In the Sunday Books section of the Austin American-Statesman, I read a review of The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by debut author Reif Larsen. According to the review, the book is a graphic novel in a similar vein as Nick Bantock’s Griffin & Sabine. It follows the narrative “of a 12-year-old boy on a secret trek to Washington, D.C., who speaks in a mixture of Victorian formality and eighth-grade goofiness.”
Somehow T.S.’s scientific drawings receive an award from the Smithsonian Institution, according to the review, and he’s on his way to Washington. The review applauds the artwork and narrative, except for a large section that recounts a story about his great-great-grandmother. That story, the reviewer says, falls short of T.S.’s voice. The reviewer also says the final quarter of the novel “evaporate[s] into gassy sentimentality.”
I haven’t read the novel so I can’t pass judgment on it, but the review also notes the manuscript received almost $1 million when New York Publishing houses bid on it. This bothers me. While I think writers should receive vast sums for their work, I really can’t see how such a huge bid can help publishing at a time when publishing is suffering gigantic woes.
Such a sum seems a greater risk on a debut work than, say, on a J.K. Rowling manuscript. From the description, this book is a piece of experimental fiction, rarely high-bid, bestselling work. Do the publishers expect a monstrous return on their investment?
And just in case anyone out there is interested, I’m pretty sure my novel manuscript is worth at least $1 million. Any takers?