The Lonely Lindworm Guide to Bookholm (on a shoestring)

Both The City and The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books take place in and below the city of Bookholm.  Sometimes I think Moers and his readers love the idea of a city where books are prized above all else as much (or even MORE) than the stories he’s built around it.  So what better way to celebrate the latest edition to the Zamonia series than to quote a few excerpts from the yet unpublished Lonely Lindworm’s Guide to Bookholm (on a shoestring)?


Bookholm – known throughout Zamonia as the City of Dreaming Books – is located where the Dullsgard Plateau and the Demerara Desert converge.  Hundreds of years old, this once quaint hamlet of bookshop-lined streets has grown into a virtual megalopolis of bookish goodness.  Its borders have expanded horizontally and soared vertically.  (The city now boasts several 3-5 story structures and quite a few aerial libraries).  It is true that neighborhoods which were abandoned after the Great Conflageration of Bookholm – such as Darkman Street – have become toxic no-mans lands where you can die in several horrible scenarios (breathing in poisoned gas or being eaten by giant mutated animals to name two).  But in other areas of the city new and bustling districts have emerged. Travelers who want to experience the “true” Bookholm should be careful not to limit themselves to the tourist traps of The Borderlanes, but instead take the time to really explore the inner rings of the city.  Get to know the locals.

Population & Languages

Bookholm’s population (individual citizens of which are referred to as Bookholmers) is as varied and diverse as the books the city walls contain. Murkholmers, Lindworms, Ugglies, Wolpertings, Dwarves, Vulpheads, Nocturnomaths, Shark Grubs, Moomies and Gnomes (to name just a few) all coexist… or at the very least mutually tolerate each other. Most residents appear to speak a common language and the city is very visitor friendly. Not surprising, as biblio-tourism is its largest industry.

Arts & Culture (Past & Present)

While the obvious draw for tourists to Bookholm are its 5,000+ antiquarian bookshops, the city also has a long and rich tradition in the performing arts. Timber-Time was for centuries a favorite among residents and visitors alike. But who wouldn’t revel in a chance to hear the great works of Zamonian literature recited by Master Readers?  Sadly, in recent years this folksy custom has fallen out of favor and a Timber-Time reading in Bookholm has become as rare as a crat in Malaisea.

Yet the offerings of this wonderous city go beyond that which is strictly literary in nature. Prior to the Great Conflagration Trombophone Concerts (performed by Murkholmers on an instrument fashioned from a Trombophone shellfish found only on the western shores of Zamonia) were all the rage. Those who had the great fortune (and, sadly, the misfortune) of attending a concert describe the music as “charming”, “ethereal and melodious”, and as inducing incredible visions.  Trombophone Concerts, probably due to their being a Bookemist plot to overthrow the city and enslave its inhabitants, have long since gone the way of Timber-Time.  But their hallucinatory properties are fondly remembered. For more information on Trombophone Concerts, the Great Conflagration and Bookemists, we recommend consulting Optimus Yarnspinner’s The City of Dreaming Books.

In the 200 years since Bookholm went up in flames things have changed – so it’s not surprising that some of those changes have extended into the realm of the performing arts. The most significant development has been the emergence of the various forms of puppetry. The pinnacle of this discipline can be witnessed at the Puppetocircus Maximus (picture the Cirque du Soleil of puppet theaters) – created and managed by the mysterious artist and innovator Maestro Corodiak. And while a performance at the Puppetocircus Maximus is a must-see, there are also hundreds small theaters spread throughout the city, of varying disciplines and quality, to be explored. For those budget-minded travelers, we heartily recommend Arial Puppetism “an extremely artistic spectacle whose aerial athleticism is at least as worth seeing as the plays themselves” in which puppets take to the skies. All performances are funded by the municipality and free to the public. Or, bringing things closer to the ground, there is The Microscopic Theatre of the Absent Teenies (located on Arlis Worcell Street) – a delightful spectacle on a much smaller scale. The bloodthirsty with a historical fetish should attend at least one marshal performance of Blood Theatre. And for those interested in learning more of the Bookholmian Puppetry a visit to the Nocturnal Market is advised.  It’s the best place in Bookholm to experience the cutting edge of this new and fascinating art form.

Other Attractions

Bookholm has a whole range of other attractions, catering to every interest. For foodies there are Zamonian delicacies such as Bee-Bread and Book Wine to be tasted. For scholars interested in the history of the city and it’s architecture there are walking tours with Live Historical Newspapers “All in Gothic!”. These gnomes covered in strips of newsprint evolved out of the Live Newspapers (tabloids, really) of old Bookholm and are the very same as used by Optimus Yarnspinner, himself, on his visits to this fair city. (Word of caution:  Live Historical Newspapers have been known to swarm).

‘Live historical Newspaper new service in Bookholm!… We walk together. You ask, I read answer from old newspaper. One street one pyra, six streets five pyras, twelve streets nine pyras. Not satisfied, money back.’

And of course there are the Catacombs. Now open to the public by means of various shafts located throughout the city. The truly adventurous have the chance to safely picnic within the lair of Dreaming Books – heretofor territory explored only by blood- and book-thirsty Bookhunters ready to kill for a treasure from the Golden Lists. Fortunately, Bookhunters are no more – having disappeared from the streets of Bookholm and been replaced by the gentler, kinder (and remarkably similar) Booknauts. While this can be a pleasant afternoon, we really don’t recommend descending too deeply into the catacombs.  Dangers exist, the fires still burn in the tunnels and there is always the odd, whispered rumor making the rounds that the Shadow King yet lives…

Suggested Reading

To fully experience the riches of Bookholm we suggest consulting the works of the greatest of Zamonian authors: Optimus Yarnspinner.  The City of Dreaming Books and The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books are essential reading for any traveler. Both books have been made accessible to the general reading public thanks to the work of the famed translator Walter Moers. Other recommendations (though not as widely available) are Colophonius Regenschein’s The Catacombs of Bookholm and Ovidios Versewhetter’s The Miracle of the Graveyard of Forgotten Writers.   And be sure to visit SJ at her blog Book Snobbery tomorrow for the next stop on the tour.

The City of Dreaming Books
ISBN:  978 1 58 567899 0
Publisher:  Overlook Press, New York (2007)

The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books
ISBN:  978 1 468 30126 7
Publisher:  Overlook Press, New York (2012)

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The Dreaming Books Blog Tour Begins!

Welcome to The Dreaming Books Blog Tour! A Book Blog Tour celebrating the writings of that legendary lindworm* Optimus Yarnspinner, his German translator Walter Moers and his English translator John Brownjohn. The occasion is nothing less than the publication (FINALLY!) of the English translation of Yarnspinner’s masterpiece: The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books.

For some of you, my fellow bibliophiles, the release of The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books (which marks the beginning of Yarnspinner’s Purple Period and chronicles his return to the city Bookholm) has been eagerly – dare I say impatiently? – anticipated. For other lucky readers it is an opportunity – an impetus really – to begin their exploration of Zamonia and a chance to read for the first time the great lindworm’s earlier, Orm** inspired, novels. Such as The City of Dreaming Books in which he tells of the story of his hair-raising, youthful adventures within the catacombs beneath Bookholm. Or, for those interested in the less biographical works, The Alchemaster’s Apprentice: A Culinary Tale from Zamonia.

But, before I go on, the Zamonian virgin should know that these are far from typical stories. In the words of Yarnspinner, himself, I feel it’s only fair to warn you.

“It’s not a story for people with thin skins and weak nerves, whom I would advise to replace this book on the pile at once and slink off to the children’s section. Shoo! Begone, you cry-babies and quaffers of camomile tea***, you wimps and softies! This book tells of a place where reading is still a genuine adventure, and by adventure I mean the old-fashioned definition of the word that appears in the Zamonian Dictionary: ‘A daring enterprise undertaken in a spirit of curiosity or temerity, it is potentially life-threatening, harbours unforeseeable dangers and sometimes proves fatal.’

Yes, I speak of a place where reading can drive people insane. Where books may injure and poison them – indeed, even kill them. Only those who are thoroughly prepared to take such risks in order to read this book – only those willing to hazard their lives in so doing – should accompany me to the next paragraph. The remainder I congratulate on their wise but yellow-bellied decision to stay behind. Farewell, you cowards! I wish you a long and boring life, and, on that note, bid you goodbye!

And so, with that out of the way, our schedule is as follows:

  • Sunday, Nov 4 – Back to me for an excerpt from The Lonely Lindworm’s Guide to the city of Bookholm (on a shoestring)

So prepare yourselves for a 7 day immersion into all things Zamonian. This, fellow readers, is where our book tour begins!

*Lindworms are Zamonian dinosaurs who make their home on a mountain called Lindworm Castle. During the course of their evolution they discovered that – as a species – they possessed a literary and artistic nature. The result has been that Lindworms are some of the most celebrated writers and poets in Zamonian literature (particularly amongst themselves). “ ‘As the Lindworm’s mental powers steadily developed, so their savage, dinosaurian instincts withered away. Having hitherto communicated in a mixture of grunts and sign language, they learnt Zamonian from the farmers and traders who they came into contact with. Later, they began to record their words and thoughts in writing. Language was one of their principal pleasures. They took to speaking in rhyme, wore long robes and elaborate jewellery. They. . . Well, they became artists, you understand? Artists and poets!’ Rumo stared at Smyke uncomprehendingly. ‘No, you don’t understand – no normal living creature could, but never mind. They liked to regard themselves as something special. Because they could write poetry, they thought their sweat smelt like perfume…’” (Volzotan Smyke, Shark Grub, from Rumo & His Miraculous Adventures, pg. 44).

** The Orm is the “mysterious force reputed to flow through many authors at moments of supreme inspiration”. (Optimus Yarnspinner, author, from The City of Dreaming Books, pg. 20)

***The opinions expressed regarding camomile tea are Yarnspinner’s alone and do not represent those of Overlook Press or any of the bloggers participating in the tour.  This blogger, in particular, has no strong opinions (and makes no judgements) regarding camomile tea or those who quaff it.

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Walter Moers Returns to Zamonia

The newest Zamonia novel Das Labyrinth der Träumenden Bücher (The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books) will be released in October in Germany!!!!!!!  It’s the sequel to The City of Dreaming Books!!!! I am very excited!!!!! (Exhibit A: excessive use of the exclamation mark).

Tragically, I do not speak Deutsch.

So, next month at the Brooklyn Book Festival I’m going to be pressing the lovely people at the Overlook Press table for information and, perhaps, the translator’s phone number.  Who knows, he might need a proofreader.

Just for fun, below is the Synopsis, courtesy of Random House Germany and Google Translate.

Hilde favor of myths Metz returns to the “City of Dreaming Books”

About two hundred years ago, has been destroyed since the book Haim, the City of Dreaming Books, by a devastating fire storm. The eyewitness of the disaster, Hilde favor of myths Metz, is now considered the leading writer Zamonien and recovers to the dragon festivals of its monumental success. He delights in daily Belobhudeltwerden when it reaches a disturbing message that its existence is finally made sense.

Lured by a mysterious letter returns favor of myths Hilde Metz to book Haim. The beautifully rebuilt city is again to the pulsating metropolis of literature and the book trade has become the Mecca and is traversed by all kinds of crazy book to the puzzle on the track gets myths Metz, hardly has he entered the city, adventurous in their wake. He met old friends such as the Schreckse Inazea Anazazi, the book Lingen Ojahnn Golgo van Fontheweg, Dölerich Hirnfidler and Gofid Letter guy who Eydeeten Hachmed Ben Kibitzer, but also new residents, phenomena and wonders of the city, like the mysterious Biblionauten, the obscure Puppetisten and Haim’s latest attraction book, the “invisible theater”. It strayed myths Metz deeper “in the” labyrinth of dreaming books, which seems mysterious and invisible to determine the fate of Haim’s book. Until he finally gets an unstoppable whirlwind of events that surpasses all the adventures that he had to endure ever, in every respect.


Hurry John Brown!  For the love of all that’s good in the world… please hurry!

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Mad About Moers! – A Review of The Alchemaster’s Apprentice by Walter Moers

Summer is over, but no one says we need to back away from the escapist fiction!  There’s no shame in losing yourself between the covers of a good book.  Just don’t confuse this kind of escape with the chick lit, mysteries and thrillers you were reading on the beach.    Save those for next year’s daiquiri.  Instead, we advise walking proudly into the Sci-Fi / Fantasy aisle of your local bookshop.  Shove past the pallid guy with the stack of Forgotten Realms paperbacks and the teenage girls with dark circles under their eyes surrounding the Twilight feature table.  Hold your head high!  We’re about to let you in on a little secret.  You see,  there are fantasy novels and then there are Fantasy novels.

In the latter category are Alice in Wonderland, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Harry Potter, Narnia and The Lord of the Rings.  Books so cleverly conceived and brilliantly written that they can be enjoyed by both adults and children alike.  Their authors don’t tell stories, they create worlds.  Worlds that are intriguing, exciting, and a little bit frightening.  Unfortunately, everyone has read those stories (or should have).  You’re looking for something a little more BookSexy, a little more cutting edge – a book that hasn’t gone viral…at least not yet.


Enter Walter Moers’ Zamonia novels, published by The Overlook Press.  Moers is a German author and cartoonist who has had five books translated into English (four of which are set in Zamonia).  The most recent being The Alchemaster’s Apprentice.  These books can be read in any order, so don’t worry about starting with the newest book first.  What Moers has done is set about exploring Zamonia – so while characters may make cameos in eachothers’ stories, this is not a chronologically told tale.  You will not be following the continuing saga of one single character or event through a series of books.  Instead, with each story the reader is allowed to pop in and out of different sections and cities of Zamonia.  You learn about Wolpertings and Crats, Lindworms and Blue Bears, Shark Grubs and more.  You’ll visit Bookholm, the Netherworld and, in this newest adventure, Malaisea.

Picture to yourself the sickest place in the whole of Zamonia!  A little town with winding streets and crooked houses, and looming over it a creepy-looking castle perched on a black crag.  A town afflicted by the rarest bacteria and the oddest diseases: cerebral whooping cough, hepatic migraine, gastric mumps, intestinal acne, digital tinnitus, renal measles, mini-influenza, to which only persons less than one metre tall are susceptible, witching-hour headaches that develop on the stroke of midnight and disappear at one a.m. precisely on the first Thursday of every month, phantom toothaches experienced only by persons wearing a full set of dentures.

Picture a town where there are more apothecaries and herbalists, quacks and tooth-pullers, crutch manufacturers and bandage weavers than anywhere else on the Zamonian continent.  Where ‘Ouch!’ is the conventional form of greeting and ‘Get well soon!’ takes the place of ‘Goodbye’.  Where the air smells of ether and pus, cod-liver oil and emetics, iodine and putrefaction.  Where people vegetate and wheeze instead of living and breathing.  Where nobody laughs, just moans and groans.

And the cause of all this sickness is Ghoolion the Terrible, the Alchemaster of the book’s title and resident of the creepy-looking castle.

Echo, a Crat (looks like a cat, but can speak any language and has two livers), is our hero.  After his mistress’ death he  is left to starve on the streets of Malaisea.  Ghoolion finds Echo and offers him a Faustian bargain.  Until the full moon he will feed Echo the most delicious foods the Crat has ever eaten and teach Echo all his alchemical secrets.  Then, at month’s end, Ghoolion will render Echo down for his fat to use in experiments (Crat fat being extremely rare).  Seeing no other option other than starvation, Echo agrees.

Moers is not only an inventive writer, he is also a very funny one.  As the story progresses, Ghoolion (not without a certain charisma) and Echo form a demented odd couple.  The Alchemaster more than keeps to his part of the bargain – and the two main characters seem to develop a mutual respect which borders on friendship.  Their interactions, evenMoers.Story moreso than Echo’s quest to break his contract, really propel the plot forward.  (In fact, if it wasn’t for the whole killing the Crat for his fat and torturing the citizens of Malaisea with fear and disease – we’d be rooting for team Ghoolian).

The subtitle of The Alchemaster’s Apprentice is A Culinary Tale from Zamonia – and the Zamonian delicacies Ghoolion prepares for Echo are an important (as well as entertaining)  element of the story.

My dear Echo,

I regret my inability to offer you a particularly lavish breakfast this morning, as I will be engaged on a research project all day.  However, the honey on the bread is very special.  It’s made by the Demonic Bees of Honey Valley.

Don’t worry about the dead bees in it, they’ve had their stings removed and they make the honey nice and crunchy.  But be sure to chew with care.  It sometimes happens, though very rarely, that one of the bees has not had its sting removed.  Although a prick in the gum or tongue wouldn’t kill you, it would certainly give you an unpleasant time.  The risk factor is said to be part of the enjoyment one derives from eating a slice of bee-bread.

Bon Apetit!

Succubius Ghoolion

‘Well, well,’ Echo thought sleepily, ‘Demonic Bees from Honey Valley.  Whatever.  After last  night I’d eat a grilled Sewer Dragon, with or without it’s knilch.’ He hurriedly devoured a few morsels and took a swig of milk.  The milk tasted odd – soapy, somehow – so he wolfed another piece of bee-bread to take the taste away – and instantly felt a stabbing pain in his tongue.

‘Ouch!’  he said, but that was as far as he got.  The room began to revolve, alternately bathed in light and darkness, and he went plummeting down a black-and-white shaft that spiraled into the depths, losing consciousness on the way.

When Echo came to, he seemed to be looking into a shattered mirror that reflected many little fragments of the world around him…

(What comes next is one of the funniest scenes in the book, but we won’t ruin it for you).

Moers.5The Alchemaster’s Apprentice is a story that you lose yourself in – the very definition of escapist literature.  It has a cast of supporting characters and settings – all examples of Zamonian flora and fauna – that will fascinate and enchant you.  And when you finish, we promise you’ll want to get the rest of the series:  Rumo and His Miraculous Adventures; The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Blue Bear, and The City of Dreaming Books.  You can pass them on to your friends or just wait for them to discover the books themselves.  “Oh… Moers?  Sweetie, I was reading him back in 2009. The movie just isn’t as good…”

Suggestions:  The Zamonia novels are perfect to share with the little people in your life.  Whether as a bedtime story that won’t put you to sleep,  or just to give you something to talk about on the car trip to the grandparents (nothing like discussing Leathermice philosophy with your favorite tween) – there’s something here for everyone.    Including illustrations.

*R.I.P. IV Challenge