Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Unexpected Rewards of Eavesdropping

I was at the Y a few weeks ago waiting for my racquetball partner to arrive when I found myself eavesdropping on a nearby conversation between two men about my age. One says to the other, "Have you ever read this guy?" "No? He's really different. The only way I can think to describe him is if Hemingway were writing today, this is what his books would be like."

The author he was referring to was Per Petterson and the book in his hand was, Out Stealing Horses. I have seen Petterson's books on the shelf and even thumbed through one or two but I had never read anything by him. That description made me look his books up. Reading Hemingway as a young man is what inspired my love of literature which eventually led me to work in a library.

Per Petterson is a Norwegian author who has won numerous literary awards. He's also a librarian! His book Out Stealing Horses was named one of the New York Times 5 best books of the year in 2007. When I think of Norwegian and Scandinavian fiction I think mostly of the hugely popular suspense and mystery novels of Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbo, Lars Kepler and Camilla Lackberg among others. Petterson's books are different, they're more literary with less action, but they do have that same icy grey sparse feel to them. His taught prose flows without a word out of place.

I checked out and read It's Fine By Me. Published for the first time in English in 2011, it was originally released in Norway in 1992. It is a coming of age novel about Audun, a young man growing up in difficult circumstances in the 1980s. His character was so finely developed that I could feel his angst bubbling under the surface. He was reminiscent of Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye, but from a later generation.

I have reserved his other books and can't wait to explore this newly (to me) discovered author. I really love it when I discover a new author (or a new anything) accidentally as through eavesdropping. It's a guilty pleasure.

1 comment:

Linda K. said...

Hemingway is the main reason I switched from an English major to a History major! In a Lit class, we took apart, word by word, so many of his short stories that I came to dread the class meetings.

So thanks for the recommendation, but I think I'll just stick to the icy action novels of Mankell and Nesbo and company.

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