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Comments for The Night Bookmobile

The Night Bookmobile: 09/06/14

cover art

The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger was first serialized in The Guardian. I came across it through a number of book blogs that seem taken with the cover of Alexandra hugging the book she's reading. As I had so enjoyed Three Incestuous Sisters, I knew I wanted to read this graphic novel.

Alexandra, angry after a fight with her boyfriend, wanders the streets one night. In her perambulations she discovers a night bookmobile, driven and maintained by Mr. Openshaw. His library on wheels oddly has every book she remembers reading, including the odds and ends she used as book marks. These aren't just books she remembers reading, these are the books she read — many long lost and forgotten.

Rather than be completely grossed out by such an eerie thing, Alexandra finds a new obsession to fill the void in her life. She desperately wants to be a bookmobile librarian. She wants to apprentice under Mr. Openshaw. She does everything she can, including going to library school. Though she finds a new career as a librarian, it isn't the one she dreams of.

Alexandra does ultimately reach her goal, but through extra-ordinary means. Her blinding obsession with books and a particular book mobile plays into a recurring theme I've seen in books or films where a librarian is the main character — loneliness and depression — the librarian who hides in her (almost always her) books. Niffenegger just takes it one doozy of a step further.

Like Alexandra I've had an on again, off again affair with books and libraries. My first library encounter was also with a bookmobile — though we didn't actually get to into the vehicle — they were brought to us in a rented storefront. I don't see reading as a solitary, lonely or depressing thing. It's not a substitute for human interaction — it enhances those interactions. A librarian's primary function is to connect people and books. There's more human interaction than reading involved in the job.

Also like Alexandra, I do sometimes dream about driving a bookmobile. In California that would require going back to driving school and getting a class C license. At the moment, I'm ready to be done with school, but maybe in a year or two, I'll revisit that dream.

Five stars

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