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The Scoundrel Days of Hobo Highbrow Hardcover – October 1, 2008
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The Amazon Book Review
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This is a work of fiction about a copy editor for a Norwegian newspaper and travel book author who has ambitions of becoming a popular novelist. He has a girlfriend, an elementary school teacher, who fortunately has her head screwed on straight. But poor Hobo takes a few wrong turns, becoming caught up in his dreams of greatness fueled by a chance encounter with one of the a-ha band members before he is saved by the bell, so to speak. A humorous and charming portrayal of what can go wrong when a fan over-identifies with someone he admires and hopes to emulate.
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I lived in northern Germany during the 70's and 80's while being a soldier, and spent much time in Bremen, Bremerhaven, and Frankfurt, so I have a feel for the type of life in a northern European city. However, I didn't know remember who A-ha was. So after googling I found one of A-ha's early hits was "Take on Me," a very popular song back that I remember. Now it keeps on playing in my head.
I found "Scoundrel Days" an enjoyable read with definitely an odd cast of characters. It was originally written in Norwegian but very well translated into English by Jon Buscall, especially the word play. The novel's discussion of what it means to live in a small country where it's hard to stand out, to be an artist and insight on a-ha was a bonus. There is talk about another Hobo book and I, for one, would be most interested is the continuing saga of Hobo.
Hobo is an incredibly funny character - he's quirky-bordering-on-neurotic and has so many "insightful" (yes, I mean that sarcastically) thoughts about life. He's entirely self-centered and yet is under the impression that everything he does is for the common good. For example: Hobo is helping his friend out by delivering some food to his aunt. Hobo comments about this experience that:
I liked the feeling of doing something useful, of being a minuscule cog in the wheel that went by the name of CARING FOR THE ELDERLY. A mechanism that admittedly struggled from time to time, but was driven by a gang of diligent and engaging people like myself.
Ha! While you can tell that much of his writing is nonsensical drivel, he truly believes himself to be an authentic and creative author. As he explains it, he was "like a loaf of bread that had risen and was about to spill out over the baking tin, out of the oven and conquer the world!!" I loved the sections were he talks about his writing and how his world needs to be set up in order for the "real" writing to begin. And his book! Such a farce. He is curiously in love with the dictionary, the game Scrabble, and the band A-ha, whom he uses as a muse and whose lyrics are like a scriptural guide to life.
The translator (I'm guessing, based on several spellings, that someone British translated) did a great job with the language and style. Hobo is an authentic and European character, full of faults and yet he creates a soft spot for himself all the same. The quirky characters and dry humor made this one an entertaining read.
If you are interested in purchasing the book, it is currently available from the author's website.