Wednesday, March 04, 2009
The Scoundrel Days of Hobo Highbrow by Paal H. Christiansen Translated by Jon Buscall (Forlaget Fabula N-1321 Stabekk Norway http://www.forlaget-fabula.no
They say, “Music has charms to soothe the savage beast.” I suppose it does, although in my case, a good shot of Dewar’s does the trick. But in Norwegian write Paal H. Christiansen’s new book “ The Scoundrel Days of Hobo Highbrow,” the music of the pop group “a-ha” provides solace, and makes the center hold, for this struggling, not that young writer, Hobo Highbrow. Frankly I was not familiar with this group, and based on what was represented in the novel, I had trouble figuring out why the protagonist was so enamored with them. But of course I love Billy Joel, and I have been vilified for that.
It seems that Hobo is in the midst of a nervous breakdown of sorts, after losing his job, later his manuscript (that involves the construction of a birdhouse) and suffering a largely imaginary slight from his girlfriend. The book follows Hobo’s confused journey through his mental maze and haze in which he eventually emerges more or less intact. In this scene the 40-year-old Hobo sees one of the a-ha members on the street, and he swoons like a hormonal teenager:
“ I sensed a strength and joy seeping through my body, through my legs, my arms, across my chest and up to my head. I had met Paul Waaktaar! I had looked straight into the eyes of Paul Waaktaar! And I felt a shock jolt through my body as if for a second I was momentarily connected to an electric network with an unknown power. The power of the massively talented. It was power of those who created art that would last for eternity.”
He later opines about pop music and its purpose—at least for him.
“As far as I am concerned the whole purpose of pop music is to drown out all the world’s misery. Music is all about keeping your dreams alive!”
The book contains interesting literary tidbits and linguistic diversions—as the character obsesses as much about his writing as his music. This short novel attempts to explore the struggle of the artist to maintain, create and stay sane in an often-insane world.