Book: Naïve. Super
Author: Erlend Loe
Type of Book: Fiction, gently weird
Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Well, it isn’t as full-force odd as some of the books I discuss here but it is definitely off the radar of what is mainstream. And to be perfectly blunt, it was a book written from a place of goodwill, of belief in the idea that life can be wonderful. Given that even most lit fic, even if it has a happy ending, requires a wallow, this book is unique in that regard. Don’t get me wrong, because I love a good wallow, but at the same time, a wallow-less book that does not pander to the reader is so rare that it is odd by default.
Availability: This translation was published by Cannongate Books in 2005, and you can get a copy here:
Comments: Ah, sometimes you just need things to be sweetly odd. Just a little strange, a little left of center. I ordered a copy of this book because I asked a clerk at BookPeople to tell me the oddest book he had ever read. His answer, obviously, was Naïve. Super. He was a tragically hip young person, as are most of the clerks at BookPeople, but this is Austin and I am getting old, so no condemnation. He described it as being the story of a man-child who spent all day bouncing balls. So you can see why I had to get it and then wait two years to read it. I wanted to read it but dreaded it.
There was nothing to dread. The tragically hip young man was describing with no small amount of irony the most irony-deficient book ever written since Jane Fucking Eyre. And again, not his fault, because when you’re a hammer, all the world looks like nails and when you are a hipster, earnestness may be hard to identify. I’m just glad he recommended it to me because I am unsure otherwise I would ever have known about this lovely gem.
And ignore any of the official reviews you read about this book. Some utter asshole said it recalled Holden Caulfield and while I am not one who dislikes The Catcher in the Rye (actually, I love Holden and I love Salinger), I have to wonder if people are put off by that idiotic statement. The protagonist of Naïve. Super has about as much in common with Holden Caulfield as I do, and as a middle-aged woman who lives in the ‘burbs in Texas, I have remarkably little. We both dislike phonies and that’s about it. And that, dear readers, is why I seldom like to read reviews of any kind before I read a book and discuss it. I can’t imagine the number of books I would not have read had I taken anyone’s word on it. Having said that, I can see how it would seem very arrogant that I maintain a book review and discussion site. But while I know I am right, a sign of a certain amount of arrogance, I also write far more than the average reviewer because I’m verbose as all hell, but also because you should never take my word for anything. You should just read my words and hopefully I give a look at the book that is more than comparing it glibly to another book in a facile attempt to make myself understood.
Anyway, enough with my reviewer’s disgust.