Dustin Long, Icelander, 2006.
I acquired this novel from McSweeney’s as I renewed a subscription two years ago, and have been looking forward to reading it for some time. Its book jacket/slip describes it as a “Nabokovian goof on Agatha Christie; a madcap mystery in the deceptive tradition of The Crying of Lot 49; The Third Policeman meets The Da Vinci Code. …an intricate, giddy romp steeped equally in Nordic lore and pulpy intrigue.” I’m not sure I can offer anything more than that. What, indeed, can one say about a book that begins with a Dramatis Personae list which includes “Hubert Jorgen: Rogue library-scientist”?
It’s an odd book that has an unreliable narrator, an unreliable editor, and a host of wacky and intriguing characters, the rogue library-scientist included. Others include a pair of detectives that seem a cross of I Heart Huckabees and Thomson and Thompson from Tintin; a main character of a detective who doesn’t want to detect (quite unlike her famous mother); an under-developed-as-a-person avatar of a Norse God; a macguffin named MacGuffin who is only semi-macguffin-y; and a peculiar take on Iceland itself (which seems to have spread to the United States), and fortunately exists in a parallel universe.
As a book, it’s a delightfully silly romp (the detective plot is formulaic and unexceptional, but that’s actually by design) that will have you counting allusions to everything from, well, Tintin to As I Lay Dying, to… well, many, many more places. The allusions are both well done and silly, and made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion. It seems like a McSweeney’s book: it asks for well-read readers, and won’t disappoint them with the particular style associated with Eggers and his cohort. It was a lovely light read to use to emerge from my retreat, before I dive into something with more heft.