Thursday, 2 January 2014

Popular Music from Vittula - #43

Image sourced from here
I distinctly remember starting this book. I was on a plane home from Japan, finally from our sudden month in the UK. They had just turned the lights out after meals and drinks so that people could sleep. It was about 12am at night Japanese time, so 1am Aussie time. I was already feeling self conscious as my light was on, but Lexx and my brother were on either side of me. Lexx had taken a sleeping tablet and my brother still hadn't got the hang of sleeping on planes. And I was desperately trying not to piss myself laughing at this book.

This book isn't really a book of short stories, but it kind of is. It's probably better described as a collection of vignettes of the author's childhood. How many of them are true? God knows. He probably doesn't know entirely himself. This is what is the most gripping part of this book. It tells stories of his childhood growing up on the far northern border of Sweden and Finland above the Arctic Circle, where they speak their own language which isn't quiet Swedish, but not quite Finnish, and considered a bastard kind of area by both Finland and Sweden. With all this in the background, he tells you these stories as absolute truths that just sort of get carried away on a child's imagination until they are fantastical in nature and far too big to be true. But you can imagine little Mikael swearing black and blue that's exactly what happened.

This element diminishes slightly as he gets older, and the fantastic, almost magical realism of the book settles back into a more measured reality. But was it is replaced by is a humour and a heartbreaking assessment of the reality of the town that only teenagers can really give.

That's the thing that sucks you in really. It's the brutal honesty of this book. Whether it's him telling you a story at 5 or 15 or 25. You believe his complete sincerity. In a world that undervalues honestly so much, this is a very rare gift.

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