Adventures in Reading

Walter Moers’ The City of Dreaming Books
December 3, 2007, 1:58 pm
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yarnspinner.jpgI am having more trouble today writing a post than I normally have. For the most part, my Internet writings are a result of rather spontaneous writings that I post (and often later return to and cringe at typos and where my mind was traveling too fast for my fingers). However, today for whatever reason I am struggling to say anything. So here goes nothing!

The above paragraph was my lame attempt to comment on one of the many themes that twines through Walter Moers’ The City of Dreaming Books (which I did finish last month but am only just getting around to writing about) – the most recent addition to Moers world of Zamonia. In his fantasy tale, Optimus Yarnspinner (a Lindwormer or dinosaur) inherits perhaps the world’s most perfect short story or essay. And what is this essay? A brilliant piece discussing writer’s block that produces nearly every reaction conceivable in its audience. However, the author of this splendid piece is anonymous and Optimus travels to the legendary city of Bookholm to discover who penned such an important piece.

This is where the story begins and Moers takes his audience through a spectacular world that is sure to thrill any lover of books. The City of Dreaming Books is a book about books, about publishing, about authors, about book reviews, about the canon, about forgotten books, and about practically anything book related you can think of. The reference to “dreaming books” in the title refers to Moers idea that dormant books, or books not being read, are dreaming of being read.

I have not been so excited about a fantasy series in ages. Earlier in the year I read Terry Pratchett’s most recent book, which was enjoyable but seemed to lack some of the zeal of his earlier novels. I also picked up Piers Anthony on a whim and was greatly disappointed. Unlike many fantasy authors in my experience, Moers seems to spend the perfect amount of time on story development. He never becomes boring or tedious and never leaves the story under developed.

On a more serious note, Moers also proffers a rather scathing criticism of the publishing industry that threads throughout the book. Upon reaching Bookholm, Optimus meets the arch-nemesis of books: Smyke, who wants to dumb down literature to mediocrity, which of course means that Optimus inheritance is entirely unacceptable. In addition to my excitement for this book, Moers also does his own illustrations (note the first image in this post). Every few pages has a beautiful illustration that creates a much more tangible Zamonia.

The City of Dreaming Books is an engaging read and I went ahead and purchased an earlier book by Moers. This is definitely an author that has made my recommendation list.


Book Related Musings

I have been devouring the German author Walter Moers’ The City of Dreaming Books. My recent devotion to this novel is a mix of my adoration for my books, the sensational story line, and Moers brilliant hand at writing. Particularly after my dry spell with more recent books, I am thrilled that I have stumbled into the land of Zamonia and to be led on adventures by such a brilliant author. This, however, is not my final look at the book.

The City of Dreaming Books (and the rest of Moers’ books) are located in fiction, but they are undoubtedly fantasy. One reason I have such respect for Moers is his talent at constructing a fantastical locale. Fantasy authors (or anyone writing of something fantastical) are challenged in at least one manner other authors are not: they are creating something, someone, or somewhere that is entirely unreal. Of course in most fantasy books you will find remnants of reality but a fantasy author must be well schooled in suspension of disbelief. However, one area of suspension of disbelief that I have not seen too many conversations on is the length of development.

Moers provides exactly perfect size slice of fantastical narrative and he does this over and over again. I have often come across fantasy authors (including those I love to those I loathe) who spend a great deal of time constructing the fantasy and the reader easily becomes bored, and on the other hand there are fantasy authors who spend such little time on one area and spend a great deal of time skipping from one idea to the next that the reader is left unsatisfied. Moers repeatedly provides perfection.

This brings me to something else I have been musing about lately. Not too long ago a ripple of excitement spread throughout the world when J.K. Rowling disclosed that Dumbledore was gay. What I was most interested were critical reactions to this. Neil Gaiman, another fantasy author, in short said that when you create a world you always have to leave details out. In some of the more academic communities I peruse the general reaction was: bunk.

Where is this all going? No where, but I did find this division between fantasy (which has had quite the difficult time in being viewed as “acceptable”) and fiction a fascinating discussion.

I must thank the Google image search for this post’s image found at

Black Friday

Working at a bookstore on Black Friday actually is not too bad. Believe it or not, no one pitches tents outside the night before opening and the police are seldom called in (we saved those shenanigans for the Harry Potter release nights). More than anything today was like a busy Friday or Saturday night but with one exception: it is the time of year where non-book people come out shopping for book people. The result tends to be a lot of confusion and frustration for both the bookseller and customer. The season, however, is only starting and my fingers are crossed that the remainder of the year will go just as smoothly.

Reading wise I have quite a bit going on right now. I am speedily working my way through rereading Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and am somewhat more slowly pacing my way through Emma by Jane Austen. Emma has been the first book for me by Austen where I struggled to get through the introductory chapters. In addition, I have two more books sitting on the backburner: They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? by Horace McCoy and The City of Dreaming Books by Moer. Happy reading every one!