Monday, January 24, 2011

The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger

A sleepless young woman out walking in the wee hours in Chicago encounters a bookmobile. The books are housed in a Winnebago driven by a librarian who invites her inside. It turns out that she has read every single book aboard. She even finds her childhood diary on the shelves. She cannot stay as long as she'd like to explore the collection because the bookmobile closes at dawn. Her life is forever changed afterwards.

Niffenegger has created a sort of hybrid picture book/graphic novel and the format generated some discussion amongst librarians last year about where to place this book on the shelves. One librarian in the USA found it so disturbing that she sent a review copy directly to their book sale, without adding it to their collection, because of "serious ick factor." (Whoa! What happened to intellectual freedom?) It is a rather bizarre tale, but the premise is intriguing and the art very fine. The full colour illustrations are in a realistic style, quite different from Niffenegger's earlier aquatint visual novels. Inside the bookmobile, for example, I recognized the same genre spine labels that we use at the Edmonton Public Library.

I wasn't surprised to read in the author's note that The Night Bookmobile was inspired by a dream. If you enjoy something a bit out of the ordinary - like I do - this will be a treat. It is possible to read the entire thing online, as it was published in monthly installments in The Guardian in 2008. There's nothing as good as a real book in your hands, however...

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