Montana State University

Reif Larsen, author of innovative bestseller with Montana links, to speak March 8 at MSU

February 15, 2010


Reif Larsen, author of the bestselling "The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet," an innovative novel that launches from Montana, will speak and conduct workshops at MSU and in Bozeman on March 8.   High-Res Available

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Reif Larsen, author of the bestselling "The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet," will lecture at 7 p.m. Monday, March 8, in Montana State University's SUB Ballroom A. The talk, which will be followed by questions and answers and a book signing, is free and open to the public.

Larsen's talk, "Here Be Dragons," which is a reference to a phrase used by early cartographers. Larsen will explore the narrative power of both cartography and literature, providing a behind-the-scenes peek into the creation of "The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet." Larsen makes the case that maps are not just wayfaring tools--like short stories, they function as highly selective cultural documents that tell a series of fascinating, interwoven stories, often as much about the mapmaker as the territory mapped. Twenty-five books will be given away during the presentation.

Prior to his lecture, Larsen, who teaches writing at Columbia University, will teach at selected classes on creativity and writing at Bozeman High School, Bridger Alternative School and MSU University Honors and English classes.

The protagonist of Larsen's bestseller is a 12-year-old genius cartographer and illustrator who hops a train to journey from his home on a ranch in Divide, Mont., to Washington, D.C., to accept a prestigious prize at the Smithsonian. According to the storyline, Spivet is nominated for the award by his fictional mentor, the mysterious Dr. Terence Yorn, who is an MSU entomologist. The scientists at the Smithsonian assume from the quality of his drawings that the brilliant Spivet is a graduate student at MSU rather than a lonely kid who makes sense of his world through detailed cartography and charts, maps and graphs.

The book is embroidered with scores of maps and graphs drawings, by which the fictional Spivet makes sense of his world. In reality, Larsen did all of the drawings for the book, which has been praised for its innovative design and extensive illustrations that extend the plot.

Spivet's story advances beyond the book in an innovative Web site, http://tsspivet.com.


The first-time novelist is a graduate of Brown University, where he met Eric Bendick, who is now a Bozeman-based science and natural history filmmaker. Larsen stayed with Bendick while he conducted much of his research for "The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet."

The 29-year-old writer, who earned a whopping $950,000 advance for the book by Penguin Books as a result of a publishers' bidding war, said that he has been taken with the West for a long time. When he began to visit Bendick, some of the ideas for the book gelled.

Larsen's visit to Bozeman is made possible by the MSU University College, a grant from the Bozeman Public Library Foundation, as well as ASMSU Lectures and Lively Arts and the MSU Department of English.

"MSU's University College is thrilled to be part of this collaborative effort with ASMSU, the Bozeman Library Foundation and the English Department to bring a talented, nationally known writer to our community," said Carmen McSpadden, director of special projects for the college.

"I'm very pleased to be a part of bringing Larsen to Bozeman," said Paula K. Beswick, director for the Bozeman Library Foundation. "To have a writer of his caliber speaking to Bozeman High School creative writing students and the student body of Bridger Alternative is a real treat. The Library Foundation is very lucky to be able to collaborate with MSU to bring this kind of talent to our community."

For more information about Larsen's visit, contact MSU's University College, (406) 994-7667.

To learn more about Reif Larsen and his connection to MSU and Montana, see: http://www.montana.edu/cpa/news/nwview.php?article=7281

Carmen McSpadden (406) 994-7667, cmcspadden@montana.edu