The shelves in my narrow upstairs hallway are crammed with books about books. I don’t mean biographies or autobiographies of writers, though they are fun to read, but confessions of booksellers, histories of the book, editors’ and agents’ tales, and books about reading itself. There’s always something new for me to bring home and add to this section of my home library. In fact, I now have books slipped horizontally on top of the volumes that are shelved properly and any sense of alphabetical shelving has been lost. Worse, I have so many books stacked on top of the bookcases, that they threaten to topple. My young and energetic granddaughters are forbidden to jump in the upstairs hallway for fear of catastrophe.
Lately, much has been written about what neuroscientists have discovered is happening to our brains as we move more and more to electronic devices for our reading needs. All very alarming and interesting. I have added a few of these missives to my collection. But I am drawn more to the celebratory books about books, and the meditative ones. I look forward to Alberto Manguel’s thoughts. I enjoy quirky bookish characters such as those in A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé. But the book I am most excited about today, the book I will make you read if you come into the bookstore, is The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger.
Niffenegger, who wrote the bestselling The Time Traveler’s Wife, is also a visual artist. In The Night Bookmobile, she gives us her illustrations and her words to create a graphic novel, or as her publishers bill it a “novel-in-pictures” about what it means to be a lifelong reader. The book is filled with mystery. I believe Neffenegger when she tells us it was based on a dream. You feel like you are in a dream when you read it.
The first time the protagonist discovers the Night Bookmobile, it is three in the morning and she is wandering sleepless in the streets of Chicago. When she gains admittance, she discovers that the books within include all the books she has read since she first learned how.
The Bookmobile disappears and unexpectedly reappears throughout the years. She searches and cannot find it and then there it is. Every time it reappears and she enters, she finds the books she has read right up to whatever she is currently reading. “Each spine was an encapsulated memory, each book represented hours, days of pleasure, of immersion in words. “ She longs for a job in the Bookmobile, to stay there with her books.
Her life goes on. Eventually she does get a job in the Bookmobile but I won’t ruin the story by telling you how this comes to be, and what she loses and gains. It will leave you pondering your own reading, what your books mean to you and what they might mean to others. The Night Bookmobile places pressure on our notions of eternal reward and its opposite, of heaven and hell.
So, gentle fellow readers, I ask you to take a look at The Night Bookmobile. Posted by Suzy.