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The City of Dreaming Books

PostPosted: Mon Mar 11, 2013 6:30 pm
by Dorian
Title: The City of Dreaming Books
Author: Walter Moers (german author)

The story revolves around Optimus Yarnspinner (an aspiring young author) and his adventures in the town of Bookholm. It all starts when Optimus' godfather gives him a manuscript of an unknown author on his deathbed. The manuscript (on writer's block) is of surpassing genius, a piece of writing so perfectly right, that Optimus decides that he must find the author and learn from him. There's no better place to look out for an author than Bookholm. The city is entirely devoted to the creation, consumption and sale of books. A bibliophile's utopia, it is full of books, agents and critics for hire. Optimus gets tricked and ends up in the catacombs deep underneath the city where many terrifying and dangerous creatures await him. In this place reading can be deadly. There are animatomes (living books), poisonous and booby-trapped books. Not to mention the ruthless bookhunters who won't let anything get in their way of finding literary gems that can make you rich beyond imagination as well as many other deadly creatures. And last but not least the legendary Shadow king and the feared Booklings. We follow Optimus on his desperate and perilous journey to get back to the world above.

Here's some advice given to Optimus:

Never write a novel from the perspective of a door handle!
Foreign words are foreign to most readers.
Never put more words in a sentence than genuinely belong in it.
If a full stop is a wall, a colon is a door.
If you write something while drunk, read it through sober before you submit it to a publisher.
Never write with anything but quicksilver; it guarantees narrative flow.
Footnotes are like books on the bottom shelf. No one likes looking at them because they have to bend down.
A single sentence should never contain more than a million ants unless it’s a scientific work on ants.
Sonnets are best written on deckle-edged paper, novellas on vellum.
Take a deep breath after every third sentence.
It’s best to write horror stories with a wet flannel round your neck.
If one of your sentences puts you in mind of an elephant trying to pick up a coconut with its trunk, better give it some more thought.
Stealing from one author is plagiarism; from many authors, research.
Big books are big because the author didn’t have the time to express himself succinctly.

I really don't want to give too much away. Moers manages to create a world with astounding characters. The prose is brilliant. Whimsical, imaginative, witty, ironic and beautifully written. The beings who populate the book manage to stand out as individuals with real characters. It's a delightful and humorous read. It's very dark one minute just to make you laugh out loud the next minute. I got sucked into the story and was barely able to put the book down. It's a crazy journey through a wondrous world.

This is a story for people who love books. It's basically a declaration of love for reading and literature. It's also a satire on all things literary. Filled with dark humour nobody gets spared, neither writers, critics, editors, agents, booksellers, nor readers.

Maybe I should mention that the names of the authors in the book are anagrams of actual writers. It was a lot of fun to figure them out. And there are quite a few illustrations by Moers throughout the book.

10/10: I know some people think a score of 10 is not possible but I adore this book from beginning to end. I can read it over and over again without getting bored. Easily among the top 3 of my all-time favourite books. Beautifully written with memorable characters and a story full of adventure and wonders. There are 3 other books by Moers available in english and I love them all. Not sure if the newest of his Zamonia books is already available in english.

Re: The City of Dreaming Books

PostPosted: Mon Mar 11, 2013 6:40 pm
by Vivia
The City of Dreaming Books is in my wish list, for reading in 2013. Your review makes me eager to get it.
Wet flannel is creepy, that advice is good. :)

Re: The City of Dreaming Books

PostPosted: Tue Mar 12, 2013 12:11 am
by Tim the Corsair
You convinced me the moment I read 'Optimus Yarnspinner'

Re: The City of Dreaming Books

PostPosted: Tue Mar 12, 2013 12:24 am
by Ghurlag
In the vein of things targeted at the literary world and lovers of books, I will suggest If on a Winter's Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino. It's a spiral down the rabbithole where fiction becomes other fiction, and the Reader ends up more in the story than observing it.