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Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion?: A Novel Paperback – September 18, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This paradoxical desire to be seen without being heralded sets Harstad's hero apart from other tormented young men of contemporary literature . . . [an] ambitious debut."
—Publisher's Weekly

"The austere landscape and people of the Faeroes become players in Harstad’s poetic narrative, half-dramatic and half-comic, which takes on memorable turns with every page as Mattias realizes just how not in control of his destiny he really is.  A modern saga of rocketships, ice floes and dreams of the Caribbean, and great fun to read."
 —Kirkus Reviews
   
"Like Jonathan Safran Foer, Harstad combines formal play and linguistic ferocity with a searing emotional directness."
—Dedi Felman, Words Without Borders

"The fact is that Johan Harstad has a wholly unique voice, simultaneously both concrete and soaring . . . to be able to write in this way, to conjure a situation and construct space and time around it with such linguistic fluency, cannot be learned. You are born with it. Harstad’s fellow countryman Knut Hamsun, who was able to do the same, must be rejoicing in his heaven or wherever he might be."
—Jakob Levinsen, Jyllands-Posten review

"It doesn’t always have to be crime novels that come from Scandinavia. What 27 year-old Johan Harstad has written is quite plainly a work of genius. Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion? is as poetic as it is alive."
—Bucherwelt review

About the Author

Johan Harstad, winner of the 2008 Brage Award (previously won by Per Petterson), is a Norwegian author, playwright, graphic designer, drummer, and international sensation, with books published in eleven countries. His first novel, Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion?, was made into a 2009 TV series starring The Wire's Chad Coleman. Harstad lives in Oslo.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Seven Stories Press (September 18, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1609804112
  • ISBN-13: 978-1609804114
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,171,401 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I was sorry when I got to the end of the book.
Amazon Customer
The writing and translation are excellent - unfussy, direct and beautifully structured - and this makes the book something really special, I thought.
Sid Nuncius
Also, based on the story line, you'll need to suspend belief to some extent, but in some cases I simply couldn't.
Igelfeld

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
At the exact time of the first moon landing in 1969, a baby boy named Mattias was being born in a hospital in Stavanger, Norway. But it is not Neil Armstrong that Mattias identifies with, but Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, the pilot of the lunar command module, the team member whose preparation and efficiency made everything else possible but who was content to stay out of the limelight. "Some people," Mattias says, "want to watch movies, not perform in them. Some people want to be cogs." About to turn 30 when the story opens in 1999, Mattias is quite content in his job as a gardener, with his live-in girlfriend Helle, in distant orbit around his school friend Jørn who runs a rock band. Then his life falls apart -- not dramatically, just slipping slowly down the drain -- until he reaches personal bottom lying bruised and rain-sodden on a lonely road in the Faroe Islands, not remembering how he got there. All this takes 133 pages of a very slow-moving book, though Mattias' voice is witty and engaging throughout.

Mattias' journey back to the surface is equally slow, but the book really opens out in its middle section. Literally so, because the bleak landscape of the Faroe Islands, wonderfully recreated, has a purity of rock, wind, and wave that pushes mundane concerns far aside. By chance, Mattias is picked up by a passing driver named Havstein, who runs a psychiatric halfway house in the tiny village of Gjógv (54 inhabitants) at the extreme north of the central island. He is accepted by the other residents, Palli, Anna, and Ennen, and slowly begins a new life, making wooden sheep for the tourists and later hiring himself out again as a gardener in this inhospitable terrain.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Susan Anderson VINE VOICE on May 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
One of the best novels I've read in a long time. If you're a fan of writers like Milan Kundera and yes, Jonathan Safran Foer, you'll likely enjoy Johan Harstad's Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion? When I first picked this book up, I had no idea what it was about.... and sometimes that's my favorite way to start a book. I'm glad I didn't know the plot because, while the plot was good, it was Harstad's writing style that I was most attracted to.

In my mind, one of the signs of a good book is when I find myself frequently folding back the pages I want to go back to, while saying, "Yes, yes! I feel that way, too! But you're saying it so much better than I've ever been able to put into words." And that's exactly how I felt about this book. I've already read several of the passages over and over again and actually became emotional over some of them. Harstad writes that well (OK and Deborah Dawkin translates really well, too!).

If you read the plot summary and this doesn't sound like the book for you, consider it still. You'll likely be able to relate to Mattias in at least some way (even if you find yourself simultaneously yelling at him to pull himself together and make something of himself!). Even those of us who love being in the limelight, understand the need to want to blend in sometimes and to avoid having our actions make such an impact on the rest of the world. While many of us dream of being like Neil Armstrong, sometimes life is just easier as Buzz Aldrin. Or is it?
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dick Johnson VINE VOICE on June 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I found it interesting that the Product Description (above) seemingly told so much about the book. Now, I realize that, while accurate, that description says little. The book is quite serious and more psychological study than anything else. Given the setting and that description, I was hoping for more.

The main character, Mattias, could easily be a poster child for selfishness. His total disregard for everyone he knows, and those he doesn't, is what makes up his days. In his desire to be "invisible" he, instead, chooses to make others "invisible" to him. But, we quickly learn that his wish to be nondescript includes a provision - so long as there is always someone there for him to rely on.

The people we get to know the best are not very likable. The few we get to know just a little are the ones who exist just for him. It is those that keep the readers' feet to the ground even though they seem to give little help to Mattias.

The story tends to change in styles quite frequently. Just when you get settled in, Harstad heads in a different literary direction. The mixture of postmodernism with regular narrative can be disconcerting, but, overall, he doesn't go too far in any one direction. The author often spends page after page (after page) going nowhere; and he spends an inordinate amount of time on some characters compared to others.

The character studies, regardless of their "character", are pretty well done. Parts of the story, though, don't reach that level. If you enjoy deep, literary fiction (and I quite often do), then this might be worth your time. If you need a strong story, then it could be a laborious journey. Neither horrible nor great, it was just one of those so-so books.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By choiceweb0pen0 VINE VOICE on June 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Spoiler alert

When Johan Harstad's novel opens up, Mattias is a gardener at a local nursery, who arranges and delivers flowers to the dying and the dead as his employer slowly loses business to big box stores. The novel is told through Mattias's viewpoint in a rambling, conversational manner that often approaches stream-of-consciousness. It's not a surprise to learn that Harstad is also a playwright as Buzz Aldrin often feels like a one-man play.

The novel's slightly off beat title stems from the notion that Buzz Aldrin was the second man on the moon after the significantly more famous Neil Armstrong, yet it's Aldrin that Matthias identifies with, since he spends most of his life being the person you recognize as going to the same high school with, but not his name or much else about him. And Mattias has a conflicted relationship with this role in life:

"Do you remember me?
Can you picture me?
I was the worst thing of all. I was ordinary.
I was practically invisible, wasn't I?" (26).

Yet, or even as a result, too much attention causes Mattias to act erratically. His mainland girlfriend Helle breaks up with him on a mountaintop yet pretends to still be with him until the trip is over. When he takes up gardening on the Faroe Islands, he becomes the subject of a local newspaper, which he decides to be obnoxious to the reporter in the hopes he won't write an article about his exploits.

It's this kind response that gets Mattias trapped on the Faroe Islands, blacked out, away from friends at a remote bus stop with a bloody arm when he meets Harvstein, a physiologist/counselor who runs a small halfway house in a factory that makes souvenirs.
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