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Book Report: The City of Dreaming Books

Your Humble Blogger prepares for airplane travel by purchasing a book, or more usually two. Paperbacks, of course. This time it was three books, to be shared between YHB and my Best Blogger; I read absurdly quickly and she always has work to do, so often I will zip through two books while she reads one, and then I can read hers while she reads one of mine. Of course, in actuality, as we were traveling with my Perfect Non-Reader and the Youngest Member, very little of the travel time was spent with the two adults simultaneously reading. And my Best Reader didn't get any grading done, either. Still, there are the books.

I picked up The City of Dreaming Books because it loked to be around the right size. Nice cover. Also, it was one of three or four similarly-sized books by Walter Moers, so if I liked the book, it would be a lead on more books to like. Also, books? dreaming? city? I like those things. The cover (did I mention the cover) has a cute one-eyed alien and a million jillion books, so that's all right.

Oh, right, the alien. Did I mention that this was in the litchrachoor section, not the specfic section? Because it's a book about a dinosaur who wants to learn to write novels so he leaves Lindworm Castle to go to Bookholm, in search of the Greatest Writer Ever, and winds up trapped in the book catacombs with the Bookhunters, the Shadow King, the Fearsome Booklings and other denizens of the deep. Which is not the sort of thing you would put in with fantasy and science fiction and that. No, you want that in litchrachoor, alongside Christopher Moore. Seriously.

As for the book itself, rather than the bookstore, it was a bit frustrating for this narrative fiend, as it has a picaresque one-thing-after-another feel to it, with Optimus Yarnspinner losing sight of his mission as he blundering through the crazy settings. On the other hand, the set pieces are often funny or exciting, and enough of the bits come together at the end to give the impression that Mr. Moers had a plan all along, even if Mr. Yarnspinner did not. I should also mention the translator, John Brownjohn, who must have had a hell of a time with a book that is full of puns, parodies and evocative nonsense. It didn't have that translated-into-English feel at all, which would have been utter death for a book like this.

And seriously, how is it that I can have remained utterly ignorant of Walter Moers, who has been a famous cartoonist, animator and fantasy novelist in Germany for a decade or more? Is it possible that the spec-fic community on whose edges I circle is that insulated, ignorant and ethnocentric? I mean, it's not like this guy's from Khazakstan, or that it's only just coming out in English. Or has everybody been reading him all along?

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,