Latest Review: "Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion?" by Johan Harstad

The latest addition to our Reviews Section is a piece by Kelsey Burritt on Johan Harstad’s Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion?, which is translated from the Norwegian by Deborah Dawkin and published by Seven Stories Press.

Johan Harstad is a pretty prolific young Norwegian writer. Buzz Aldrin, which was his third book, came out when he was 26 years old . . . Since that time he’s published two more novels: Hässelby1 and DARLAH. He also runs LACKTR, a sort of label/media project that helped produce the album Bring Out Your Life Vest by The Kulta Beats and noise musicians Bjørn Erik Haugen and Kelly Davis, the songs on which were written specifically for Buzz Aldrin. (Thanks Wikipedia for all the general info.) Overall, he sounds like a pretty interesting artist, and for more information, click here to see an interview with him at the Seven Stories offices.

Kelsey Burritt is affectionally referred to here in the office as “Intern #2.”2 She is a rising junior majoring in English and Spanish. She’s also very involved in the theatre department and will be making her NYC acting debut later this month at the in the Samuel French Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival. (She’s going to be in Grapple.) Kelsey’s main intern responsibility this summer is calling all the indie bookstores in the country and setting up sales calls. So, over the course of her internship she’s become increasingly jaded and even more addicted to caffeine than ever before.

Here’s the opening of her review:

In most of us there is the secret (or not so secret) desire for greatness, to be shortlisted for the Nobel or the Pulitzer, to be the answer to the freebie question on a 5th grade history exam. With the advent of YouTube, it seems any ten-year-old with a half-decent voice is on the fast track to virtual fame. Everyone wants their fifteen minutes, no matter how fleeting or ill-merited they are. Which is perhaps what makes the hero of Norwegian author Johan Harstad’s Buzz Aldrin so refreshing and fascinating: He shies away from fame or recognition of any sort.

Harstad’s debut novel (the entire title of which is Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion?) chronicles Mattias, an unassuming gardener with a stellar voice and no intention to make anything of it. His idol is Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, who has long gone unnoticed. So we follow this man who wishes not to be followed, tracing him through Harstad’s delectably light but nonetheless impactful prose.

After growing up under-the-radar in his native Stavanger, Mattias finds himself in the middle of a road in the Faroe Islands with a large wad of cash in his pocket. He is picked up by a man named Havstein, who runs a psychiatric half-way house. There, Mattias (recovering from a debilitating break-up) joins a quirky but lovable bunch who make wooden sheep to sell in tourist shops, get drunk and climb mountains, and listen to nothing but The Cardigans.

Click here to read the full review.

1 This novel sounds potentially awesome:

In 2007, Harstad published Hässelby, a novel about the children’s book character Alfie Atkins’ life as an adult, who ultimately is held responsible for the end of the world. The novel is influenced by David Lynch’s TV series Twin Peaks, the theory of Synchronicity and Arthur Koestler’s book The Roots of Coincidence.

2 All five interns were given numbers in order to make up for Nate’s inability to remember people’s names.


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