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Buzz Aldrin, What Happened To You In All The Confusion? ~ Johan Harstad (translated ~ Deborah Dawkin)

August 10, 2011

Genre: Adult Fiction
Publisher: Seven Stories Press
480 pages
ISBN: 9781609801359
Source: Publisher via Library Thing

When I first came across Harstad’s book, I, like many probably, thought that it would actually be about Buzz Aldrin or perhaps, maybe about, you know, space. What it turned out to be, instead, was a really intense study of socio-emotional interactions between self and others.

The now famous downward spiral of the second man on the moon is merely a catalyst for our protagonist, Mattias, as he explores his own life crisis. A successful gardener and self-proclaimed nobody, Mattias is perfectly content to be but a cog in the works, claiming no attention for himself. This means no pesky fanfare but also no personal relationships to speak of.

When he finds himself shipwrecked on the Faroe Islands, taken in by a psychologist and his merry band of misfits, his life begins to unravel quickly. Of course, like with most deconstruction, there is a period of rebuilding that follows. Through humor and tragedy, darkness and light, Mattias is able to navigate the rough waters of interpersonal relationships, sometimes floating, sometimes sinking.

This is a big, thick, complex book that is emotionally heavy but also, at most moments, just a seriously good story.  Schizophrenia and other serious conditions are well worked through in the story but there’s more to it than simple science. Even those who do not fall into the category of mentally ill are run along in a journey of personal discovery that knocks all previously constructed assumptions about human interaction. It’s a beautiful look into the way we correspond and live with each other, or really, without each other.

As a side note: I found it pretty helpful to have my phone or computer around while flipping through the story, not as a neccessity but more as an interest tool for researching mentioned people and places. 

I knew nothing of the Faroe Islands before I picked up the book and though it wasn’t the main focus of the story, I did find myself seriously interested in the area.  It’s a seriously beautiful place from what I’ve been able to google and a neat little culture, too. Here’s a map (below) and here’s the official website  for the area.

And, of course, while I’m pullling pictures and tidbits, I have to plug the main man, himself, Mr. Buzz Aldrin. While the book itself has very little to do with Buzz, there are many references to his life and Mattias’ thoughts on his place in life related to the second man on the moon.

And, ok, just because I have a space-obsessed three year old (and, hey, who doesnt love Buzz Lightyear?) I have to throw in the Disney-style tribute to the one and only, most recognizable allusion to Aldrin.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 10, 2011 12:03 pm

    I have been intensely curious about this book ever since I saw your first mention of it. It sounds like something I would love, for a lot of reasons, mainly, the focus on mental illness, which is something that always fascinates me in literature. I think this is going to have to go on the wish list, so thanks for enticing me and turning me on to this unusual and interesting book! Great review, by the way!

  2. August 11, 2011 9:49 pm

    I think I would have similar expectations as you did!!!

  3. August 12, 2011 12:39 pm

    hm, that title is obviously a bit misleading, then. I read it and thought ‘Oh, that sounds interesting’, but now I am not so sure!

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