I used to be quite disciplined about the six books I have on the go at any one time and it has always worked perfectly for me, but with so many books arriving I struggle to keep my hands off them instantly and soon I'm in a mess with about ten half-reads scattered around the house.This still seems reasonable because I know of some people who stop by here who have about seventy-three on the go.
Then I carry them all around the house because who knows what may strike me as perfect for the next available reading slot in my day?
I've restored a bit of good old fashioned matron's order to the ward, the bed wheels are all facing the front and I am back on my six...for a while.
Last week I picked up a book I had bought back at Houston airport in July.
I was totally captured by Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson, so In the Wake seemed like a good addition to my fast-growing Nordic shelf. This is actually the Picador UK cover, sorry the US one I have is
dire not very good by comparison, I'm amazed I bought it actually.
I suspect Per Petterson is cornering the market for the introspective Nordic male with big life issues to resolve because here the theme repeats itself, but sufficiently differently (can you say that? Is it a legal combination of words? I'd hate to have the grammar police blue-lighting in) as to be of new interest.
Arvid Jansen is our man, he's a writer, he's had a rough ride and this is where Per Petterson excels because you get outcomes of rough ride instantly but you only discover quite how rough in little narrative drips as the book proceeds and protagonist starts to recover and to reclaim his sanity and his life.
So two stories, one going forwards, one going backwards.
I think I'm making this about as clear as mud, but then Arvid's a bit hazy about a great deal in the beginning so reader clarity only possible when Arvid starts to get a grip.
Now I think I may have made things worse.
It's a telling and intuitive account of grief, guilt, families and how to survive them, tragedy, love, loss, solace and comfort, all the usual themes but wrapped up in the character of a writer who perhaps sees life differently.
'I am writing myself into a possible future'
Arvid is also a writer who reads and frequently conveys the power of the written word of others in his life.Often references to books he has read in the past and how just the recollection recreates the mood, a theme I warmed to instantly because I know it well and I expect you do too.In Arvid's case those recollections often straws to be clutched at in moments of sheer desperation.
There are some acutely revealing moments in the book and Per Petterson's writing has the power to make you stop and think and visualise constantly.A passing moment when Arvid visits his father in hospital and sees the strong man of his life crying that had me in shreds. Simply written but hugely evocative imagery and the title takes on new resonance once you've turned the final page.
Finally let's not forget to thank Anne Born for her translations of In the Wake and Out Stealing Horses, thus bringing some of the best of Norwegian fiction to my doorstep and possibly yours when it may otherwise have stayed pining in the fjords.
And in case anyone from Norway visits let's thank them too and before anyone gasps and says they didn't know I was fluent in Norwegian, I cheated.
If you cut and paste you will see that this virtual translation thing is a load of old rubbish, much of my original sentiment about Norway having fjords, Grieg and making Per Petterson a National Treasure seems to have been lost.The living breathing translators out there have absolutely nothing to fear.
Denne er en briljant bestille og noen lever inne Norge er ikke alene men også meget heldig å har den fjords Edvard Sorg og Likemann Gynt bortsett fra likeledes Per Petterson. Hvis du har ikke fremstilt seg en Nasjonal Skatt du må gjøre så denne øyeblikk fordi vi ville hvis han var ours.We kunne gjøre med noen få til Nasjonal Kostbarheter fordi vi har en stor ledig stilling der hvor David Beckham pleide være.