but I like the idea that the book describes the person of a reader and reading as a very solitary thing, and I quite identified with that. Of course, ever since I discovered the community of readers online and I met a few wonderful book lovers in real life, I can share my
Hannah Givens
"It was soon painfully clear that when he looked at me what he mainly saw was a cute animal, clownish and a little stupid, something like a very small dog with buckteeth. He had no inkling of my true character, that I was in fact grossly cynical, moderately vicious, and a melancholy genius, or that I had read more books than he had."

I loved this book, because this was a book for me. It's for people who love books -- sci-fi paperbacks as well as the classics -- but are still somewhat cynical abou
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a masterpiece that many people have never heard of. Firmin is a rat living in a Boston bookstore. He eventually learns to read. The author, the late Sam Savage, has Firmin take the reader on a literary tour-de-force. Firmin is better read than most people I know, including me.

Although Firmin is a rat, I quickly identified with him. Not the tail and yellow teeth, but his intelligence, his philosophy of life, his taste as a reader, and his empathy for the humans he lives with. His attempts
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
If Dostoevsky had written the screenplay for Ratatouille, it would probably end up looking something like this. The main character of the story is a well-read rat who lives in a bookstore and longs to be a part of humanity. This book is a strange one, but I think that's part of its charm. Savage handles themes of literature, loneliness, isolation, depression, and unlikely friendship in a beautifully grotesque way. His prose has a beauty to it, but its shrouded in hopelessness. I would not recomm ...more
Sep 29, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finished
Didn't finished.

The plot seemed cool and intrigued me a lot, but unfortunately it developed in a way that wasn't really my cup of tea.
Eva Sanchez
Jun 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A letter I wrote to Sam Savage but couldn't figure out where to send it.
To Sam Savage,
I was walking through the aisles of my local library branch with no idea of what book I wanted to read. I bided my time because it was the afternoon and that meant that my house was hot and humid and the library was not. I skimmed the aisles of stacks of rows of books and plucked them one by one off the shelves. I took in title upon title and tried to guess what a cover art had to do with the descriptions. You
Gitte - Bookworm's Closet
Apr 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers who enjoy books about books. And rats.

Shoes: Lola Ramona
The Beginning: I had always imagined that my life story, if and when I wrote it, would have a great first line.

What a pleasant surprise this book turned out to be! It was an adorable read and a wonderful companion on my trip to London. We follow the rat, Firmin, who lives in a bookshop and develops a taste for books. Literally! He reads and eats books:

I had discovered a remarkable relation, a kind of preestablished harmony, between the taste and the literary quality of a bo
Apr 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is, without a doubt, one of the most unusual books I've ever read. At first glance, I thought it was a childrens book. It's definitely NOT a childrens book. It's an adult novel about...a rat. This rat, Firmin, identifies with humans more than other rats. This is due to the fact that as a baby, and as the runt of the litter, he had to turn to eating books because he couldn't compete with his bigger, greedier brothers and sisters for food. Ingesting these books caused him to learn how to read ...more
Jul 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Mr Sam Savage sounds like someone out of a Jim Dodge story. His author bio informs us that he has bachelor's and doctoral degrees in Philosophy from Yale University, that he briefly taught at that same venerable institution, and that he has also been a bicycle mechanic, carpenter, commercial fisherman, and letterpress printer. I've just seen his photo now too, and he even looks like someone out of a Jim Dodge story:

But whereas you might expect such a man t
Mar 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sam Savage’s wildly original novel, the story of a rat born on a copy of “Finnegan’s Wake” in a Boston bookstore, is a tender, beautiful gift to bibliophiles!

Unlike his siblings who feast on the pages of books in blissful ignorance, Firmin not only consumes the books surrounding him in his birthplace, but also becomes consumed by them – their thoughts, their words, and their ideas. He has the “gift of lexical hypertrophy,” but is, unfortunately, trapped by the physical limitations of being a ra
Dec 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is a book about loneliness and curiosity. The two go well together it seems and I was surprised to find myself at times in the tiny rat. I felt sorry for him or was happy for him as the book went on. Beautiful.

I had some time just now to write down my favorite quotes, I usually do this after I write the goodreads thoughts, but here they are:

"I would haul myself up through the hole, and Jerry, sitting at the table, would turn and say something like 'Lo, Ernie, how was your walk?' It broke my
Jul 10, 2018 rated it did not like it
This book was very slow. It starts off interesting enough, a rat born on a book and through eating the book learns to read, it then turns into a rat's eye view of an interesting second hand book store. However this book falls flat. It references obscure book titles, for when Firmin meets anything new he labels it with a book title. Nothing really happens in the story, the rat is born and learns to read but never really does anything with his knowledge. He's never able to affect the outside world ...more
Apr 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009-novels
Okay, it's about a rat who reads (and eats) books and has an active fantasy life. Weird as it sounds, I loved this book. If anything, it was just too sad (given the topic, really, that makes sense, but it hit some of my particular buttons right now). I had trouble reading it at times (and it's really short) due to that fact. It's not all dark, though, and while I'm not sure about the ending, but I actually think I'll be thinking about this book for a while and the chacter of Firmin in particular ...more
Apr 06, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The main character is a rat. A rat who suffers from despair because he can never be more than a rat. A rat who reads to escape his existence. A rat who imagines and creates fantasies in order to survive his undesired lot in life. If you are a person who cannot handle anthropomorphism, try and read the book as metaphor for the outsiders/others that live on the fringes of civilized societies.

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Sam Savage was an American novelist and poet. He was a native of South Carolina living in Madison, Wisconsin. He received his bachelor and doctoral degree from Yale University where he taught briefly, and also worked as a bicycle mechanic, carpenter, commercial fisherman, and letterpress printer.

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