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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Smirnoff's, If You Please

Had I not overcome my silly objection to the title, Jonas Jonasson's 2009 whimsical and satirical novel - "The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared" - could have slipped by.

I suspect Allan Karlsson might invert Socrates oft-quoted maxim and suggest instead that the unlived life is not worth examining. The eponymous 100 year old in Jonasson's delightful book has little use for introspection, no patience for bad manners, and zero interest in politics, especially when they interfere with his nourishment or vodka intake. Allan saves Franco's life but not because he is politically aligned with Spain's mid-century right wing - killing someone wasn't part of Allan's demolitions assignment. He incurs the wrath of Stalin but not due to an anti-Communist rant - Allan suggests comrade Joseph re-think his mustache. He has an immediate dislike of Richard Nixon but politics are not in play - Nixon neglects to offer lunch.

Jonasson's book is light in tone and spare in language. The writing draws no attention to itself. The dialogue between Allan and his merry posse - assembled one-by-one following his climb out the window - is wonderful and often as not, delivered in single syllables. But make no mistake - this talented author has a lot to say. He just puts it all in a breezy package that goes down easily - a romp through the 20th century, Zelig-style right alongside a madcap road trip chronicling the six weeks following a never-meant-to-be 100th birthday party. And Allan's reason for disappearing from his nursing home? How do you celebrate a milestone like that without vodka?

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