I was initially turned off by the rock-star reception the author got at a signing in NYC, line stretching around the block, stomach churning at the indignity of subjecting an author to the celebrity treatment. But after many months of seeing it hovering around bookstores and hearing various encomiums singing its praises, I gave in. I’m glad I did. The Norwegian writes his life in the form of a novel, swirling round the fact of death, his father’s death in particular, dancing around the painful process of writing itself – the false starts, the endless jot file for worthless prose that is churned out day after day.
He ventures deep into his memories, showing us a four year old self, an eight year old who sees Christ’s face in the water, a teenager with elaborate plots to sneak beer over to a friend’s house, a twice-married man facing his first child’s birth. His older brother is worshipped, his father detested and feared. The mother seems sheltering and kind but we never get much of a glimpse of her (the rest of his prose not particularly female-friendly either, but that’s so common that it’s surprising to actually notice it). When his father kicks it, he and his brother go to rescue the hellhole their grandmother is living in, cleaning up soiled clothing and endless bags of bottles (alcoholism). Tears, tears, and sobs over his father’s death – due to freedom at last? It’s definitely powerful writing, it places you smack in the middle of the scene, paints you a picture you can’t resist inhaling. Queuing up Book 2 now.
Even though the suitcase was heavy I carried it by the handle as I walked into the departure hall. I detested the tiny wheels, first of all because they were feminine, thus not worthy of a man, a man should carry, not roll, secondly because they suggested easy options, shortcuts, savings, rationality, which I despised and opposed wherever I could, even where it was of the most trivial significance. Why should you live in a world without feeling its weight? Were we just images? And what were we actually saving energy for with these energy-saving devices?