The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet review

SpivetThere has already been a good deal of buzz about The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen, and deservedly so. It’s an excellent debut. Larsen is only 16 years senior to his 12 year old protagonist, and their impressive accomplishments at a young age are comparable. This book manages to be personal, regional, and universal, and I for one would love to see a map depicting that phenomenal coincidence.

Tecumseh Sparrow Spivet lives on a ranch in Montana with his rancher father, scientist mother, older sister, and the memory of his deceased younger brother. T.S. Spivet is a map-maker, and not only in the traditional sense of cartography. He maps out everything from possible sequences in a game of Cat’s Cradle to the novel Moby Dick. He is also a gifted scientific illustrator whose drawings have been published in multiple scientific magazines and journals. When he is selected for the Smithsonian’s prestigious Baird Award he embarks on an expedition that will take him beyond any of his carefully cataloged drawings.

The book is filled with a selection of these drawings and quirky asides. I’m a fan of marginalia, and I thoroughly enjoyed these sidebars. It’s a remarkable blend of empirical information and charming personality. Among the wide array of details proffered I found many personally endearing, and I’m confident that there is at least a  little something for everyone from railroad enthusiasts to bathroom attendants in these pages. I strongly recommend it. While reading this I went on a camping trip to a state park that abutted one of the freight train stations mentioned in the book (although not one that T.S. passed through) and received some instruction on maps and compasses, which also helped me to identify with young T.S. Spivet. I met Reif Larsen at Winter Institute and I would relish another opportunity to engage him in a conversation as wide as the Montana range!

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