The Seducer by Jan Kjærstad
My rating: 5/5 cats
i have decided.
all of you booknerds who like discovering and championing forgotten authors like MacDonald Harris and are all holding hands reading proust together should make this guy your next mission, because he is too under-read, and your energies should be harnessed for good. kjaerstad is actually very similar to proust in a lot of ways, but just more fun overall. a lot more action, but the same spirally, drifting writing.
i embarked upon “trilogy month” with some trepidation; what if i hate the writing and then i am forced to continue slogging through the rest of the books because of my self-imposed need to follow through on all the things i start?? but – hey – this time it was smooth sailing.
like, seriously smooth. in my supreme arrogance, i have complained several times on here about why writers don’t just write the things i want to read, and why i am forced sometimes into reading unsatisfying books. well, someone has been reading my mail. this is exactly the kind of book i like to read – meandering plot, callbacks, repetition (but not aggressive-repetition like that other norwegian monstrosity, Melancholy). for clarity: these are things it is like: If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, arrested development, Magnetic Field(s), fanny and alexander. these are things i thought would be good for the same reasons this book is good, but didn’t work for me: The Arabian Nightmare, House of Leaves, Hopscotch.
basically, the novel revolves around two basic and oft-repeated questions: “how do the pieces of a life fit together?,” and “when do we become who we are”?? and this book, ostensibly posing as a murder-plot-driven narrative, seeks to explore these ideas. every segment builds to the brink of release and answers and closure, only to loop back again as though the plot itself were reminded of another bit of minutia that applies to the story at hand and then weaves back and forth in time and splits tales up into wanting and wanting and wanting more. unlike the calvino, there is release and return, though, so for all the winter’s night haters, this should suit you better.
and, yes, there is a magical penis involved and lots of farcical, forrest gump-like sex (by which i mean his knack for falling into bed with every norwegian woman who will later go on to be well-known, famous, or otherwise influential in the norwegian realm, not dopey and soft-spoken). jazzle finds the sex creepy, i think it is funny. they are over-the-top sex scenes that sometimes read like sara barron’s 12-year-old porn: “so i am lying on top of him and he is humping me so hard im nearly flying off him. then i take his pienus and rub my face and in it. then i grab it in my two hand rub it all over.” (sic.) <— that quote is s.b., not from this book.
i mean, it’s better than that, obviously, but in its convenience and pizza-delivery-boy spontaneity and irrepressibility it sometimes reads a little comical to me. all these horny, liking-it-on-top norwegian broads foaming at the mouth for him and his magical penis. i mock, but i love, too.
this just barely escaped a five-
star cat from me. it certainly started out that way, but i think there were a few bits, some pieces of a life that maybe could have been shaved down a little. but that just leaves a little room to grow, as i begin the second part.
high points are the story of red daniel, the entire character of nefertiti, and the fact that he thinks the number 6 looks like a hard-on. i look forward to the rest of the trilogy, because i still have burning questions…