The Librarian at the End of the World presents a satirical romp across America, and is a recommended pick for readers who want to take the iconic Jack Kerouac classic On the Road one step further into absurdity. (Indeed, The Librarian at the End of the World combines the travelogue of Kerouac and the absurdity of Ken Kesey.)
The journey is undertaken by champion speedbather Ramdas Bingaman and his equally oddball wife Colletta, who turn a projected vacation into a rollicking odyssey of escape and revenge.
It’s difficult to immediately categorize The Librarian at the End of the World because so many elements are present and intersect at the very beginning, all using copious and non-stop levels of ironic observation and spoofs. Everything readers might anticipate from the novel by its title (either the story of a staid librarian, or an apocalyptic piece about survival) is turned on end from its introductory lines, which refute any idea that the story will be either dry or easily anticipated: “If you are going to rise to the top of your field at a young age, as I have, you have to own a closet full of suits because dressing well will balance out your otherwise youthful demeanor. People in my line of work don’t take you seriously unless they suspect you are capable of destroying them, their families, and their legacies. You probably don’t think of librarians in this light, but I assure you it is true. Librarians are fucking fierce. If you must know, I, Ramdas Bingaman, was never properly educated as a librarian, but that has never kept me from knowing all I need to know to help a patron in need.”
Mark Miller cultivates a first-personal observation tone rooted in give-and-take, playing on words and expectations with a deft confidence that leads readers on a journey of anticipation, frustration, revelation, and satisfying surprises throughout.
From a protagonist who initially hides in a classroom and builds his name on accepted practice over risk-taking to a league of speedbathers and circumstances which lead him to regain his prowess in something he once commanded to considerations of social rules and grand schemes involving cheese pilfering (“I slip in the basement, find his refrigerator, and slice off a really thick slab of Lagoon with a View Bleu, though hopefully not enough for it to be missed, unless he already weighed the block of cheese, which I’m sure he has. Do I feel bad? Luring him back to his house with promises of a great fortune in exchange for his special cheese? Not at all. I am stronger, smarter, and more resourceful than my peers and auction competitors. I deserve to be rewarded, and if Ayn Rand were still alive we would have had the hottest sex two rapacious narcissists with delusions of grandeur could have. The universe owes me everything, and I owe it nothing in return. Besides which, if I am going to completely satisfy six Amazonian strap-on fem doms, I am fucking aye right gonna keep all the money. Besides, from what I can tell, I’m not making a dime in residuals.”), The Librarian at the End of the World is at once gritty, hilarious, raunchy, ironic, iconic, and as socially challenging as any classic travelogue of the 1960s.
Embedded within the trappings of wine and cheese events and compulsions to win recognition is a story of an insidious plan that may be either fabricated or real, depending on the protagonist’s current state of mind.
Novel readers looking for a lively romp across America’s prized standards and social circles that’s married to an iconic, quirky character’s search for “…love, life, death, and the end of the world”, will find The Librarian at the End of the World to be social satire at its best, ultimately questioning life’s purpose and coming up with a surprising conclusion about the end of everything.