Review: The Best Book in the World by Peter Stjernstrom
Expected publication September 27th 2013 by Hesperus Press
ARC received from the publisher
I’m not a frequent literary fiction reader, but when I do read lit fic I make sure it’s like The Best Book in the World; readable, accessible but meaty in all the right places.
The premise is simple. Two authors, one young and successful, one old and regressive, talk about the book of all books. A book that would be a best-seller in every category, from self-help to thriller. Not wanting to share the fame, they both set out to write the Best Book in the World.
On the surface the book is an enjoyable romp through bizarre situations and crazy characters, including a rock-band filled with people suffering from Tourette’s (including the singer) and a therapist that tried all of his alternative methods on himself first. Narratively speaking The Best Book in the World is very interesting and layered. I loved the frame within a frame within a frame, even though I get that it might get confusing. When reading a literary book I always make sure to keep an eye out for narrative techniques and small hints that will reveal what is really going on. Even though I was reading so attentively, I still thought the final chapter (the main source of confusion) could have been a bit longer.
The characters were great, exactly like I want them. I love reading about eccentric and weird people, and the characters in The Best Book in the World certainly fit the bill. They might not necessarily all be three-dimensional, but their truthful ticks and habits made up for that.
The Best Book in the World is a translated work, and sometimes translated works have stocky or unnatural prose. I didn’t notice any unnatural turns of phrase in the book, and I thought Mr Stjernström’s language translated beautifully. I also quite appreciated that all the Stockholm neighbourhoods were kept in their Swedish name. I loved the Stockholm setting; I’ve barely read any Scandinavian books, and I thought it was great to see Stockholm through a native’s eyes.
It might not be the best book in the world, but The Best Book in the World is a great book that I very much enjoyed reading. Recommended for lighter literary-fiction lovers. This book will make you think, but it won’t pose you any unsolvable mysteries either.
Who will win the race to write the best book in the world, and to what unimaginable lengths will they go to get there first? A hilarious tale of authorly competition.
Titus Jensen is middle-aged, has a fondness for alcohol, and makes ends meet by giving public readings from obscure books at festivals across Sweden. He can’t help thinking there has to be more to life for an author of his quality. Eddie X is hip, a hit with the ladies, and loves being the center of attention. A radical poet and regular on the festival circuit, he can’t help thinking there has to be more to life for a talented, good-looking man like himself.
One night, after a successful event—Titus reads from The Diseases of Swedish Monarchs and Eddie X waxes lyrical to the thrashing tones of metal band The Tourettes—the unlikely pair get horribly drunk together and hatch a plan to achieve worldwide recognition. The answer is to write the best book in the world—a book so amazing that it will end up on all the bestseller lists in every category imaginable: thriller, self-help, cooking, business, dieting—a book that combines everything in one! But there can only be one such book, and as the alcohol-induced haze clears both men realize they are not willing to share the limelight.
Hilariously quirky and witty, this novel will take readers on a meandering race to the finish line, throwing plenty of satirical punches along the way.
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