Reif Larsen, one of the kindest, sharpest, gentlest, most spectacularly funny and impressive people I’ve ever met, has just sold his amazing debut novel, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, for a pretty damn awesome amount of money. Leon Neyfakh, in classic Observer style, snarks.
And a literary scout summed it up: “It’s a combination of ‘It’s really good and it’s really cool to look at.’ It was one of these books that got people interested the more they saw it, not the more they heard about it. It picked up relatively slowly, but as people started laying their eyes on it, they started getting more and more excited because of the way it’s put together: all of these documents and pictures and sidebars, which not only are really neat to look at it but also contain key elements of the plot.”
No word at press time whether Mr. Larsen’s book will also come with a decoder ring, which would be really cool.
I’m tempted to say, “Neyfakh needs some kind of enema,” but that’s not fair. He’s doing his job. And who knows, maybe he thinks the idea of a decoder ring really is cool. I certainly think it is, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Larsen has given it some thought. Why? Because he’s rad.
It might be hard to believe that a debut novel is a surpassing work of genius — hard to believe, that is, if you haven’t seen T.S. Spivet. When I saw the manuscript a few weeks back, very briefly, my jaw dropped, though I tried to keep it cool. The painstaking way he weaved illustrations into text was, to my untrained eye, strikingly original.
There are creative types who’ve never been able to make a living at doing what they love. And there are a lot of talented working artists in America who’ve never had a huge commercial success. This latter category includes a hell of a lot of doggedly determined people — independent-minded people who took a risk, who made a break with the expectations of parents and friends and sacrificed the stability and material prosperity we all crave. Reif was raised by artists who were artists because they loved their work, not out of any expectation of vast financial rewards. He poured himself into this book, never certain that his efforts would pay off — except in the way that doing disciplined, difficult work that you love is its own reward.
Honestly, this news just blows my mind. As a testament to Reif’s insane generosity of spirit, he actually did the dozens with me during an 11-minute video. He’s a madman, and his flows are superb. He has an antic energy and weird warmth that draws people in, and his creative work reflects that. And that is why I’m guessing this will be a novel that really endures.