I recently dealt with what I really hate to refer to as ‘writer’s block’ for the first time. I really hate that phrase. For me it just conjurs up this kind of beret wearing, nicotine stained Greenwich village tortured-genius-beat-poet image that I really struggle to equate myself with.
That is of course reductive and dismissive but this is my blog and I’ll be insensitive whensoever the mood takes me thank you!
Anyway, it has been suggested by much better minds than mine that one way to make sure that your brain keeps working, and that your words come back to you, is to get stuck into as many books as can hold your attention and in that spirit I recently tracked something down that I’ve been meaning to read for some time now. I have a slight confession to make at the beginning of this, because this will by no means be my last book review.
I buy my books from charity shops. There are several reasons for this, not least that whenever I take it upon myself to support my local book retailers, which everyone with an interest in literature should do, I end up spending far too much money or else limiting myself to one book and inevitably putting too much pressure on it and getting a little disappointed.
I also like the fact that my wildly untamed book habit is in the hands of strangers, and that leads to some real turn ups for the, ah, you see where that’s going. SO, before I lose the run of my thought process entirely I would like to discuss The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson.
First, the obvious. That is one of the best titles you’re likely to come across. People may stand where they wish on the matter of extended titles, and some of them are undeniably horrific. But, for those of us who are not blessed with that mid 20th century American mastery of the short sentence, of breaking someone’s heart in three words, then why not have fun? There is no attempt to be serious anywhere within this book, which considering it starts with the eponymous 100 year old man stealing from the youngest member of a biker gang and moves swiftly on to recount the death of both of his parents, his incarceration and his state ordered castration, is quite some feat.
The main thing that comes across with this book is how absolutely in love with his own creation the author his, and so he should be. It reads as though Jonas Jonasson was in tears laughing at himself as he found the most ridiculous prism he could think of to look at some of the many and varied political and social conflicts that defined global culture in the 20th century. He sets his stall out early, Allan Karlsson the protagonist doesn’t care about politics, religion, family or idealism of any kind. As a reader we are given motivation for this state of affairs early and succinctly and asked to move on. The author worked as a journalist, and a very successful television producer before living what I would guess is the dream of more than a few of us, selling up and buggering off to some beautiful nowhere to work on his book.
The complete idealistic detachment he allows himself, through the perspective of his main character, means that Jonasson can get right up close to everything from the Spanish Revolution to the Korean War without actually taking a position on anything.
Without wishing to get into the finer details of plot and narrative and make myself sound like a fool I will leave you with a strong recommendation to read this book. As a flight of fancy, an excercise in imagination and, this is the kicker, a thoroughly researched and informative look at recent history even despite its obvious fiction this is probably unique in my own experiences. I wouldn’t suggest there is nothing like this out there, but certainly nothing I’ve read. If the personality and pulp sci-fi touches were stripped from Slaughterhouse 5 then maybe they might be distant cousins but that’s all that comes to mind. Finally, always a bonus in the lives we live, because let’s face it no-one gets enough reading time these days, it’s episodic, picaresque structure means that you can pick it up whenver you get twenty minutes for as long as it takes to get the thing read.
What are you waiting for?