December 2003

Melissa Roy

fiction

Naive. Super by Erland Loe

I find myself frequently reading just to be reading, simply because it’s something I like to do, without much reinforcement or encouragement. I always pick up a book hoping to find something spectacular, hoping to have my life changed, but never seem to (much the way most people date, each time hoping to find a lasting relationship, and most times being disappointed). I read Erlend Loe’s Naïve, Super, though, with all of the joy of talking to a new friend who, each time you say something, whispers with a look of amazement “Me, too” and you both can’t believe how much you have in common. That friend remains a rock for you, a source of joy and reassurance, because you’ve found someone enough like you that you can share your innermost thoughts, your fears, and your idiosyncrasies without the fear of embarrassment.

The book is, in fact, “deceptively simple,” just as the jacket claims. It is simply the narrator telling the story of his days after quitting an MA program and living, jobless, in his brother’s house while he is away on business. He knows that the freedom of his life has a restricted duration, but he also doesn’t know what he wants to do or where he wants to go in the future. In his obsession, the kind of narcissism so common to a generation who lives life in a flood of choices, he makes lists: lists of things he loved when he was a child, lists of animals he’s seen. He also plays games: for hours he throws a small child’s ball up against a wall in a repetitive motion or hammers blocks into child’s play table. He simplifies his life, quantifying it and compartmentalizing it in an effort to control the small things so as not to be overwhelmed by the endless number of large, life-changing things that are beyond that control.

Loe’s style of writing perfectly complements and, in fact, mirrors the narrator’s style of stilted and isolated action. He writes in simple sentences and provides seemingly insignificant details of the narrator’s world. More importantly, the narrator’s thoughts are often disconnected, random, impulsive -- just like his life. The combination of the content and form of the book make it speak to the reader in a way that one, without the other, could not have done. I finished the book with the feeling that the narrator, if not Loe himself, had told the simple truth about his life as he saw it, no more and no less. In that way, without trying, both the author and the narrator speak to a generation of people worldwide who struggle with themselves, with their obsessions, with their narcissism, with their decisions. While many people act out these compulsions in the form of psychological disorders, eating disorders, drug and alcohol use, or any number of other destructive behaviors, many still simply continue to struggle with the factors underlying such behaviors in their head. The narrator in this book is one such person, and he is easily recognizable to those of us who are like him. I highly recommend this book. You will laugh at the narrator and, more importantly, you will recognize yourself and be able to laugh at yourself. That kind of induced self-reflection is rare and valuable in fiction, just as this book is a rare and valuable treat.

Naïve, Super by Erlend Loe
Canongate
ISBN: 1841952516
196 pages